Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Quantum Break

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Quantum Break is a pretty interesting third-person shooter that was released essentially to showcase the graphical powers of the then-newer Xbox One and to potentially create a new supreme IP for Microsoft as well. Although it is fairly linear in scope despite offering an array of seemingly choice-driven narrative lines and the ability to warp and change time, it is still a thoroughly amusing adventure and also boasts some of the most prolific acting talent in a game I’ve played to date. Not only does it use the animated likeness of several well-known actors and actresses from such shows as HBO’s hit The Wire, but it also features many of their voice acting chops as well.

Besides star-power and an interesting time-related gimmick along the lines of something out of 2010’s Singularity, Quantum Break is interesting in other ways as well. For one, it is both a live-action television show and a video game, each part intermingled with the other in an intricate yet optional playable and watchable experience. This is really where the acting credits come in handy and where the story and lore progress deeper than they could in the base third-person action-shooter game itself. The story itself as well as the fluidity of gameplay mechanics are certainly the highlights and have been praised by other critics as such, however some of the other mechanics such as platforming and general locomotion are a bit messier.

Although it is intrinsically a shooter game and these typically don’t have much to offer in the way of a story, Quantum Break’s plot is fairly refreshing and interesting, not just for the genre but for gaming as a whole.  It does admittedly share similarities to some other time traveling adventures but then that exists only because many of the same issues that have always been theorized regarding time travel exist in this incarnation as well of course. One unique mechanic the game features is the built-in ability to essentially decide how the protagonist and antagonist will act and how that will shape the course of the plot itself. The game does a good job of representing Aidan Gillan’s (of course) chaotic character as neither good nor bad and sets him up as a definitely complicated antagonist that largely acts according to how protagonist Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) reacts to…well it’s all really spoiler-ish and confusing so I’ll stop there.

When all things are said and done, Quantum Break should be and is an interesting new direction for Microsoft because it presents an original playing field with many talented actors and an intriguing yet potentially well-written and already closed script as well. Although I could see how the game could become a series, it also offers a thoroughly satisfying experience and conclusion which means it could be one of those highly praised cult-classic one-off games some day soon. There’s room for improvement and also some room for upgrading the story to be a little less linear and yet with all the background details and lore and episodic live-action pieces included it really is a pretty complete bundle. I’d like to not only hear or see more about the universe- not even in video games but perhaps through other mediums such as comics or novels, but also just see how similar elements that worked well in this game could be implemented into others successfully as well.

Remedy Entertainment is well known and well-praised for their work on some unique cult-classics and projects such as all things Alan Wake. Although many people would like to see Alan Wake 2 (in earnest) or see them take the helm on other ambitious and interesting projects, I also think working on Quantum Break was the right call and that they really nailed the tone and pacing they were aiming for. Sam Lake (who you may also know for producing stories in relation to Max Payne 1 and 2 as well as Alan Wake and a credit in Gravity) couldn’t have been a better fit for directing the effort and for managing the elements that would eventually come together to form a brave new live-action meets interactive adventure and game trope. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that nobody else has started to implement the themes yet into their own development projects quite yet.

For me, Quantum Break exists somewhere in the 8-9 range in terms of assigning an actual number to it, if that were even possible. It does so many things well despite what could’ve ultimately ended up as an otherwise generic shooter like so many others out there. The story is both original and actually engaging, with memorable characters and talented actors truly bringing it to life and making me actually feel invested in the moment to moment action. Whether it was actually taking the time to watch each lengthy episode or play through the intermingled game portions, the entire package as a whole is a unique and lovable experience. I’ve been truly interested in some of the theories and lore ever since and would definitely love to see the brand used elsewhere even if it never comes back to gaming- it’s too much of an interesting tale to not take advantage of.

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