Quantum Break
Reviewed by L. Magalhães
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2016-05-11 PC FPS M (Mature) Microsoft

With a ludography of eight published games in its 20-year existence, Remedy Entertainment is hardly one of the most prolific developers around. But the Finnish studio does have a reputation for quality, leading video game enthusiasts to look forward to their releases.

Quantum Break was one of the darlings of the early Xbox One media blitz, and remained an exclusive up until a couple of months before launch, when a PC version was revealed to be hitting the Windows 10 digital Store day-and-date with the console release.

Fair warning: on PC, this is a Windows 10 exclusive, and as such comes with all the crippling limitations of the Windows 10 Store standard "Universal Windows App" format: sub-optimal performance and system resource allocation; compatibility issues with most video capture / streaming solutions; inability to tweak and solve graphical issues via .ini editing or even NVidia's and ATI's control panel applications.

Assuming you have a good gaming rig and can work with the game’s limited graphics menu to find a good compromise between frame rate and visual quality, you will see right from the start that Quantum Break is a beautiful game, albeit in its own unique way.

The characters look great and move naturally, and the scenery, while rarely breath-taking - the game mostly takes place in close-quarters urban environment, a far cry from Alan Wake’s sprawling forest vistas - is never less than engaging.

However, in order to achieve its cinematic feel, the game relies heavily on a grain filter which may not be to everyone’s liking. The grain is quite rough, on par with what was used on old-time horror classic Silent Hill 2, and though it felt fine there, it clashes with the occasionally futuristic presentation of Quantum Break.

Quantum Break's cinematic ambitions go further than presentation, though. The game is filled to the brim with dialogue and cutscenes, and even includes four live-action episodes interspersed between the regular game acts.

This feels problematic: while some people (myself among them!) may enjoy going to YouTube to watch a good 15-minute live-action video that enriches a game's story, it feels wrong when sitting down to play a video game for a while, you get to play for five minutes and then must stop to watch long live action sequence. Somehow, Kojima managed to pull this off in several games, albeit using in-game graphics, for the most part. Remedy doesn't fare nearly as well.

The story itself is a slightly super-hero themed take on your average time-travel romp, and enjoyable throughout, even if it is not especially clever or mind-boggling weird.

It's weakest by the end, where you will find that the actions of one of the main antagonists are almost completely irrational, unless you have been carefully picking up and analyzing the documents you find scattered along your path through the levels.

The high points are the sequences where you take control of the game's main antagonist, making decisions that will influence - to a smaller or greater degree - how the next section of the game will pan out.

The gameplay is fun, even if unremarkable. The loose shooting mechanics feel pleasant enough, but a very limited selection of weapons place the strategy squarely on the usage of the protagonist's time-powers.

Jack Joyce (a character so unremarkable that, after playing for 12 hours, I had to google his name) is Max Payne on steroids. Not only can he slow down time while aiming, he can also warp across the battlefield and into enemies, pushing them into the air, throw "time-bombs" (commonly known to us mortals as grenades), paralyze foes with a time-stop bubble, and a couple of other time-related shenanigans that replace/justify common shooter tropes.

The powers' cooldowns are quite fast, so it's easy and satisfying to string them on one after another, and while enemies can only be defeated with either bullets or slow-time melee, the fights will be defined by how well you use these powers to set up the shots. Just like the rest of the game, the special effects that accompany the time-power usage look gorgeous.

In the end, Quantum Break feels like a worthwhile experience mostly because it's a proud member of a dying breed: the linear, story-focused action-aventure. In an era where the cool thing to do is to go open-world, Remedy comes out with its most linear adventure since Max Payne 2.

But crucially, it doesn't have that game's striking comic/noir style, nor does it measure up to Alan Wake's suspenseful atmosphere. It tries to go for its own thing, and it's competent and entertaining in its own right, even if by the end it all feels a bit bland.