Quan­tum Break Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper Rem­edy Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft For­mat Xbox One Re­lease Out now

The pre-re­lease con­cern over Quan­tum Break’s res­o­lu­tion was, as with so many en­deav­ours that fo­cus on num­bers with­out con­text, en­tirely mis­placed. Rem­edy’s out­put has never wanted for vis­ual qual­ity, but in Quan­tum Break’s time-frac­tur­ing aes­thetic the Fin­nish stu­dio be­hind Max Payne has con­jured up its most strik­ing-look­ing game to date.

Play­ing out in the hours lead­ing up to the end of time (a cat­a­strophic di­men­sional col­lapse brought about by a physics ex­per­i­ment gone awry), the game’s set­ting pro­vides the scaf­fold­ing for a se­ries of mem­o­rable set­pieces in which time stops, starts, stut­ters and rewinds around you. The re­sults are con­sis­tently stun­ning. A dizzy­ing, shift­ing plat­form gaunt­let sus­pended in midair as a freighter smashes through a bridge. The frozen spi­ral of a he­li­copter’s ro­tor-tip lights amid det­o­nat­ing fire­works as it hangs omi­nously a few feet from the land­ing pad. Cars that ex­plode un­der fire and then put them­selves back to­gether again as time fights against your in­flu­ence. Even if Quan­tum Break con­trib­uted noth­ing else to videogames, its in­tro­duc­tion of re­us­able ex­plo­sive red bar­rels is un­doubt­edly a wor­thy legacy.

The world is fil­tered through fizzing, light-re­fract­ing tri­an­gles, which rep­re­sent the frac­tur­ing of space­time – a vis­ual lan­guage that’s echoed more plainly in the swish ar­chi­tec­ture of sci­en­tific re­search fa­cil­i­ties and man­sions, and one rem­i­nis­cent of Deus Ex’s uni­verse – while peo­ple linger like man­nequins, pet­ri­fied in a fi­nal mo­ment be­fore time came to a jud­der­ing halt, their last words seep­ing through the cracks as a dis­torted, hor­ri­fy­ing noise. It’s an en­tranc­ing space to oc­cupy and an ef­fect whose im­pact never de­grades.

The at­ten­tion to vis­ual de­tail car­ries across to more mun­dane ar­eas, too, such as the digi­tised like­nesses of the ac­tors play­ing the game’s key roles. Shawn Ash­more, Ai­den Gillen, Court­ney Hope et al have, for the most part, an un­can­nily be­liev­able pres­ence in the world right down to the an­i­ma­tions that play out dur­ing in-game en­coun­ters. Sub­tle ex­pres­sions and move­ments of­fer up the sensation of di­rect­ing a movie scene as you spin the cam­era around to take in the re­mark­able emo­tional de­tails – although many of the phys­i­cal an­i­ma­tions feel clunky in com­par­i­son to th­ese mo­ments, and once a con­ver­sa­tion plays out ev­ery­one re­turns awk­wardly to their less-con­vinc­ing rest­ing faces.

But over­all it’s a pow­er­ful ef­fect that nar­rows the gap be­tween the game and TV show por­tions, the lat­ter hold­ing up bet­ter than ex­pected. Sure, it’s no Break­ing Bad, and there are times when the live-ac­tion bud­get can’t quite ac­com­mo­date the game’s grandeur, but strong per­for­mances from the cast draw you in while car­ry­ing the plot’s sil­lier mo­ments and, even at its least ap­peal­ing, it’s never any worse than sched­ule-clog­ging tosh such as NCIS or CSI. That may seem like damn­ing with faint praise, but the point is that Quan­tum Break’s TV show is con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than it has any right to be. Th­ese episodes are also en­tirely op­tional, of­fer­ing in­sight into the ac­tiv­i­ties of the shad­owy Monarch Cor­po­ra­tion rather than your own pro­gres­sion, and they’re only around 20 min­utes long, which feels like a rea­son­able amount of time to ask play­ers to down pads. Hideo Kojima has cer­tainly leant more heav­ily on our pa­tience in the past. Prior to each episode you’ll switch from con­trol­ling pro­tag­o­nist Jack Joyce (brother of Wil­liam Joyce, the cre­ator of the time ma­chine that drums up all of this trou­ble in the first place) to Monarch founder, and Jack’s for­mer best friend, Paul Serene. In th­ese ‘Junc­tions’ you’ll be pre­sented with a de­ci­sion that will in­flu­ence the events of the show, chang­ing cer­tain scenes and even re­mov­ing char­ac­ters from the rest of the story. Be­fore com­mit­ting, you can watch a vi­sion of each pos­si­ble fu­ture that sets out the broad scope of what will hap­pen, and while early de­ci­sions are rather black and white, some later in­stances prove a lit­tle more am­bigu­ous. Tell­tale Games-style feed­back shows you what per­cent­age of play­ers aligned with you.

The game’s story is an ab­sorb­ing yarn that presents a fresh-feel­ing spin on the well-worn con­cept of an im­pend­ing apoc­a­lypse, and clev­erly in­ter­min­gles events and mo­tifs be­tween its game and TV show com­po­nents. It’s an am­bi­tious at­tempt to ex­plore a dif­fer­ent way of telling sto­ries, cer­tainly, but not ev­ery as­pect is as pro­gres­sive. In the game, much of the back­story is told via emails, ra­dios and other ‘Nar­ra­tive Ob­jects’ that act as col­lectibles. We’ve no prob­lem with scrolling through the oc­ca­sional email chain – es­pe­cially when they’re as well writ­ten as Quan­tum Break’s cor­re­spon­dences, which can also be amus­ing – but when you’re meant to be in a rush to save the world and find your­self with only four of 17 Nar­ra­tive Ob­jects, mov­ing from of­fice to of­fice just to stand and read for min­utes at a time, they feel like a jar­ring, heavy-handed rem­nant of a more tra­di­tional ap­proach to videogame story ex­po­si­tion.

When you’re not buried un­der piles of of­fice ad­min, Quan­tum Break’s more mo­bile mo­ments have much to of­fer. Rem­edy’s com­bat me­chan­ics have al­ways been slick, but the time-dis­tort­ing skills avail­able to you here are the stu­dio’s best yet. Tap­ping L1 will quickly shift you a few me­tres in the di­rec­tion of travel, al­low­ing you to dodge en­emy fire or get be­hind a tar­get, while hold­ing the same but­ton ac­ti­vates Time Rush, which slows every­thing around you as you zip about the place. Tap­ping the B but­ton near an en­emy launches you into an instant-kill take­down an­i­ma­tion, and dash­ing to new cover (Joyce takes cover au­to­mat­i­cally when near fur­ni­ture and walls) will leave en­e­mies tar­get­ing your last known po­si­tion, giv­ing you the up­per hand. R1, mean­while, han­dles Time Stop and Time Blast, the

Rem­edy’s com­bat me­chan­ics have al­ways been slick, but the time-dis­tort­ing skills here are its best yet

for­mer cre­at­ing a bub­ble around a tar­get that al­lows you to stack bul­lets into one mas­sively dam­ag­ing hit, and the lat­ter vi­o­lently warp­ing space­time and dam­ag­ing any­one within its ra­dius. In ad­di­tion to all of this, tap­ping B out­side of Rush will briefly de­ploy a Time Shield, buy­ing you re­cov­ery time.

Used in com­bi­na­tion, th­ese abil­i­ties make you feel fan­tas­ti­cally pow­er­ful, man­ag­ing the bat­tle­field as you plan move­ments in or­der to pick off weaker en­e­mies be­fore deal­ing with ar­moured foes or those us­ing tech to re­sist at­tacks. Strik­ers prove par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic as they’re also able to Time Dash and can op­er­ate within stut­ters when ev­ery­one else is frozen, but shoot­ing their back­packs (or get­ting in close and tak­ing a more hands-on ap­proach) will leave them trapped at the point their tech­nol­ogy failed them.

It’s not all about ma­nip­u­lat­ing time, though, and guns feel sat­is­fy­ingly beefy, but in one of Rem­edy’s few mis­steps you can only switch be­tween your two spe­cial weapons and hand­gun by us­ing the D-pad, mak­ing quick swap­ping in des­per­ate mo­ments an awk­ward af­fair. And while your Time Shield dou­bles up as a melee at­tack, knock­ing en­e­mies into the air in close prox­im­ity, its at­tach­ment to a cooldown timer means you’ll some­times find your­self wish­ing that us­ing the butt of your gun was also an op­tion – an es­pe­cially an­noy­ing omis­sion given that ev­ery­one else is quite happy to use theirs against you.

At its best, Quan­tum Break’s com­bat is flow­ing and im­pact­ful. You’ll wish there was more of it (a feel­ing com­pounded by the pas­siv­ity of watch­ing the TV episodes), and la­ment the oc­ca­sions when your abil­i­ties are re­moved in the name of, pre­sum­ably, game­play vari­a­tion as the game’s vanilla gun­play sim­ply can’t match the rush of wield­ing your time pow­ers. But for the most part Quan­tum Break man­ages to feel quite un­like any other cover-based ac­tion game. Your pow­ers can also be up­graded by find­ing hid­den chronon sources (chronons be­ing the par­ti­cle re­spon­si­ble for time’s pro­gres­sion), al­low­ing you to stack up more bul­lets when us­ing Time Stop, or tem­po­rar­ily re­veal­ing foes’ po­si­tions in the mo­ments af­ter us­ing Time Dodge.

En­emy en­coun­ters are in­ter­spersed with ex­plo­ration and en­vi­ron­men­tal puz­zles, but some mo­ments feel con­trived. An early prob­lem re­quires you to reach a raised plat­form by us­ing a cherry picker, which in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­tracts ev­ery time you stand on it and needs to be frozen with Time Stop. An­other se­quence re­quires you to reach an open first-floor win­dow in an at­mo­spher­i­cally ren­dered train­yard, but forces you to take a cir­cuitous route across car­riage rooftops when a pile of stacked boxes near the win­dow – the high­est of which can­not be climbed for some rea­son – would be a con­sid­er­ably more sen­si­ble op­tion.

Th­ese mo­ments, the heavy re­liance on in-game text, and some rudi­men­tary check­point­ing high­light a ten­sion be­tween Rem­edy’s am­bi­tions to in­no­vate with in­ter­ac­tive sto­ry­telling and a re­liance on tra­di­tional game­play me­chan­ics. But while it doesn’t al­ways gel in a way that feels gen­uinely new, there are enough suc­cess­ful un­fa­mil­iar con­cepts here to make Quan­tum Break feel like a step for­ward for Rem­edy, en­sur­ing that the game stands out in a way that can only ben­e­fit Xbox One as a whole.

Ex­plor­ing ar­eas in which awk­wardly con­torted bod­ies hang as if in as­pic is dis­con­cert­ing, but strangely beau­ti­ful. Monarch So­lu­tions’ hi-tech cor­ri­dors con­trast heav­ily with the other di­lap­i­dated lo­cales you’ll visit

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.