Hollywood at Home: first impressions of Quantum Break


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Hollywood at Home is a weekly column by filmmaker, writer, and critic Keith Hodder that highlights the variety of films and television programs that Netflix has to offer, along with recommendations of what to watch next and his opinions on the world of entertainment. Follow him @KeithHodder and feel free to suggest a film.

You killed her, you monster!” my friend Eric joked from his home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Little did I know he could see the choice I made. I killed a young university student to protect my company’s secrets.

It was a difficult choice, but given that I could look into the future, given that I could manipulate time, it seemed like the right choice. I was the villain, after all. And not only did my choice ripple through my friend’s list on Xbox Live, but it rippled through time, changing the events that would follow.

This is Quantum Break, the newest outing by Remedy Entertainment, the pop culture-loving creators behind Max Payne and Alan Wake. This game, an Xbox One exclusive, has a lot of its predecessors’ DNA.

It deals with a rich sci-fi mystery, akin to Alan Wake’s Stephen King-inspired roots, and allows the player to control time in a fashion that’s similar to Max Payne’s bullet-time mechanic.

The third-person action-adventure game follows Jack Joyce, a character who, through a failed science experiment, is gifted with the ability to manipulate time. The experiment is a creation of his friend, Paul Serene, a scientist who hopes to travel through time and become the first person to do it.

Not only does the catastrophe inflict the two characters with newfound abilities, but also heralds the end of time and reveals a villain who has travelled back through time to ensure his plans come to fruition. That time traveller is an older, wiser and far more dangerous Paul Serene. Friend becomes foe.

Quantum Break is a beautiful game. The graphics are easily some of the best that Xbox One has seen. There were many instances in which I marveled over facial gestures, the hairs on the characters’ heads and how their design closely resembled their real-life counterparts.

The game stars Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises), and Lance Reddick (Fringe), along with other somewhat-known and talented performers. While there are a few instances that wander into the Uncanny Valley, on most occasions the game and its cut scenes perform wonderfully.
Speaking of cut scenes,
Quantum Break finally meets the developer’s potential. Given the Easter eggs and homages laced throughout their games, it’s clear that Remedy has a love for film and television.


All of their games had small instances where players could listen to radio clips or watch television scenes that often winked to other programs from the real world.

With Quantum Break, Remedy created four episodes of a television series that ties directly into the show and is played at certain moments of the game – successfully blending both video games and televised entertainment into one package.

I’ve only had a chance to watch the first 22-minute episode, but was impressed with the production values and its attempt to focus on a smaller character in the story, which will surely have a bigger impact come its conclusion.

And to put the proverbial cherry on top, the choices you make in the game also impact and change the results of the television show.

With all that said, I have a few reservations after a few hours of play. I’m still struggling to care about the characters and the stakes that have been established in the story.

I feel as though I haven’t been given enough time to meet them, and early losses in Jack’s life seem like plot elements rather than something that players should care about. I’m curious to see how the television show influences my opinion as I continue to play the game and if it heightens the experience beyond what standard cut scenes can do.

At this stage I feel that Quantum Break’s story is the weakest in Remedy’s roster.

Gameplay, while exciting at times, feels pretty traditional despite the attempts to create new gameplay techniques.

At its core Quantum Break is merely a game in which you step in to a room, gun down a few enemies, and move on. You can predict when it will happen, and sure enough, it does.

I’ve been craving a stealth mechanic and a means in which I don’t have to use my weapons and my abilities.

I’d love for Jack to throw a few punches or to grapple onto some enemies that have gotten too close for comfort. Without these mechanics the gameplay feels distanced and echoes the experience that one might find in a shooting range.

Overall, I’m on the fence. While Remedy attempts to bring two mediums of entertainment together and pushes their graphical standards, the gameplay and story suffer in their normalcy and lackluster stakes.

There is definitely potential here, and while there have been some brief and rare moments of awe, in most cases I find myself playing Quantum Break to get my money’s worth.

Be sure to check back next week for a detailed review.