When news of Quantum Break broke in 2013, I was sceptical. While Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment made its name with the acclaimed Max Payne and Alan Wake series, the premise of a video game spliced with a live action series that showed you the results of your in-game choices, sounded too far-fetched.
After a three-year wait, the result is a satisfying one. While it may not be as complex as the initial pitch heralded, it succeeded both as a game and live action series.
Think of Quantum Break as a modern version of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, where the choices made after each chapter help define the story.
As Jack Joyce, players have to figure out how a time experiment went awry, and how it has turned his best friend, Paul Serene, into a villain.
The accident caused both men to be imbued with time manipulation capabilities, with each trying to outwit the other. With his newfound time abilities, Jack can freeze, slow down and control the movement of time in a localised area.
This is where the puzzle element of the game comes in. There are areas that Jack has to access, but cannot, because the staircase has been destroyed, or because the doorway has been blocked by an object.
By reversing time temporarily, he can rebuild the staircase or clear the path, and move past the obstacle before time forms back normally.
There are also areas where Jack will need to combine his abilities to solve a puzzle as well.
The game plays out in five chapters, with each comprising a scenario that involves players shooting their way through hordes of soldiers from the mysterious Monarch Corporation.
At the end of each chapter, players get to make a choice and the resulting 20-minute live action video displays the result of the decision, before the game moves to the next chapter.
And those choices don't just merely lead to cutscenes, but affect the game in subtle ways.
At the first juncture, players, as Paul Serene, must choose how Monarch behaves after a shoot-out at the university. One choice leads to the death of a student activist, Amy.
But if the other option is picked, Amy not only lives but also takes on a sidekick role to Jack in the next chapter.
In a way, the complex narrative, together with time manipulation powers, come across as a blend of both Max Payne and Alan Wake, but Quantum Break stands well on its own.
A large part of this success is the Hollywood level of quality delivered in the live action series.
The game cast actors Shawn Ashmore as Jack, Aidan Gillen as Paul, and Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch, to name just a few established stars, and they all reprise their roles for the live action sequences.
The production quality, editing and overall effects of each 20-minute clip bear all the trademarks of a top-rated American drama series, and this helps to sell the title as a whole.
The live action sequences reveal a great deal about the motivations of the many characters in the game, and the game would not be complete without them. That said, this game is not difficult to play. Much like the Uncharted series, guns and ammo are freely available, and there are plenty of visual hints to lead players across the game.
Verdict: Quantum Break is not a revolutionary game in any way, but it is the first game that offers polished visuals alongside an equally well-made live action series.
If the live action segments were from an actual TV series, then this game would have been the best video game based on a TV series.
PRICE: $69.90 (for Xbox One/PC)
This article was first published on April 6, 2016.
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