Unfortunately, Quantum Break Looks A Bit Rubbish

Unfortunately, Quantum Break Looks a Bit Rubbish

For two years, we've wondered what Quantum Break actually is. Having seen it, I'm now worried that Quantum Break is a bland-looking shooter interrupted with 20-minute episodes of bad television at the end of every chapter. It should be so much better.

The setup is that you play Jack, a man who gained superpowers by standing too close to an exploding time machine. Shortly after the time machine explodes, your brother, the person who built the superpower-granting exploding time machine, is killed by someone who has travelled back in time from 17 years in the future.

Quantum Break the game is sometimes a shooting gallery, sometimes a platformer, both augmented by your time powers. You can briefly stop time, speed yourself up and dash between cover, surround yourself in a bubble shield of slow time, and throw a time ball that makes things explode. (Remedy has not yet explained why time makes things explode, or how it can be a ball.)

The presenter running the demo showed off a gunfight against some hired goons. He was making use of all the powers at his disposal, dashing up to enemies and hitting them with fancy melee attacks, pausing time and flanking to shoot the goons in their rear, and making people inexplicably explode with time balls. But it wasn't exciting to watch. None of these powers are new. They look nice in Quantum Break, but they don't feel original like Max Payne's Bullet Time did when Remedy first attempted time manipulation 14 years ago.

Unlike with Bullet Time, there are enemies in Quantum Break who wear special suits that protect them from your time powers. Their presence will complicate skirmishes, but you just have to dash up them and shoot them with a shotgun. Again, special enemies who specifically counter your abilities is nothing new.

Out of combat you can use the abilities to help with environment puzzles. The demo kicked off with Jack chasing the villain, Paul Serene, through a shipyard. Paul escapes in a helicopter but before he goes he throws a time bubble at one of the ships near Jack. Paul also, for some reason, has time powers. Maybe he also stood next to an exploding time machine. The shipyard begins to collapse and then stutters between a state where it's fine, and a state where it's collapsed. Routes between the rows of shipping containers appeared and disappeared as they jumped between what they looked like before the collapse and after. Using Jack's dash and time pause, our presenter was able to work through without being crushed.

Graphically, the whole platforming section looked good, especially the effect of the environment skipping and jumping between different states. But it's hard to get excited about another platformer where you control time.

Quantum Break's other half is the television series that splits up the game's chapters. At the end of each chapter is something called a 'Junction Point'. There, control switches to Paul, the villain. You're given a choice to make and your decision is reflected in the following episode.

For instance, in one case you can choose between being 'Hardline' and 'PR'. (Two terms that don't exactly inform you about the decision you're making.) This decision then plays out in the episode. If you chose 'Hardline' then the episode will include a scene where Paul's men capture a witness of their more clandestine acts. Rather than risk her telling people what she saw, they kill her. If you chose 'PR' then you will see a different scene, one where Paul's men will threaten the safety of her family and she will agree to help them. She will also remain a character in the story and have an effect on the game.

While an interesting idea, it seems out of place in Quantum Break. The programme seems to interrupt the game rather than thread into it. In Max Payne and Alan Wake, television series were part of the world and informed the fiction but they didn't insist on taking up 20 minutes of your time. You could walk by the television screening episodes of Lords and Ladies and Captain Baseball Bat Boy in Max Payne. In Quantum Break you have to just put the controller down and watch.

What you're watching doesn't seem too good, either. Despite having actors like Aidan Gillen and Lance Reddick from The Wire and Dominic Monaghan from Lord of the Rings, the performances in the scenes we were shown were, like the gunplay, dull. It didn't help that the script was all clichés.

Remedy games have always had hammy writing, but in Max Payne it worked with the noire theme. Quantum Break seems like a serious attempt at sci-fi, but not a great one.

I really wanted Quantum Break to excite me, but the demo left me disappointed. What would save it? If the series and the game were tightly integrated, the gunplay were lively and satisfying, and that the platforming was pretty much cut from the finished game. There's still time.

Unfortunately, Quantum Break Looks a Bit Rubbish

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles.


    "By Julian Benson on 05 Aug 2015 at 12:15AM"

      "I thought the trailer did look excellent then I saw the game in action and was disappointed."

        The titles are just so clickbaity.

          How so? Both just express his opinion, which obviously changed in the week between the two articles.

      It's a bit funny that they have two articles today basically trashing Xbox One...

      Kotaku are so freaking biased..
      I'm actually done reading their trash articles

    Remedy have yet to let me down and what has actually been shown to us mortals looked good so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point.

    Considering there's still a fair amount of time between now and release day, I get the feeling Gamescom was a chance to get that much needed feedback. Hopefully means tighter gameplay and maybe more variety. I still like the look of it though, I'm much more a fan of intriguing settings and storytelling than just straight up combat mechanics.

    I still think it looks pretty good. And I've never really thought of Remedy's writing as "Hammy". It's quirky. It's obviously written by people who are entirely competent at speaking English but come from a different cultural background, and I love that. It's certainly no worse than the vast majority of writing in games, which is pretty terrible for the most part.

    Has this chap even played the game or is he flip-flopping on attitudes based on looks?

      Aliens : Colonial Marines would like a word with you.
      Also I believe it is fine to be excited by a staged trailer then later be humbled by demo footage that shows the tedium of a game.

    ... there are enemies in Quantum Break who wear special suits that protect them from your time powers

    Wait... as a concept, that makes no sense whatsoever. I'm in a firefight with 4 guys, two of whom are wearing these suits, I go into my bullet time mode (which, admittedly, I'm presuming affects only me, as opposed to some kind of area effect spell kinda thing), the dudes without suits are reacting extremely slowly, and the two dudes in suits are still reacting to me as though there's no disruption in the passage of time? So what? They just randomly speed up with me as I slow the passage of time for myself? Do the suits just happen to know I can manipulate the temporal state? If that's the case, why haven't they identified me and neutralised me in any situation where I'm experiencing the normal passage of time since (by the very existence of the suits) they can manipulate time also? And if there's an 'episode' at the end of each level that interrupts the game, can't you just manipulate time and skip past it? You know, because super powers (I mean, it's a console shooter, you'll be able to pick up the story as you go along)??

      Well it is like firefighter suit that prevent the suit from burning. You can't stop fire from happening but you can have suits to fight it? idk I'm just randomly thinking of a possible logic.

      Last edited 11/08/15 2:26 pm

      The episodes are unlocked as videos. They've even said you can watch them on other devices.

      As for your 'how' question, allow me to answer that with the greatest sci-fi technical answer ever, from the magnificent 'Bill and Ted':

      'Modern technology, William'

        Oh god, that's going to be my main response to any query from now on.

        "How did you manage to write your name in the snow with such precision, Mike?"

        "Modern Technology". :p

      Exactly, the devs really have no idea how time works.

        I think a failure to understand the basic idea of time is pretty common in the games industry. Look at stuff like The Last Guardian... Duke Nukem Forever... pretty much everything Valve do etc :P

          To be fair to Valve though, they have a different concept of/are existing in/or are subjected to a different temporal state compared to the rest of us mere mortals. Ie, 'Valve Time'. :p

            Maybe they all wear those suits mentioned in the article

              No, no, those are the HEVs staff have to use when in the awesome presence of the Gaben.

      Admittedly, I haven't watched many gameplay videos, but I don't think I recall seeing bullet-time powers. Most of what I saw was localised freezing of time, which is pretty easy to imagine how the time suits would protect from that.

      And if you can slow down time in general, then the bad guys with the time suits would just move at normal speed (the same as you).

      Last edited 11/08/15 4:49 pm

      It's Sci-Fi so suspend some disbelief, however, I believe you're only thinking about this one way, you assume he can speed up himself in relation to the others, making them slow if they don't have a suit. What's to say he isn't slowing down time in an area around him (if the devs were very clever they'd even lessen the time dilation effects over distance) and that the suits merely emit a field of *science* to negate this effect?

      I'm a physics student and of course this is all very pie in the sky thinking and totally ridiculous but so what? It's fun and all I can hope is the writers put some effort into trying to put enough explanation into the powers but not enough to bore the players. After all, this is a fun game with a power, they don't need to prove time travel for a game mechanic ;)

    Would have prefered a sequel to alan wake than to whatever this is. Needs more Remedy and less Microsoft.

    Yeah, I'll still buy it based upon pure, unadulterated Alan Wake love. I recall that, too, was a bit dodgy in parts.

      I loved the world and writing in Alan Wake, but I am genuinely such a wuss that I stopped playing because it put me on edge too much.

      I really respected the way they went from total power fantasy in Max Payne (some of my favourite games of all time) to the opposite in Alan Wake, leaving you alone and vulnerable in a creepy forest.

        Yeah, it did give me the creeps in places, between light sources. But there was always such a sense of relief when I arrived at a street lamp, or a generator.

        ... Unlike Bloodborne. God damn. The tension it inspired gave me PTSD flashbacks, I'm tellin' you.

    So he WATCHED a video and loved how it looked.

    Then he WATCHED someone playing it and didn't like how it looked.


      You'd almost think one of those videos was edited to highlight one thing or make a certain impression.

      He watched two different things. The first one looked interesting, the second one didn't. Can people never change their minds about things now? Is that a thing?

        You need look no further than the vaccinations cause autism fiasco to realise that yes, people are bad at accepting new information and changing their stance. Though I am aware that your comment was rhetorical.

    I'm calling it now that jack himself cames back in time and killed his brother.

    There's so much asumption, generalisation and so many excuses for alarmism here that the logic could be applied to literally anything. Remove those things from the perspective and i might be inclined to consider it.

    Don't forget these are the guys who brought us Max Payne 1 + 2
    So they know this slow down shooter thing pretty well.

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