By Humanity 15 Comments
Turns out Quantum Break is alright.
I mean it's not great, don't get me wrong. This game certainly feels like an early launch title sort of deal. Even on an Xbox One X there were some weird performance issues, sound stutters, freezing of video in in-game cutscenes with audio continuing to play. I can't imagine how this ran on a base XB1 before a slew of patches hit - Remedy games being rather known for getting released in less than ideal states. I even watched all the TV show episodes, although they have apparently taken them down from whatever server they were on because the option to stream never worked (I watched them all on YouTube). Initially I had no desire to do this but then between I think Act 2 and 3 your character gets taken into custody and then after the episode, which I skipped, you're starting the game uncuffed, fully armed and next to your buddy Jesse Faden - Courtney Hope of Control fame voices one of your primary accomplices here which was a nice surprise! So I begrudgingly started watching the show thinking there was important stuff between the acts and surprise there really isn't. In a few instances you see how some character ended up where they did but thats about it. Still I kind of grew fond of how hokey and daytime TV it all was.
The most interesting thing about Quantum Break is how much of a template this game was for Control. Everything that Quantum Break did seems to have been ironed out and done better in Control - but you can see the connective tissue from one game to the next. You even have characters wearing techno-gadget-harnesses to stop them from an environmental hazard - in the case of QB it's the time stutters and Chronon Harnesses. There is a central mcguffin here that is holding everything together much like the Hedron-whatnot in Control. There is also a strong aesthetic centering around distortion as Jack Joyce will create ripples in the world as he shifts through it during a time stutter. It's really fascinating really to see this very commercial product from years ago get super ironed out but also became a little more niche in nature. Control shows so much more polish and complexity, but it's also not this blockbuster time travel romp with an obvious good guy/bad guy dynamic. Control is a lot more esoteric, elusive, artsy even. Thats not to say Quantum Break is extremely digestible - the time travel part of the story eats it's own tail so many times that I finally gave up trying to play catch it with what time we were at and why we needed to be 5 minutes before the future begins so that we can go to 10 minutes into the pasts present.. But it was a very shootery-shooter. It was a game very much of it's time while Control seems to be in a world completely of it's own.
It's also amazing how much they evolved in terms of level design. Max Payne was all about back alleys and dingy streets of New York. Alan Wake was seemingly the same bit of forest for the entire game when you weren't dealing with the interesting set-pieces. Quantum Break seems to find any excuse to place you in some decrepit building - old warehouses, old abandoned homes, underground maintenance.. broken windows, brick walls and graffiti is the basic decor. To go from these drab and rather featureless corridor levels to the Oldest House is really admirable. What a step up for that team. While parts of Control are very much like a mundane office building, there is always something around the corner to make things interesting, and thats not mentioning the amazing set-piece moments and boss battles that warp reality in delightful ways.
Apart from general movement and structure, Control really nails down the collectible side of the game. Quantum Break has a TON of this stuff to read, but it is extremely dry, very long and often placed in locations where you have side characters constantly nagging you to get moving. These are typically e-mail exchanges and they can sometimes span several screen heights in length. I read a whole lot of it hoping to get a little more insight into the story and I'd say half of it was fairly interesting while the other half was kind of pointless - and let me reiterate, a lot of it is very long. Control on the other hand really does a great job of condensing these collectibles into bite size treats. You never feel like there is too much text on screen to get through. It's short, to the point, and most importantly interesting. Well OK some of the stuff in Control was also really dry, like some Altered Item descriptions that were just kind of not all that engaging, but for the most part it was all handled really well.
The last thing I noticed was just how much Remedy love Alan Wake. Quantum Break is filled with Alan Wake references. There was a Night Springs show on a television ( yes they also have live action TV shows in-game ) there was a woman with clearly Alan Wake on screen playing the game, right down to her hands being on the WASD keys. Theres a lot of it, and only it. I saw no references to Max Payne anywhere weirdly enough.
It was an interesting trip down memory lane. I actually looked up Jeffs review for Quantum Break back when they did those regularly. Was surprised that he gave it that low of a score - seems like a decently average shooter with some interesting twists.
I'm not actually advocating anyone out there go out of their way to play Quantum Break. It's OK. I've often heard people say it's the worst Remedy game and not even worth playing. It's definitely worse than Max Payne.. but Alan Wake? I dunno. I certainly had more fun playing Quantum Break even if the story didn't really evolve as much as I hoped. But hey different strokes for different boats.
Either way, what I'm really trying to say here is that I'm stoked for that Control DLC.