Quantum Break

Time Jeff and Time Dan do time stuff with time powers to bad time guys.

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Giant Bomb Review

573 Comments

Quantum Break Review

2
  • XONE

Quantum Break is an ambitious experience, but neither the video game nor the live-action sides of this time travel story come together in a satisfactory way.

The live action stuff has the sterile look of a low-budget basic cable broadcast.
The live action stuff has the sterile look of a low-budget basic cable broadcast.

Quantum Break is an ambitious mix of video game and broadcast television, where each act of action game is followed up by a big chunk of full-motion video shaped like a TV show in size and scope. Things you do during the game can make an impact on the episodes of the live-action show, which is a neat trick. The catch is that neither end of Remedy's latest project is especially great, leaving you with a lackluster third-person shooter that takes 20-minute breaks to serve you up a basic cable TV show that's hard to watch for a variety of reasons. It's a fantastically cool idea that simply doesn't pan out.

The game opens with you, Jack Joyce, returning to your hometown to assist a friend, Paul Serene, with a time travel project, one that your brother is also working on. Things go awry and your friend is sent bumping around in time, where he gets some wild ideas about an apocalyptic event yet to happen and ends up in the past, with enough time to change things around in an attempt to save the universe from said apocalyptic event. Joyce, for his part, gets a set of time abilities, which you use in combat as you battle the probably evil Monarch Corporation. The game twists and turns along the way, as time travel tales often do, folding back in on itself to give you new context for past (or is it future!?!?!?!?) events. The particulars of the story aren't especially noteworthy, but as someone who will end up having at least some appreciation for a time travel story, regardless of its quality, I... ended up having some appreciation for the way Quantum Break's situation plays out.

While Joyce may be the protagonist of the video game side of Quantum Break, the end of each chunk of action spins down into a decision gate where you briefly take control of Paul Serene and make one choice about how to proceed. This means you play as the protagonist and also decide how the game's antagonist responds to the threat that Joyce poses to his plans. These are binary choices and the game gives you a brief window into what each of the two decisions might mean for the next section. The game gives you a Telltale-like percentage after each choice, letting you see both how your Xbox Live friends chose to go and how the player base at large went. You won't make very many choices like this over the course of the game, and while each choice feels impactful in the moment, they often play out around characters that don't feel core to the plot. I didn't like playing Quantum Break enough to want to go back and see how the different choices panned out, but in terms of how it felt the first time through, the paths I chose ended up feeling slight and somewhat transparent, like you could see where different things might be stitched in or ripped out, depending on how you go.

Shoot time juice out of your hands to stop time around an enemy. Or just hold the button down and cause a
Shoot time juice out of your hands to stop time around an enemy. Or just hold the button down and cause a "time explosion" instead.

After you make that choice, it's time to sit back and watch some TV. The game breaks up its action with episodes of a show that only focuses on Jack Joyce in the background, instead giving you some back story into characters that feel tertiary to most of the proceedings. Knowing that Monarch's main bodyguard/thug has a baby on the way might give you some insight into his character, but not enough to actually feel like that's meaningful information, especially with the way his character ended up getting handled in the action portion of the game, where he might as well be yet another faceless thug. The change in focus from the action to the show ends up making both sides of the game harder to follow and tougher to care about. It doesn't help that the show itself has a look, style, and tone to it that makes it feel like the type of action sci-fi show that gets wiped off of basic cable before its first season finishes airing. With few exceptions, the TV side of Quantum Break goes nowhere and fills in gaps that you don't really need to be filled. The important story moments still happen in the video game side of the package, though even those important moments are squandered by the game's ending, which feels thrown together in a "oh wow, we're out of game, we'd better wrap this up" sort of way. It's also worth noting that the TV-like episodes stream over the internet by default, which in my case led to uneven performance, with some episodes hitching up so frequently that the game finally gave up and asked if I wanted to just download the episodes. That's 75GB of hard drive space on the Xbox One, should you choose to do so.

Actually playing Quantum Break means you'll engage in a lot of third-person cover shooting and some ill-conceived platforming. The cover shooting is buoyed by your time abilities, which let you do things like stop time around a group of enemies, shoot a bunch of bullets into a stasis bubble, and watch as it all collapses, forcing a ton of bullets into your enemies all at once. You can run faster than fast, letting you get close for melee takedowns. You can pop a time shield around yourself to block damage and have time to heal. You can... cause a time explosion that... kills enemies? You can flip on time vision to see any objects in the environment that you can pick up and/or read? It feels like the developers just came up with a set of abilities and slapped the word "time" on the front of each one. The gun handling in Quantum Break is pretty underwhelming and the powers at your disposal don't feel as cool as they probably should. In some alternate timeline, this game has abilities that work together and chain off of each other, creating a more satisfying feeling of flow in combat. Instead it's simple cooldown management as each of your powers is just about as good as every other one at taking down one or two enemies at a time. Eventually you'll encounter enemies that aren't affected by those time powers, which means you'll have to fall back to the game's mundane shooting on its own. Remedy has delivered fantastic action games with exciting shooting components in the past, and it's a real shame that Quantum Break doesn't follow in those footsteps.

Most of the game involves you hiding behind things and shooting evil corporate goons.
Most of the game involves you hiding behind things and shooting evil corporate goons.

Puzzles usually take the form of platforming sequences. Perhaps you'll have to rewind time in a localized area to make a bunch of fallen obstacles get out of your way just long enough for you to dash through. Perhaps you'll have to run along a frozen catastrophe in progress and take a very specific path to get through. Either way, the movement in Quantum Break feels like Joyce is trapped underwater. It takes too much to get him moving and turning with the type of precision you'd probably want from an action game. Overall, the gameplay feels like it needs more variety, which makes the TV show side of things frustrating, since it features a car chase and other things that probably would've been more engaging if they were in the video game portion of the product.

On one hand, Quantum Break fits perfectly into Remedy's timeline, representing something grander and more cinematic than the fake TV shows and other ambitious little elements that have worked their way into the studio's past work. But it's probably telling that I was way more excited to watch Quantum Break's fake in-game TV show on various TVs found around the edges of the game than the one that was actually produced and shoved into the middle of the action. There are a lot of sound ideas in the middle of Quantum Break and, hey, if you're a sucker for goofy time travel hijinks this game has that going for it, too. But those ideas are the only things holding this project together. The moment you look past that heady connective tissue, every single one of Quantum Break's individual elements fall flat.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+

573 Comments

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El_Mahico

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Glad I held off preordering this one

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Jangowuzhere

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Edited By Jangowuzhere

Well, that's a bummer.

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plasmathrower

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Time puns.

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sinjunb

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Genuinely stunned at the reviews so far. I thought Remedy was a sure thing but this is already the worst received game they've ever made.

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Mister_V

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Edited By Mister_V

Yep, had a feeling this game would be not great. One for the sales I think.

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qreedence

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What a bummer, was interested in this.

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NTM

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Edited By NTM

Hm. Interesting. Unfortunate. The first Max Payne was alright, I really, really like Max Payne 2, and love Alan Wake; it being one of my favorite games of last-gen for sure. Remedy is one of those developers that I'm always excited to see what they do, so this is unfortunate to see it getting what it's getting. I can't say I was overly excited about Quantum Break, but one I ultimately decided I was going to get anyways, guessing it'd probably be good. Not sure if I'll get it on release now, but I'll probably get it at some point.

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Hardtarget

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oh jeeze, not what I was expecting

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bboymaestro

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Whoopsie-doodle. All that preview hype just deflated.

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xpgamer7

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Woah, didn't expect this. The action didn't look great, but remembering Alan Wake and Max Payne, remedy usually is able to wrap it's mediocre to OK-ish combat in interesting mystery and characters. Sad that it seems like it failed on that end too, though I'd like to see how others came away from this.

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Yummylee

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Incoming 500+ comments! Probably. I guess this is different since it's a new IP as opposed to being a sequel to an already established series, so there's less chance for the requisite rage.

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trecko1234

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nicolasvh

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Edited By nicolasvh

Completed the game yesterday (also for reviewing purposes) and I don't agree with this review at all to be brutally honest. (That's fine of course, everybody has their own opinion)

Gameplay-wise I can kind of see what you're getting at, there's nothing really special about it but there's also nothing wrong with it. Missed potential, sure but in essence the gameplay an sich ain't worse than let's say, the last Tomb Raider.

But for me it was definitely the story that kept me going. Maybe I was more involved by the fact that I read every single e-mail or any other text they throw at you, but it just builds up in a very exciting way, nicely paced, combined with the perfectly okay TV show. I do agree that the end feels very rushed and even leaves openings for DLC or a sequel. That sucked.

Ah well, I find two stars very harsh cause I'm sure a lot of Xbox One owners would really enjoy a story-driven game like this.

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Duxa

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Wow Harsh, was expecting to see a 3 or 4/5

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citizenjp

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Rekt.

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cooperb212

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Ouch was not expecting this. Gameplay seems to be the biggest complaint i have been seeing with the game.

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UnInvincible

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After seeing Drew's preview footage of it, I had a feeling this would be a 2 or 3 star review. The action looked plodding at best, and as much as I liked Alan Wake, I could tell pretty immediately that this time-travel story wouldn't be anything interesting, let alone satisfying.

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furiousjodo

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The few reviews I've seen so far seem pretty polarizing which goes along with Remedy's track record I guess. I'm still going to get it I think, seems interesting enough.

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ShadyPingu

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Edited By ShadyPingu

I'm surprised. The TV show angle always seemed like a doomed proposition, but I expect a Remedy game to at least have some neat shooty bits. I'll be curious to see how this one shakes out critically.

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BoundfortheFloor

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Edited By BoundfortheFloor

0_o, I was excepting at least a 4/5. Most things I've heard were positive and, the whole reviewing early thing.

The only thing I was worried about was the 20 min intermission shows. taking you out for a 30 min cut scene always seemed like a dumb idea to me.

Edit: changed 30 Min show to 20 Min.

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marc_spectorr

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Its getting some good reviews from other sites so im going to give it a shot. Alan wake my be my favourite game.

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wwfundertaker

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I would rather watch someone play the game rather than actually play the game. The videos ive seen for this game make it look like a generic third person shooter.

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Quemaqua

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Honestly, this game looked boring as shit to me from the start. I hope the Windows 10 store burns along with it. I like Remedy, don't get me wrong, and sort of sorry their game turned out lousy. But also not a big fan of how Microsoft has handled Windows 10, so sort of hoping to see them back off of many of their initiatives.

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cyberspacecat

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Not particularly surprised with the reception of the game, it looked like it wasn't shaping up to be much of a good action game or a good story to begin with, and I felt the two part feature on the site about the game just reinforced those first impressions.

It's a shame really, I enjoy Remedy's games, Max Payne is great fun, didn't even have much of a problem with 3 despite its drastic change of style and setting. Alan Wake was an enjoyable time too, not much of a twin peaks / stephen king enthusiast myself so they didn't connect in that way but it played very nicely and had a neat style to it, this game just seems to go against both of those things...

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mems1224

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Still excited to play this but the shooting has always looked meh. What happened to Remedy? Max Payne 1 and 2 still have incredibly satisfying shooting mechanics and that went away in Alan Wake and now QB.

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PurpleEye

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Edited By PurpleEye

Hmmm to be honest didn't expect this :) Well back to the drawing board MS :D

@quemaqua: Yeas lets hope so because we dont need another platform to buy games. How many can you make man....ubishit origin no microsoft wants some cake...lets stop already

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Teddie

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So when's Alan Wake 2 out anyway?

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Humanity

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@teddie: Hopefully never, but when is Max Payne 4 coming out?

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YummyTreeSap

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Edited By YummyTreeSap

I've seen some much more positive reviews of the game elsewhere, but I get the feeling that this would fall in line with my opinions. I'm pretty into Remedy using film noir, graphic novels, and popular horror novels as inspiration for their games, but shitty network television doesn't even appeal to me as game concept, let alone something actually crucial to the multimedia experience with this thing.

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misclet

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after beating this game twice, i love this game. i have to disagree with jeff's review, but that is jeff's review.

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extintor

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Edited By extintor

EDIT: Not that it says anything about the veracity of the review (it doesn't) but Jeff's review is a metacritic outlier at the moment. hmm

My understanding of 2/5 is "the game functions mostly as it should, but is a game that the reviewer also thought was bad". So Jeff thought Quantum Break was bad is probably the main take away from a 2/5 review.

Jeff's views on his experiences with games don't usually match up with mine exactly but they aren't usually polar opposites either.

Maybe it won't make a significant difference but I think I'll also wait to see what shakes out of the PC reviews also as the footage I've seen of the XONE version didn't exactly leave a striking impression visually.

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Colonel_Pockets

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WHOA, I did not expect this. I guess having the TV aspect to the game wouldn't appeal to Jeff.

I feel like the hype for this game was only there because of Remedy. I didn't think the gameplay looked that great and TV show part of the game always seemed just strange.

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infantpipoc

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Thanks for the warning Mr. Gerstmann.

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brodieblu

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@teddie: agreed, I'd much rather have Alan wake 2. More compelling story and atmosphere than the basic cable look of this, shame because aiden Gillen is cool

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Tomac

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Imagine in a few years when you won't even be able to watch the live action stuff anymore because it all has to be streamed and they've shut down the server for it.

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TeenageJesusSuperstar

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So, what you're saying is Aidan Gillen plays the Purple Tentacle?

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BeachThunder

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April Fools! No, wait, it's just not a very good game :P

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Smokey_Earhole

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It seems to me the game and Remedy's dev proces was much hurt with all the frankly chaotic happenings, re. Microsoft's botched online/DRM plans. Also, all the grand ideas about media convergence, and wet dreams about being a movie studio.

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metal_mills

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Oh no. :(

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scrubsmckenzy

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I'm still gonna buy this and support Remedy. I want more triple a games to take chances and not have every other game be an open world rpg micro manager.

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BoundfortheFloor

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@extintor: If your excited just play QB ! Jeff did the same to Drive Club and it SUCKED, all the crap slung its way. DC wasn't amazing but, no way was it a 2/5.

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ChristmasUnicorn

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Oof but i'm also not surprised.

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T0MBraider

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People holding off buying this game because of one review really should consider reading the 30+ positive reviews out there.

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Spitznock

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Edited By Spitznock

I still want to check this game out. "Middling" doesn't scare me.

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BoundfortheFloor

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I will buy QB as I bought the XBone just to play the exclusives.

I'm aware that's a bad idea but I really wanted sunset override.

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deactivated-58d2da148e283

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Love you Jeff. Realest mother fucker is game journalism.

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JesusHammer

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Hopefully I'll think differently when I play it. I hope it does alright sales wise because I feel if this flops that Remedy and Alan Wake 2 are kind of done for outside of maybe a Kickstarter. Please someone let Alan Wake 2 happen.

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sinjunb

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Edited By sinjunb

So after more reviews are now in this is the only straight up negative one out of 40 so far. Gamespot being the second worst with a 6/10. Very divisive game, though since Jeff didn't like Last of Us I'm just not sure he's all that into TPS linear story-driven games.