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Eurogamer: Quantum Break is Remedy's most fascinating work to date

VysePSU

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May 9, 2019
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Quantum Break is at once simpler and more confounding than any Remedy game that preceded it. It's simultaneously a throwaway action shooter, a well-meaning but ill-judged experiment in cross-media, and one of the most visually arresting games ever made. It's a truly paradoxical work, one that I think is Remedy's most intriguing to date. Not because of the flash visuals or the ambitious time-travel plot, but because it makes a clear attempt to distance itself from the studio's earlier output.

That it doesn't always succeed only makes it more fascinating.

From its opening scenes, there's a clear difference in tone to Quantum Break compared to Remedy's previous games. Here the framing device isn't the weary internal monologue of Max Payne or the narration of Alan Wake, but a clipped and confrontational police interrogation. The subject of that interrogation is Jack Joyce, brother of the esteemed (and soon to be deceased) quantum physicist William Joyce.

Suddenly we revert back to a couple of days prior, where Joyce is called upon by a former friend - Paul Serene - to help him test out his brand new time machine. What begins as a friendly reunion soon reveals itself to be Serene's last-ditch attempt to save his career at the Monarch corporation, in an unsanctioned and illegal test of the machine. Naturally, it goes wrong, and the experiments ends up fracturing time itself. Consequently, Serene ends up head of Monarch, while Joyce ends up a fugitive on the run from Monarch's private police force.



So begins a time-hopping adventures that is as action-packed as it is visually breath-taking. Remedy's eye for visual flair has been evident since the players first dropped into Max Payne's bullet-time. But whereas Max Payne took its visual cues from the Matrix and film noir, and Alan Wake was basically a playable Twin Peaks, Quantum Break takes its aesthetic inspiration from, well, Quantum Break.

Chief among this is the idea of the "stutter", moments where time freezes like a paused video-tape. Objects caught in the stutter will judder and vibrate as they oscillate forward and backward in time. These objects can be small; barrels, fences, cars, or large like freight trains, oil-tankers, even entire bridges. It's some phenomenal graphical wizardly, a deliberately created glitch, like the universe has got its foot struck through the world geometry and the ragdoll is flipping out.

Joyce's abilities enable him to move through these stutters as if time were running normally, his movements causing a polyhedral wave to cascade out from him like liquid trigonometry. These same abilities also make him a ferociously capable fighter, able to stop, slow and speed up time to dash around enemies, create impenetrable barriers, and stack up "walls" of bullets that annihilate any enemy they hit. But you're not alone in your time-manipulating powers. Certain enemies are also capable of defying the continuum. Some of the best moments in Quantum break see you squaring off against these time-enhanced adversaries while the rest of the world hangs frozen around you.

It's one of the most stylish and satisfying combat games I've ever played. Had Quantum Break committed entirely to this half of its design, I think today we'd talk about it in much more favourable terms. But the game element of Quantum Break is only half the story - literally. Sandwiched between each "Act" of the game is a twenty-minute TV episode detailing the internal goings-on of Monarch.



Like everyone who grew up during gaming's fleeting dalliance with FMV, I dreaded these "episodes" from the moment I heard about them. In practice, they're perfectly watchable. This is thanks mainly to the recruitment of some serious acting talent, most notably Lance Reddick's wonderful turn as the inscrutable Martin Hatch. But the writing and production also succeed in holding things together, although there are moments when the quality of both dips enough to distract.

The problem is these episodes are also arbitrary. You could ditch them entirely and lose little from the overall experience. Moreover, the money spent on these sequences could have been put to much better use fixing Quantum Break's problems.

Like the stutters that interrupt the flow of time, Quantum Break constantly gets in the way of its own momentum. When you aren't fighting, you're either stuck in sludgy platform sections or walking around an area at a painfully slow pace while the game assaults you with an RPG's worth of lore. At times Quantum Break resembles a museum to the audio-log, literally lining walls with "optional" story reference. One chain of fictional emails includes an entire script for a fictional character's fictional movie. It's utterly absurd.

It's a flawed game, there's no doubt about that. But to understand the significance of Quantum Break, you need to step outside of the game's timeline and look across Remedy's continuum as a whole. Remedy has always been a developer reverent of other creative mediums, often to the detriment of its own work. Max Payne's pastiche of noir-fiction is the subject of as much ridicule as it is fondness - how many jokes have you seen about Payne's tortured extended metaphors? Alan Wake, on the other hand, is an entire game dedicated to exploring Remedy's own attempt to create a playable Stephen King novel, a running commentary on the studio's own literary tribulations.



You can trace the developer's evolution across these games. Max Payne's weary cynicism and comic-book violence is almost an embodiment of teen angst, while Alan Wake is a like a distillation of a Literature student's years at University - the product of a mind filled with dozens of half-digested novels as they search for self-identity. Whether you love them or loathe them, both are highly imitative creations, overly celebratory of their inspirations and often lacking the confidence to step outside of their shadows.

Quantum Break's cross-media relationship with TV is rooted in this evolution, as Quantum Break is what happens when that literature student graduates and gets a job as a TV writer. In this world, you don't get accolades for being able to point out a Raymond Chandler reference, for demonstrating your knowledge in long paragraphs and obscure phraseology. Here your work needs to stand up on its own. It needs to clip. It needs to excite. Most of all, it needs to keep your audience engaged. Whereas Max Payne and Alan Wake had metaphors that drifted off into the sunset, Quantum Break's one notable simile almost parodies the purple prose of earlier scripts. "If time is like an egg, then the egg is fucking broken. The time egg is fucked." Chew on that, Max.

There's another line to this. For most of its length, Quantum Break's protagonist is committed to altering the past, to rectifying the mistakes that lead to his brother's death and ensuring the future flows neatly from that point. Time and again he is told this is impossible, that any attempt to alter the past will only ensure the past flows according to the laws of spacetime. Only toward the end does Joyce accept that the past is set in stone, and the only way he can enact change is to do it in the present. In other words, he needs to move on.

This, ultimately, is what Quantum Break is about. Remedy moving on. Or at least attempting to. There's plenty of evidence in Quantum Break that Remedy wasn't quite ready to let go. Taking inspiration from TV by literally making a TV show is classic Remedy, while in the game's very last scene, Joyce's commitment to let go of the past is shown to be less resolute than is initially apparent. "I'll come back for you," he says to fellow time-traveller Beth Wilder, dead in the future and trapped frozen in the past.

What better way to express those conflicting creative forces - the certainty of the past versus the potential of the future - than in a game where time is broken? With past, present and future all colliding, Remedy essentially give themselves permission to explore all creative avenues. To make a clear effort to move forward, while also indulging in old habits. Quantum Break really is a paradox - both the most and least Remedy game Remedy has ever made.


I remember thinking it looked interesting before release but lost interest after reading criticism for it.

What does NeoGAF think of this game?
 
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bryo4321

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Aug 17, 2019
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Didn't like it tbh. Lame protagonist and boring puzzles. Loving control on the other hand.
 

intbal

Member
Apr 19, 2019
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My favorite Remedy games, in order:

1. Alan Wake
2. Max Payne
3. Max Payne 2
4. Alan Wake's American Nightmare
5. Quantum Break
6. Death Rally (only played a demo many years ago)

Haven't played Agents of Storm because I don't have an Apple device
Won't play Gender-Politics-Enhanced Control, ever.
 

Pallas

Gold Member
May 9, 2018
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Interesting article, I really enjoyed the game despite its flaws and I agree the TV portion was hit or miss but the plot and story behind it was fascinating. Plus I love Aiden Gilles who portrayed Paul Serene.
 

GlassAwful

Member
Dec 4, 2016
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Not a fan.

Most of the game is walking through frozen environments with a way overdone stutter effect that is applied fucking everywhere to the point you are usually fighting amorphous blobs of enemies obscured by stutters.

The combat falls apart in melee range and against 70% of enemies negating your time stop power.

The story doesn't become interesting until halfway through. The live action stuff was cringey.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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Quantum Break was no doubt fascinating, but it didn't really deliver on a whole lot outside of the production values (other than the live action stuff - most of that was mediocre at best).

I really wish they would've dropped the TV crap once it was obvious that MS' original vision for the Xbox One was not going to work at all. Imagine if all the budget that went into shooting the lame live action stuff went into other areas.

Overall it was a solid game that came up a bit short. Not worth 60$ at release, but I felt fine about spending 20$ on Steam.
 
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trikster40

Member
Dec 12, 2008
2,135
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One of my biggest gaming regrets is not finishing Alan Wake. I loved it, put it down to play something else, got the RROD, and never got another 360.

They gotta be cheap now, maybe I jump back in.
 

VysePSU

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May 9, 2019
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One of my biggest gaming regrets is not finishing Alan Wake. I loved it, put it down to play something else, got the RROD, and never got another 360.

They gotta be cheap now, maybe I jump back in.
I thought Alan Wake was pretty good. It seems to be hit-or-miss with people like Quantum Break.
 

intbal

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Apr 19, 2019
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One of my biggest gaming regrets is not finishing Alan Wake. I loved it, put it down to play something else, got the RROD, and never got another 360.

They gotta be cheap now, maybe I jump back in.

You really should. The game gets better with each chapter, including the two DLCs (which I think are free now).
 

Ozymandias013

Banned
Oct 22, 2018
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Too bad their engine sucks and its power hungry,I like what they are doing,the type of stories they are telling,but every time the game performace sucks ,and its putting me off buying their games.
 

sdrawkcab

Banned
Dec 2, 2018
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Quantum Break was ambitious, I'll tell you that, like everything Remedy makes. They always shoot for the stars, those guys.

I enjoyed Alan Wake, and at times felt on love with it. But, I absolutely adored Max Payne 1 and 2. Max Payne 2 is one of my top 5 games of all time; a true masterpiece. One of the problems with their games now is that you don't really care for the protagonist, outside of caring about the story. I can guarantee, for every Max Payne fan, a large part of why they love it, is because they love Max, plain and simple! With their other games, that's not really the case. I can't speak for Control, because I haven't played it. But I can guarantee Alan Wake fans don't love Alan Wake (the character), and I'm sure the same is true for Quantum Break fans. Alan Wake fans love the story, atmosphere and the on-edge thrill it induced. Quantum Break fans love the story, combat elements and visuals.

Where Alan Wake fell short was in variety of the combat, and Alan getting tired very quickly (really, it got frustrating at times). For QB, I wouldn't even say it was the TV show, because it really wasn't that bad. Quantum Break's fault was in the movement of the character (too slow and clunky without using powers, and I know the point is to use the powers, but still!), the back-story hidden in tons and tons and tons of E-mails, that literally pulls you out of the game, and stops everything (it completely shatters the pacing), and the combat not having enough variety (yes, for as unique as it was, it got redundant).

I enjoyed Quantum Break, but I understand the disappointment so people feel.

On a side note, Microsoft better make a damn good offer to buy Remedy, because I honestly, truly believe their best game is yet to be made, and with every game they release, they get a lot closer to it. Microsoft owns the Quantum Break IP though, so I'm wondering what they'll do with it. I really hope they don't let it sit in the archives, rotting away. Remedy laid the groundwork; they just have to tweak, build on it and refine, and they'll have a hit.
 

WorldHero

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Nov 6, 2016
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I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I liked its different choices and tv show vibe. I'd definitely check out a sequel if it ever happened.
 

Soltype

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Mar 30, 2015
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Awesome game, they should have added more encounters though.The combat is so good, you're constantly moving.It reminds me of alien soldier.
 

skneogaf

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Aug 31, 2017
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I really enjoyed it, the graphics looked excellent on the xbox one and I enjoyed the live action stuff.

Anything time travel is a plus from me.
 

Senhua

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Oct 14, 2015
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Nope, Control is the best IMO.
More optimized and better gameplay and settings.
Although the char design decision was a bit odd but this is the closest one we get for a SCP AAA games
 
Jan 11, 2019
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Masterpiece is too humble, but the game wasn't as bad as the media made it.

QUANTUM Break is 77 metascore, and Control is 81 metascore, which is not surprising since control looks like QB 2
I genuinely say this: Quantum Break is one of the best games I've ever played this generation. It's a truly solid single player and one of Remedy's best games.

l started using Open Critic now instead of Metacritic for new games released. Much more accurate and more transparent than Metacritic.
 

Acidizer

Banned
Jun 7, 2018
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Interested in the game, but Eurogamer has now gone on my no-click list, along side Polygon and Kotaku after posting - therefore legitimising - that Zoe Quinn story, without any further investigations. Just proves to me what they are all about now. Trash.
 
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nikolino840

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Dec 30, 2018
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I genuinely say this: Quantum Break is one of the best games I've ever played this generation. It's a truly solid single player and one of Remedy's best games.

l started using Open Critic now instead of Metacritic for new games released. Much more accurate and more transparent than Metacritic.
I like that you have some sort of decisions to change the lore
And dominc monaghan :D
Maybe all Money are gone with paying the actors
 
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May 10, 2019
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I liked the game, even the part that for many was boring (TV series) was a touch of class, a different thing than usual, they wanted to experiment and from my point of view it was a good choice, too bad that I am one of the few to think so.
There have been many undeserved criticism.
I hope that MS will develop another similar project in the future.
 
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Closer

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Nov 19, 2018
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Finished the game sometime ago, and while I don't think it is a good game, the style of the time shenanigans are so good looking I can't help but love it.
 

Mista

Dragonslayer
Nov 21, 2014
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It was fun but I don’t agree that it’s Remedy's most fascinating work

I believe Control is actually their best game to date
 

Lort

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Jul 9, 2017
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Quntum break was a lot of fun to play .. you had to have it on hard though .. otherwise its just too easy and you dont have to master the combination of moves.
 

The Skull

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Jul 8, 2018
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Finally got around to playing this and finishing it. Loved it. The time powers made combat fun, the narrative is interesting and it's definitely my favourite remedy game to date. Can't wait to try control.
 
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Al Abaster

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Jul 20, 2019
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It sounds like they have an actual good game with Control at least.

Female protagonist = not a good game. I don't dress up like a girl … not in real life, not in virtual life. I don't read Nancy Drew, I never played Tomb Raider, I'm not that kind of guy.
 
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redfirm

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Mar 12, 2012
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watch sony sweep in and buy the studio :)
 

redfirm

perm warning for wishing death - massive hypocrite
Mar 12, 2012
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Female protagonist = not a good game. I don't dress up like a girl … not in real life, not in virtual life. I don't read Nancy Drew, I never played Tomb Raider, I'm not that kind of guy.
how about you fuck off and take your hate somewhere else. ffs. just say that you dont like the game, dont call a game bad because it does not fit your taste.
 
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wipeout364

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Jun 13, 2004
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I never understood the hate for this game. It's a a very solid third person shooter, the TV aspect was gimmicky and the story was campy but so what, the game was solid. I think the biggest problem it had was the hype build up, Microsoft went way overboard with the hype train. I feel like Remedy had the same problem with Alan Wake. Both of these are great games just not legendary tier, but they were sold that way.