Posted Mon Mar 28, 2016 at 11:30 AM PDT by Levi van Tine
Things are unfolding.
Last week we showed you a clip of Act 1 of 'Quantum Break', the Xbox One and Windows 10 time travel shooter releasing on April 5th. We were able to get into a little bit of Jack Joyce’s time manipulation powers, and some of them are pretty slick. We were also introduced to the winding, unpredictable storyline, bolstered by sporadic player decisions that can fundamentally shape the story and its characters. In this sense it is not unlike an episodic game, especially given that each act of the video game is bookended with 25-minute episodes of a live-action TV show.
Played on their own, the first two acts of 'Quantum Break' are mind-bogglingly strange. The game is thus far light on scientific lingo, which is good because I’m having enough trouble keeping everything together. Even so, the storyline is presented in slightly different time periods, and it can be tough to keep track of the present, the near future, and the recent past, not to mention the main antagonist Paul Serene who seems to be capable of much more powerful time travel. The TV show complicates things further by adding a behind-the-scenes element. It is primarily about Monarch personnel, who I would otherwise only be familiar with by reading their e-mails on laptops scattered conveniently through the maps. Going into it I thought the TV show was going to be a gimmick or PR stunt, but it’s very well-crafted and makes for a much more cinematic video game. I imagine it’s quite expensive so it’s not something that we’re going to see all the time in new releases, but so far it is an effective marriage of television and video game, if a tad on the hammy side. Still, it was capable of keeping me more engaged than many of the action/sci-fi shows that are currently available on network TV, which is no mean feat for a company that only makes video games.
'Quantum Break' isn’t just about a fancy TV show and recognizable Hollywood actors rapping about chronons and the end of time. It’s also a competent action shooter with some substance and a hint of adventurism. The unorthodox elements mingle with things you’ll be familiar with from many other games - upgradeable powers, collectibles, interactive memories, and so on. As Jack’s powers slowly develop and he becomes something more than human, he is capable of impressive feats of movement and strategy. Enemies react realistically to his presence, or at least as realistically as can be imagined for an opponent who is able to "blink" around the battlefield, stop time in isolated pockets, and create shields of impenetrable force around himself. Enemy AI is also decent - guards can work together to flush Jack out of cover. As his powers improve, mundane humans become increasingly trivial to dispatch, so enemies with abilities of their own are gradually introduced.
The time powers are also used for platforming, not unlike something like 'Dead Space' where Isaac uses stasis blasts to slow down machinery. Examples of this are uncommon in the first act, but the second act has a longer scene where a maze of a collapsing tanker must be navigated by rewinding time and stuttering through dangerous gaps. Jack’s powers could potentially be used for complex puzzles, but so far I’ve only seen a few simple ones.
The engine that supports everything, a proprietary Remedy construction named "Northlight," has a good physics background. The Xbox One version as it currently stands pre-launch exhibits some presentation issues, however - a noticeably sub-1080p resolution, soft or fuzzy textures, and consistent aliasing. Other parts of the game are beautiful, particularly in the realm of lighting and the time power effects, but if it does turn out to be a 720p target this far into the generation, especially for such a large project, it would be a bit of a disappointment. Then again, this kind of compromise is nothing new for Xbox One owners. It’s also worth noting that 'Alan Wake', a previous Remedy project, was also under par in its technical department, but still had a distinct and appealing visual style. It's also not too late for a patch that could fundamentally change the visuals
The take away here is that 'Quantum Break' is an exciting game that I want to keep playing, and I’m always happy to try out Remedy’s latest offerings. They helped popularize bullet time with 'Max Payne' fifteen years ago, and the things they’re doing with time as a gameplay mechanic are still fascinating, not to mention the live-action stuff. 'Quantum Break' will be available on the Xbox One and PC on April 5th, and you can expect our full review very soon.
You can find the latest info on 'Quantum Break' linked from our Video Game Release Schedule.
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