For a game about shifting time, fans sure have had to wait a while for Quantum Break. However, the time-bending shooter from studio responsible for the likes of Max Payne and Alan Wake, is finally ready to launch. Remedy Entertainment recently announced that the game has gone gold ahead of its April 5 release date. I met up with Remedy during Xbox's recent Showcase event to play through the first act of the game.
Quantum Break melds the choice-driven gaming many players have great affection for with live-action sequences that play out like a TV drama. The production is far from a low-rent attempt at creating a television show, as the high production values and visuals (1080p on Xbox One and 4K on Windows 10) complement the talented and experienced cast of actors. The cast consists of Shawn Ashmore (Animorphs, The Following, X-Men), Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings, Lost), Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire), Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe), and more.
These actors not only performed their acting in the live-action portion of the game, but also performed their own motion capture for the in-game animations. The authenticity shows through the performances given in-game. Through much of the story, you control Jack Joyce, played by Ashmore. The expressions on Jack's face as he reacts to the conversation look great. During some of the longer conversations in the early parts of Act 1, I made sure to swing the camera around to get a good look at the impressive facial animations as the characters both spoke and reacted.
After a slower start that explains both Paul and Jack's motivations, as well as shows the science-experiment-gone-wrong that gives both characters their time manipulation abilities, Remedy pulls its foot off the gas very few times throughout the rest of the first act. I take full control of Jack as I work through the building in an attempt to escape the now-chaotic campus. I fight off waves of enemies, each wave allowing for a new power to manifest in Jack. From the Time Blast, a projectile that freezes enemies and allows you to unload a ton of damage into them, to the Time Shield which stops bullets to allow you to react, the game does a great job of allowing you to fully grasp the powers and their commands before throwing in a new one.
The steady introduction of new abilities through Act 1 is effective, as I go from having no grasp of the time manipulation abilities to being able to clear out large rooms full of heavily-armed men in full body armor with relative ease. Chaining together abilities proves most effective, as the Time Shield gives me moments to assess the situation without having to immediately duck into cover, the Time Blast freezes enemies and increases damage I can deal to them, and the Time Rush gives me the ability to flank them and unload into them without having to be sneaky. Jack also has the ability to sense his surroundings, much like the Eagle Vision from Assassin's Creed or Detective Vision from Arkham Knight.
After battling through several rooms and stalking the team to find Jack's kidnapped brother, Jack is confronted by Paul. Paul appears to be from the future, and as such, he has a much better grasp on his powers. Jack tries to fight back, but Paul gets the upper hand in this confrontation. Jack retreats without his brother and narrowly escapes the once-peaceful college campus.
Following that sequence of events, I'm brought to the first junction of the game. Junctions are the moments that truly define the direction of the subsequent events. In this first junction, I control Paul as he defines the direction he's going to take with his damage control. You are delivered a captive witness to the events that unfolded in the prior act. Do you execute her and all other witnesses, dealing irreparable damage to your company's image, but keeping your secrets safe in the process? Or do you talk her into acting as a spokesperson for your company who paints Jack as the bad guy? I played both options out and while the subsequent live-action sequences shared some scenes, they were clearly very different takes on the same episode.
The major decisions come down to these junction points. However, I wish the live-action shots pulled from more than just these clearly-defined moments in the game to have legitimate impacts. Still, it was really interesting to see how the two very different paths could be reflected through the live-action scenes. There are small Easter egg-style scenes that can be unlocked by exploring the environment. One such scene showed during my playthrough because I interacted with a chalkboard during the opening moments of the game. As the live-action episode played about 45 minutes later, the camera cut to two professors talking about how "someone fixed the equation." It wasn't anything earth-shattering, but it was really cool to see a small, seemingly inconsequential moment in my gameplay acknowledged.
Quantum Break is set to hit Xbox One and Windows 10 on April 5. To learn more about Quantum Break, be sure to click the banner below to visit out exclusive in-depth coverage hub.