Time is, was, and will always be, power.
WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW
If I had to describe Quantum Break in just one word, I would see a note written by my future self informing me of the word I would choose, struggle with the realization that the word I was going to choose had already been decided, and any attempt made to change that predestined word would inevitably lead to that same word being chosen. What is the word I choose/chose? The point is it doesn’t matter, I don’t have a choice, the word is decided. Quantum Break avoids the common mistakes of popular time travel stories by establishing clear and defined rules, and following them strictly. This, along with an excellent cast, and unique presentation, gives way to an excellent time travel adventure with only a few stutters.
It is well known that Quantum Break is not just a game, it is a game with a live action television feature. Right off the bat, it is important to note that the game and show should not be experienced separately, it is all Quantum Break. Therefore, the game cannot be reviewed separately from the show. Simply put, the television show is well done, it has high production value, with the exception of a few low budget special effects, and is well acted. The primary purpose of the show is to flesh out the antagonists, and in this, it succeeds. From the protagonist Jack Joyce’s perspective, Paul Serene is a corrupt CEO who is out of control. In the show, we see the other side, the damaged individual who feels like he is out of choices.
The other way that Quantum Break handles its antagonist is to briefly allow the player to take control of him. These moments, called junctions, act as key turning points in the game. In them, Paul Serene makes key decisions, and his access to Chronon Abilities (time powers) allows him to see the way his choice could branch out into separate consequences. These decisions not only affect the game, but the show as well. You won’t be getting entirely different episodes, but certain scenes in the show will play out differently as a result of your decision. There is only one ending to Quantum Break, however without spoiling anything, the path to the ending can be slightly manipulated, making repeat playthroughs a feasible idea. In fact, exploring your environment can lead to interesting results in the T.V. show as well, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
While the game shines in its antagonist, and every other character for that matter, it falls flat with its protagonist. Jack Joyce is not necessarily a bad character but is a very blank slate that jumps between a sarcastic and serious personality on the fly. He acts as more of a springboard for every other fantastic character to bounce off of.
At its core, Quantum Break is a third-person shooter, a competent one, with some strange design decisions. For instance, there is no “cover” button. Instead, Jack Joyce just kind of crouches near cover if you are close enough to it. While it rarely got me outright killed, it occasionally led to frustration in a firefight due to not having direct control of the cover. This is my biggest complaint with the combat in Quantum Break. Beyond that, occasionally it can fall into the clunky third person controls trap, but this rarely detracts from the experience, in fact the game is littered with excellent platforming set pieces that play with time travel in unique ways.
There are 11 guns to choose from, while not a lot, a large variety of guns would have taken away from the true shine in combat, Chronon Abilities. Shield, Stop, Dash, Blast, Vision, and Dodge, just add Time in front of every single one of those titles and you have Jack’s abilities. Jack’s grasp of his powers are impressive, but not unlimited, they are tools in a Quantum toolbox, that when used appropriately, make for an amazing and breathtaking dance through your enemies. Dodging bullets for a melee takedown, sprinting into your opponent’s face, and stopping time for a second, just enough to line up the headshot, before dashing behind cover to reload and plan your next onslaught. When you truly find your groove, Quantum Break is a one of a kind experience. In fact, the potential greatness of the combat mars the final boss fight. A frustrating anti-climactic battle that tainted my initial impression.
Quantum Break is a unique experience and one that I intend to experience again. The game takes a chance in its storytelling with the television show. While not everything in the game may land, in this day and age, seeing a AAA game take a gamble is refreshing in and of itself. Any gamer who appreciates a time travel story would do themselves a disservice in missing this game.