Seeing live and uninterrupted gameplay footage of Quantum Break is like watching a Hollywood action-thriller play out before your eyes, with the emphasis on the action. Quite clearly this is a game that has been designed with ‘wow factor’ in mind, every element turned up to maximum on the ‘blow-shit-up’ scale.
What with Quantum Break being about fluctuations and break downs in the integrity of time, we expected the combat sequences to push the limits of what a game can realistically get away with without stepping into the realms of parody. However, the dialogue, the camera angles and the pacing are equally penetrating in a way that marketing would call ‘explosive’. Almost everyone else would call it exhausting.
The sequence we’re shown includes cover-based gunfights, simple platforming, time-manipulation and a whole host of cutaway cinematics designed to increase tension and intrigue in a John McClane kind of way. This doesn’t let up for around 20 minutes, with protagonist Jack Joyce constantly receiving or dishing out peril.
Everything plays out on an enormous suspension bridge, the game’s antagonistic ‘Monarch’ corporation having set up road blocks along it in an effort to capture Jack. Rather than risk killing civilians by tackling the bad guys head on, Jack instead opts to travel along the supports and walkways of the bridge’s underbelly. As it so happens, it’s a route that doesn’t provide much relaxation.
While there are combat sequences versus humans and ‘Monarch Elite’ mechs, the major obstructions befalling Jack are of a platforming nature. An enormous amount of the demo was spent navigating between gaps, tiptoeing across ledges and avoiding environmental hazards.
In keeping with the high-intensity approach, these hazards are created when a cargo ship smashes into the bridge – the sea of bending, splitting and screaming metal erupting with what looks like enough force to knock the Earth’s axis into line. The ‘ripples’ in time that are playing havoc with Quantum Break’s world cause the debris to pause just long enough for you to use it as a makeshift bridge, although the ripple will likely last the exact amount of time it takes you to reach an invisible checkpoint.
These ripples, being inconsistent, cause some objects to move erratically and form additional obstacles. A car, for instance, slams repeatedly into a platform you’re trying to traverse, forcing you to time your run properly to avoid danger and reminding us very much of something you’d expect to see from Tomb Raider or Uncharted – albeit here such moments are dressed in sci-fi, rather than adventurer, garb.
Undeniably, for an action sequence this entire chunk is technically well executed. It looks stunning, even in this pre-release state there’s not a graphical glitch or frame rate dip to be seen. A game claiming to be narratively driven cannot be all action scenes, though, which is why we’re more than slightly perturbed by the lack of exposure we’ve had to anything more emotionally engaging thus far.
It could be that the bulk of the narrative is contained within the accompanying television series, with Remedy completely open and honest in admitting you will be missing out on a lot of the story if you don’t consume the show along with the game.
That’s all well and good, but at some point you need to decide whether you want to make a game or a television show. These are two different mediums, each with unique characteristics and languages, trying to make a story fit seamlessly across both is going to be no easy task – especially considering that each of the two elements must also work in isolation for the audiences not interested in investing the time to consume both.
There’s potential here, but the verdict remains out until we see signs of greater content diversity.