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‘Great Scott! Quantum Break is just brilliant
April 5, 2016
By John Powell - G4 Canada
All that Jack Joyce needs is a long colourful scarf, a floppy hat, a fondness for jelly babies and he is all set to join the fraternity of famous time lords.
Although he doesn’t come from Gallifrey or own a TARDIS, Joyce leads an epic time-traveling escapade in Quantum Break by the developers of Max Payne and Alan Wake. Just as rich in story as it is in characterization and gameplay Quantum Break is a mind-bending, time-bending adventure that has as much perilous action as it does an engrossing narrative.
Mirroring the same episodic TV format that was wonderfully showcased in Alan Wake, Quantum Break’s gameplay is marvellously bookended by live action sequences.
The game features an all-star cast. Jack Joyce is played by Canadian Shawn Ashmore, best known for his roles as Iceman in the X-Men films and Terry Fox in the movie of the same name. Dominic Monaghan from Lost and The Lord of the Rings, is his brother William. Baddie Paul Serene is played by Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen (Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish). Serene’s henchman - Martin Hatch – is Lance Reddick from Fringe and The Wire. Bryan Larkin also stars as a conflicted flunky.
Next to Ashmore, Courtney Hope steals the show as Beth Wilder, Jack’s faithful and forceful ally who has a very murky and mysterious past. Wilder kicks all manner of butt and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the character got a series of her own or maybe a sequel with Jack. One could only hope.
The story itself involves Jack’s best friend Paul Serene and his brother William building the world’s first time machine. When things go wrong, as they usually do in such tales, Jack is swept up into a whirlwind of deceit, betrayal and lots of “wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff”, as David Tenant would say.
To help him deal with the underhanded Serene and his ruthless Monarch Solutions thugs, Jack, over time, develops super powers of his own. He can temporarily stop time around his enemies, freezing them. He can create a short-term force field around himself, he can reverse time for a brief period, which comes in handy when rebuilding walls and structures to solve those pesky platform puzzles. He can blast enemies with a force push, knocking them back. Stealing a page from the Flash’s book, he can dash at lightning speed to avoid attacks or get the drop on foes. Combine those powers with a fairly substantial arsenal that the Punisher would be proud of and you have a foe the Daleks and Cybermen would fear.
Jack not only has to deal with the mirrored sunglasses-wearing, black van-driving Monarch Solutions lackeys. With time collapsing and stuttering around him – a very, very cool in-game effect, the environment can also turn deadly. During a tremendous and tricky bridge collapse scene, time sputters, rewinding and fast-forwarding itself. To make it safely through the twisted jumble of steel, Jack has to jump, dash and even reverse time to rebuild broken roads, walkways.
The cool thing about Quantum Break though is you also get to play as the sneaky Serene too. During Junction Points, shorter events within the larger chapters, players see things from Paul’s point of view deciding how to handle assorted predicaments. Should Monarch Solutions eliminate a known adversary or use them to their advantage? Should Paul personally get his hands dirty or allow his minions to sweep trouble under the carpet? The choice is entirely up to you and the choices you make alter the game’s direction.
Quantum Break could very easily have become a very gimmick-driven game but all of Jack’s abilities fit in well, make sense in the world he finds himself in and must be judiciously used by the player as they have their common sense limitations. Everything about Quantum Break is reasonable, especially the story itself.
Oftentimes, travel stories get so convoluted that you need a Dummies Guide to follow what’s going on. Writers Sam Lake, Tyler Burton Smith and Mikko Rautalahti have done a remarkable job of avoiding any of those pitfalls, staying on track and delivering a believable yet astonishing story that keeps you wondering and guessing.
It is only three months into 2016 and we already have an obvious Game of the Year candidate. With Quantum Break, Remedy Entertainment has improved on the Alan Wake formula incorporating far more action to please those trigger-happy players. Gameplay, narrative, cinematics, Quantum Break has every base covered. It is an extraordinary achievement but if at any time you find yourself flustered, do what the good Doctor does and hold tight and pretend it’s a plan.
Rating: 9 / 10
About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.