"You're better at doing the door thing."
"Wait. Why is it all about eggs now?"
These are just some of my favourite lines from Quantum Break - a fantastically dumb game, that manages to transcend the profound stupidity of its cheddar-laced storytelling, and barely-dimensional characters, to offer several peaks of entertainment. Regrettably, between those peaks is a lake of mediocrity, and the shattered and busted bodies of its expedition leaders, Colonel Good-Intentions and Sherpa CombininggamesandTVshowsintoonethingisthebestideaever.
I'll get into what Quantum Break is in a moment. For now, let's focus on that story - because, like it or not, Quantum Break wants you to. See, Quantum Break is dripping in story. But just because a barbecue turkey is dripping in sauce, that doesn't necessarily make it a nutritious and satisfying meal.
Here's Quantum Break's story, as I understand it: due to a messed-up time travel experiment, time has broken - like an egg - and there's a character who is better at doing the door thing. Conspiracy. Some chaps with the ability to manipulate time. A tale of two brothers. Lots and lots of running away from or towards things. Things which also break like an egg. Time travel. Doors which need you to do the thing to them. Too bad doors can't break like an egg!
Eggs. Things. Time. Breaking. Doing the door thing. Eggs. EGGS. Eggs? Yes. Do you see? That is the story of Quantum Break in an eggshell. Nutshell.
Quantum Break is a funny old dog's bottom of a game.
It's presumably a holdover from Microsoft's intention to offer original TV shows as part of Xbox Live - and works by acting as a sort of bridge between games and TV.
Though, frankly, I'm not convinced that's a bridge anybody ever asked for. You know: like a bridge between a caravan park and a horse-rendering plant.
It also harkens back to the era of interactive movies - a genre whose sins were rightly left in the past. This is more successful than the worst offenders of those dark days, but the full-on, non-interactive, "movie" bits still feel superfluous for those of us who would rather be playing a game.
Quantum Break tells its story from two perspectives, within two mediums. The game part of the story focuses on the goodies of the tale, while the TV show part focuses on the baddies and secondary characters. Your actions in the game part will alter the flow of the story - there's a branching narrative. Generally, however, you'll be asked to make a choice between just two paths, being rewarded with a handful of alternate scenes.
As interesting as this is in theory, it feels all weird and wrong in practice. There are extended cut-scenes using the in-game engine... then there are game bits... and then there are live-action TV show episodes. If we didn't already live in a world where Ainsley Harriot has a career - and bad ideas regularly come to fruition - I'd argue that it's hard to imagine anybody thinking this mix of mediums was a good idea.
Despite its bizarre assortment of parts, Quantum Break isn't bad.
It looks good - with decent in-game recreations of its main cast (Bloke From The Wire, Iceman, A Hobbit).
It's basically, y'know, fine.
The game-y bits are your usual cover-shooter things, albeit with a terrible cover system - you just stick to furniture, and then stand up waving your arms around shouting "Here I am!" whenever you try to move - and the added ability to manipulate time, to complement the shooting.
It isn't quite as revolutionary as that might sound - you can create shields, do a sort of super-dodge, you've got a Arkham-style vision mode, and can activate bullet time. But it's... y'know... it's okay. It's solid and enjoyable for the most part.
Similarly, the TV show bits - there are four eps, running at just over 20 minutes each - are alright. They're not great, but are more or less semi-watchable. Cliched and clunky as the dialogue is, it's sort of SyFy Channel miniseries quality - the kind of thing you'd probably watch an episode of, and not bother finishing. You know: because you'd rather be playing video games. Still. Basically fine.
DON'T WATCH THAT
However, if you're going to mix a TV show with a game, you've got to hope that your TV show is as gripping as the game. Alas, it isn't. It's forcing the player to drop out of an interactive experience, and sit their with their joypads in their laps. It's counterintuitive and pulls against the entire point of a game. The game, by the same token, pulls against your emotional engagement with the TV show.
And that's my biggest issue with Quantum Break; it works better than I expected it to, the individual elements are far from awful, but I would've really just preferred the game stuff and TV stuff to remain separate.
I can't stand non-interactive cut scenes at the best of times - I think they're profoundly missing the point of video games as a medium, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in thinking that nobody was demanding more cut-scenes.
The potential of video games as a storytelling medium is still in its infancy, but it was getting there. Suddenly, it feels like Quantum Break is trying to drag it back to the womb. Like the midwife forgot to cut the cord, and somebody has started to reel it back up there. Sssschlurrrrp!
SUMMARY: Not entirely broken, like an egg, but there are certainly some bits of shell in the omelette.
SCORE: 09.45am out of 11.59am