Game review: Quantum Break is a solid third-person shooter tripped up by its own ambitions

The creators of popular Max Payne series return with a similar shoot-’em-up that offers time-twisting action, but the game’s reliance on live-action ‘episodes’ to tell its story falls completely flat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 April, 2016, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 April, 2016, 1:00pm

Quantum Break

Remedy Entertainment

2.5/5 stars

We all know that TV shows are undergoing a renaissance – smart, edgy, risk-taking creatives are pushing the boundaries of the small screen – but video games are a completely different medium that has its own set of rules. So how did these guys think combining the two would work?

The problem lies in the fact that neither component, the five-act game nor the 20-minute TV episodes weaved in between, are special in any way.

The premise of Quantum Break is that your actions in the game affect the filmed segments. However, it doesn’t really work smoothly. And while each does its job fairly well, with a solid third-person shooter blended with a so-so show that wouldn’t last a season, it’s safe to say that the so-called revolution isn’t here.

The story is classic pulp, a hair-brained time-travel story that sees gamers take on a newly super-powered guy played appropriately if not exactly inspiringly by Iceman from the X-Men movies. It’s mostly clichéd and the powers aren’t anything you haven’t seen before, but it can be fun.

Remedy developed the first couple of Max Payne games, and that classic blend of increasing enemy difficult, combos of various super powers and a general feeling that you’re always in control, makes combat incredibly satisfying. Environments are far beyond the PlayStation 2 days, and it’s a thrill to see urban sci-fi surroundings absolutely destroyed. This is far from third-person innovation, but it’s a good time nonetheless.

Where Quantum Break truly fails is in its awfully misguided attempt to do something different, doing the exact opposite in fact. Just when the going gets good and you hit your stride, the game makers want you to watch a 20-minute segment featuring somewhat familiar faces from The Wire and Game of Thrones. Try as they might to pull you into the drama, these episodes can’t help but feel like extended cutscenes, and we freely admit to skipping the damn things after the first couple.

If the game didn’t bother with this dual-medium gimmick and didn’t cost a hefty HK$400, we would have given a Quantum Break three, maybe three-and-a-half stars. Sadly, what grinds our gears here is the silly notion that video game stories should be told via TV episodes.