Recently released for Xbox One and Windows PC, Quantum Break combines a video game and a live-action television series to create an entirely new way to advertise Microsoft Surface Tablets and Windows Phones. Intrigued by Totilo's review and finding myself with some spare time and the PC version of Remedy Entertainment's mixed media adventure, I started up Quantum Break at around 8pm this past Wednesday evening and kept playing until around 4am, when a particularly difficult fight finally defeated my tired mind.
I enjoyed the game immensely. I found the third-person shooting with time manipulation mechanics enjoyable enough that I looked forward to battles. The television show portion of the game is well-acted and the plot compelling. Either one of the two alone might have been too much, but the two compliment each other nicely. So far Quantum Break is one of my favourite games of the year. It's definitely my favourite extended play advertisement for Microsoft products.
The screen generally goes dark when raised to your face in a call like this, but then how would you know it was a Windows Phone?
The game opens as Jack Joyce, portrayed by Shawn "Not Aaron, The Other One" Ashmore, arrives at Riverport University at the behest of his best friend, Littlefinger. As the campus sprawls out before him, Jack receives a call from his friend on his Windows Phone. Thanks to the crystal clear audio quality of the Windows Phone, Littlefinger is able to guide his friend to the research lab, where a top secret project is underway.
I'm surprised they have traditional phones on their desks, what with how convenient and versatile the Windows Phone is.
Cutting-edge science requires cutting-edge technology, like the Microsoft Surface. It's a Windows 10 computer and a laptop all in one. No desk at a top secret research project should be without one.
But not even the computing power of the Microsoft Surface can stop time from breaking. The campus is thrown into chaos. Firefights break out. People are killed. Secret powers are revealed. I almost completely forgot about Microsoft products in all of the excitement.
But then the first live-action segment drew me right back in.
Liam Burke, played by the hunky Patrick Heusinger, realises he's missed several calls from his wife while on Monarch Corporation business.
Note the thumbs in the "what am I supposed to do with this thing?" position.
While Liam rushes home to attend his wife we meet Charlie Wincott, computer hacker extraordinaire. He's my favourite character in the show/game, thanks in part to a relatively nuanced performance by Marshall Allman. Mostly I was just jealous of the bank of five Microsoft Surface tablets lined up on his desk.
Five Microsoft Surface tablets? Who needs that much pure computing power? Charlie Wincott, that's who.
Back at Liam's house a moment of romance is ruined by a call from the office, signified by the distinctive warbling of a Windows Phone.
"You have no idea how to use that, do you?"
As Liam heads to his car, time stops. The world freezes, save for one man. We cut to Littlefinger in his secret warehouse base. It's sparsely techorated, but everything he needs is one the table before him.
"One of the folks in marketing brought an iPhone to work today." "I see. Have them killed quietly offscreen."
You get the idea. This is how my experience with Quantum Break played out. Just when I began to lose myself in the story or the action or the acting a bit of obvious Microsoft product placement would pop up to pull me out of it.
I don't generally mind product placement in video games. If I'm playing a game set in the modern era I would much rather see people using the same items I use in real life than generic equivalents. Someone's going to drink a Mountain Dew or eat a Big Mac or turn on a Panasonic television.
But if every beverage in a game is Mountain Dew, every meal from McDonald's and every piece of equipment from a single technology company, then the façade starts to crumble.
I love Surface tablets. I lost one last year in a move and have been bemoaning the loss ever since. It's a fine product. But telling me a company so advanced that they have invented time travel is passing out Surface tablets to all of its employees? That's just silly. It's one of the main reasons I had trouble getting into the television series Arrow during season one — it was lousy with Surface tablets.
And I've used a Windows Phone in the past. Briefly, as none of the apps I needed for work at the time were available on it, but I enjoyed the concept and aesthetic. Seeing one in the wild is charming. An entire cast of characters rocking Windows Phones is less believable than time being broken. At one point Charlie Wincott plugs one into a door lock to hack it. I laughed for minutes.
The whole thing comes to a head in the GIF atop this article. Littlefinger is looking at important information on a Microsoft Surface tablet when time freezes. He lets go of the tablet in the middle of the time distortion and walks off, and we're treated to around six seconds of hovering Surface tablet.
FINE I WILL BUY A SURFACE PRO TABLET. JUST MAKE IT STOP. (I can't afford a Surface Pro tablet, but the game doesn't know that. Shhh.)
I still enjoy Quantum Break, and have every intention of going back in and completing that final fight. Then I'll go back and explore other paths in the game's branching story, partly to see how the story unfolds, but mostly to see how many more Microsoft products they have stuffed into this thing.