A lot of Quantum Break is about the struggle of duality.
On one hand, the game is like nothing you've ever seen before, with its blend of time travel powers, striking visual effects and live action TV episodes. Yet on the other, it cowers into a trite presentation of cookie-cutter gameplay that painfully conflicts with its otherwise big ambitions.
I enjoyed playing through Quantum Break, but a part of me could not let go of what could have been.
In the game you play as Jack Joyce (played by Shawn Ashmore), who through an old friend (Aidan Gillen), finds himself at the center of a time travel experiment gone wrong. The accident leaves Joyce with powers that let him manipulate time. You'll use these to get the drop on enemies and progress through some light puzzle solving.
These powers are meant to be chained together to pull off successions of great triumph, but they don't always allow for the smoothest of transitions. While they look superb, they can also handcuff you at inopportune moments.
At its core, Quantum Break is a third-person-shooter. And just like developer Remedy Entertainment has done in the past (see Alan Wake and Max Payne), you'll clear out area after area of enemies until a cutscene pushes the story further.
Almost immediately your character is pursued with deadly force by what appears to be some kind of SWAT team and you're put into a situation where you must kill nearly everyone you come into contact with.
I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting the gameplay to boil down to, but it's probably my biggest letdown with the title as a whole. It's undeniably stunning to watch and can make for some really satisfying sequences, but about a third of the way through I started to feel like I was continuously witnessing rehashed gameplay wrapped up in dazzling particle and lighting effects.
Overall there is not a wide variety of enemies and some of them are victims of subpar AI -- not to mention the heaviest soldiers are bested way too easily. There's a light upgrade system in place that can flesh out your time powers, but you'll quickly realize there's only a few items you'll need to max out.
So there you have it. Quantum Break beats a dead horse with its gameplay. But what about everything else?
Graphically, Quantum Break definitely impresses. You're guaranteed to experience a handful of "whoa, cool," moments for sure. There's a rippling time glitch effect that's used nearly every step of the way and it's endlessly satisfying.
Performance-wise the game does well for the most part, but it's obviously pushing the Xbox One to its edge. Quantum Break can feel sluggish at times and has a slight control latency that you'll just need to get used to. For a shooter it's a bit of a handicap.
On the narrative side, things are a bit of a mixed bag. No one would ever deny that Remedy Entertainment takes storytelling seriously, but the game's relentless barrage of collectible emails and the like isn't the way to do it anymore. In a game that features tons of exposition at every turn I just can't bring myself to scroll through hundreds of pages of backstory.