Review: Quantum Break

Quantum BreakQuantum Break is a near-future scifi video game about time travel. It’s also the only game I know that tries to meld a streaming television show with a video game.

The story

At the start of the story, Jack Joyce returns to his old friend Paul Serene, who has been working on perfecting research started by Jack’s estranged brother Will. It turns out that Paul has created a working time machine. He travels a few minutes into the past to prove it.

Then Will shows up, claiming that the machine will cause the end of time. Paul flees into the future, while Jack and Will escape, pursued by an evil corporation called ‘Monarch Solutions’. Jack’s run-in with the machine has given him time-controlling powers and now he has to use them to try and repair time, before the universe ends.

The TV show, intertwined with the game tells the story of Liam Burke, a Monarch Solutions hitman who starts to question his masters.

The characters

Quantum Break is both a game and a TV show, and accordingly, it has a cast of well-known actors.

Jack Joyce is played by Shawn Ashmore, known from X-Men and The Following, and not to be confused with his twin brother Aaron Ashmore, who you may know from  Smallville, Warehouse 13, and Killjoys. Aidan Gillen, from Game of Thrones, portrays Paul Serene, Courtney Hope from the Bold and the Beautiful plays Beth Wilder, and Dominic Monaghan, known for Lord of the Rings, is Will Joyce. And then there’s Lance Reddick, known from Fringe and John Wick, as Martin Hatch. Patrick Heusinger, finally, plays Liam Burke in the TV show intertwined with the game.

A great cast doesn’t make a great game or TV show, but this time they did well enough. Jack Joyce is interesting, but I especially liked Paul Serene as a very well-rounded villain.

Paul is just as desperate to do the right thing as Jack is, but his methods are far more ruthless and fatalistic than Jack’s. He’s looking for a way for humanity to survive because he’s convinced the past can’t be changed, and part of his past is a future where time ended. He isn’t chasing a MacGuffin to fix the universe like Jack is. You’ll have to play the game if you wish to know how things play out.

Gameplay

The game is an adventure style game, with some platform elements, like the Last of Us, Uncharted, and Tomb Raider.

It plays well enough, although I found the upgrade system for your powers  somewhat superfluous. The upgrade system is based on the industry standard scavenger hunt for upgrade points scattered throughout the levels. I find these kind of things distract from the main game.

Over the years I’ve also grown less and less enthusiastic about books, e-mails, and manuscripts sprinkled around to provide background. Quantum Break has a lot. I find them a chore to read, and they add just enough that you can’t skip them, but are also expansive enough to break the story rhythm.

All in all, though, I had fun.

Video Game and TV show

As stated earlier, Quantum Break tries to marry a video game to a TV show. Jack’s fight against Paul Serene is intertwined with the story of Liam Burke. The writers decided to make the two stories separate. Jack Joyce doesn’t have a major on-stage role in the TV show, and Liam Burke doesn’t factor into the video game that much. I think that was a wise move.

If the game and TV show had been one story, it would have led to either a very expensive production (a multi-million dollar movie), or an average tv show where all the cool stuff happened in the video game parts. Now the two can be seen as separate things, although entangled with each other.

The idea was good: the decisions you make in the game affect what happens in the TV show. The problem I had with it, though, is two-fold. First off, when I’m playing a game, I like cut scenes as the capstone on sections of gameplay. However, pausing my game for half an hour of a completely separate story in a TV show form, was kind of jarring.

Secondly, because the two stories were separate, and in a completely different format, they didn’t really come together for me. It was like binge-watching two Netflix shows in an alternating rhythm.

Conclusion

I like Quantum Break. I can recommend the game to anyone. The TV show is okay. It adds some depth to the video game, but it ultimately didn’t work for me so well. The game would have been fine with no TV show and a few extra cut scenes.

Still, if you like scifi video games like the Last of Us and Uncharted, go get this one.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

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