Author Topic: Quantum Break [2016 -- Remedy]  (Read 587 times)

Offline Starfox

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Quantum Break [2016 -- Remedy]
« on: August 02, 2017, 02:28:18 PM »
I wanted to enjoy Quantum Break really, especially because it was supposed to be a game with a narrative experience and I love when there's a strong narrative in a game supported by awesome storytelling, unfortunately, to me the game barely provided a gaming experience, let alone a narrative one. It's even worse than that in some respect. Game and narrative happily stomp on each other shaping an "experience" that was hard for me to stomach. It's not Remedy first try however... remember those are the guys behind the Max Payne series (which I liked) and the Alan Wake game (on which my opinion is a little more average -- especially regarding the American Nightmare expansion -- but at least that was not because of the way the story was told).

Story; well yeah, let's start with the basics first. Your character is Jack Joyce (at this point I think Remedy is running an internal joke... Max Payne, Alan Wake, Jack Joyce...). Jack has a friend, Paul Serene (joke is still on) who invites him at the University of Riverport one night to help him with something. This "something" is to start a time machine, a device that was first invented by Jack's brother, William Joyce.

For Quantum Break, Remedy wanted to try a novel approach which wasn't really novel at all: they wanted to tell the story both in movie with real actors and in-game with the 3D model representation of the real actors. If I say the approach isn't novel it's because using real actors in movies supporting a video game narrative is nothing new. It was done for example in the Wing Commander series at the begin of the 90s, In the Tex Murphy series around the same period or in the Phantasmagoria games and I probably forget some like the one starring Tia Carrere that I can't remember the title right now (The Daedalus Encounter a little bird told me). The predominance of games with Full Motion Video (FMV) in that particular era was because back then it was easier and less costly to employ real actors than trying to emulate them in games because computer time was very costly in both money and time. with the end of the 90s though the computer costs were being drastically reduced and the real actors and FMV were phased out (real actors being of course still kept for the voices). In recent years the only game I know extensively using FMV is Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy's Adventure and that was partly because FMV is part of the Tex Murphy's experience.

Anyway, Remedy went the route to rely heavily on FMV for their new game (4 hours of movies from which you'll witness 2 hours on each playthrough because what you see depends on choices). However they didn't choose to do it the old way. This time they chose to have the game on one side telling the story from the good guys point of view and the FMV on the other telling the story from the bad guys point of view. The way it works is like this:

You play the game for say... a couple of hours -- and let me tell you it's pretty basic gameplay but more on that later -- then you switch character for a short scene where you have to make a choice. Depending on your choice you are presented with a half an hour video telling you what happen on the bad guys side. Then here you are again for a couple hours of gameplay (maybe more if you are really intend on searching for every detail but don't expect a miracle, my playthrough clocked in at 13 hours and I DID explore as much as the game let me always ignoring the constant nagging -- more on that later too).

Disruptive and confusing was my way to look at the experience (and that's without talking about the technical problem I was confronted to). Most of the time I was left with the question "what did they want to achieve there? Movie? Game? I don't even know". What I know is that for me the whole thing didn't help the narrative one bit. I didn't help the narrative because unlike other games in which the FMVs were practically included not only as part of the narrative but also as part of the gameplay so the transition from one to the other was smooth, in Quantum Break the FMVs even though they theoretically are part of a same story don't feel like part of the game.

Let me put it another way. Imagine that you're going to see a movie in a theater. Then after half an hour the theater ask you to stop watching the movie and play a game for 45 minutes because that's "part of the narrative". I can tell you that would go badly. In this case that would go badly because a lot if not most movie-goers are not gamers.

The worst part of Quantum Break though is the fact that in the end I was more interested in the FMVs than in the game itself. And that's pretty bad because after all, Quantum Break is supposed to be a video GAME.

Technically the game part of Quantum Break is OK. Remedy put a lot of effort in the facial appearance of their characters because they needed to be as close as possible to the real actors. They obtain something alright. As to the resemblance to the real actors I easily vote them a 9/10 however it seems that it came at a cost because their mirror versions singularly lack expressions. I don't know if it's the glassy eyes the plastic skin appearance or something else but if it weren't for the voices I wouldn't know that they're supposed to be human beings. Take a note here: too much realism kills realism.

Also on the technical side (prepare yourself for a rant here) I was one of the many people who experienced the "crash on playing movies" problem. The game itself plays perfectly on Windows 7 but the movies? No way. More precisely if you want the movies to play you need either to install IE11 or Windows 10 and even then some people report the problem is still occurring. Why (would you ask) should a modern game require IE to work? Because the movies are not installed on your HD. They are streamed from the internet. And the developers were lazy enough to not develop their own system to stream them... easier to let IE do the job. Wait, what? Movies are not on the HD and the game still take 70GB of HD space? Yep, that's sadly true. If you had to install the movies themselves (which by the way would get rid of the crash problem but this option is never proposed) you'd easily double the size of the installtion (and if I know that it's because they were forced to install the movies in the Xbox One version of the game also to get rid of the crash). So although this game is compatible with Windows 7 it is not 100% compatible unlike what the Steam page would have you believe. And that's my rant part. The people who financed this little odyssey are Microsoft Game Studios. And MSGS wanted this game to be a WIndows 10/Xbox One exclusive... But I guess they also didn't want to loose all the potential gamers that for one reason or other are still on Windows 7. So what's a little lie? After all the game "mostly" work. But hey, it's not all bad... I got used to it quite fast... Play the game... crash on movie... go to Youtube to watch the movie peacefully... rinse and repeat.

The gameplay, well it has a couple of components. A) exploration... sort of. I mean you have to find documents, media and other things which contribute to the "narrative" but at the same time you are constantly nagged to go faster because there are apparently important things to do... like grabbing a cup of coffee. If your character doesn't have anyone with him to nag him then he himself nags the player "I must go faster", "I need to...", "I have to"... All the fans of RPG will really appreciate that... I know I did [loudly sarcastic]. Anyway the exploration is short because the areas the game allows you to evolve in are small. The exploration is also (quite a lot at times) interrupted because the "narrative" requires to show you something cool. Also you'll frequently find that you cannot even draw your gun, use any of your powers (except your "super vision") or even simply jump or run. In fact inside the same room you may find that you can't jump at one side and then you move 10 meters and suddenly you're allowed to jump or run again. Fantastic, that's the way to remind you that the game is in control, not you. "No! No! You shall jump only when I tell you to". I guess the point was to prevent silly gamers to disrupt the "narrative".

B) there is the combat component. In fact when the game allows you to draw your weapons or use your powers it's a clear sign that you will soon enter a fight. I won't say a lot about that because it's Max Payne level stuff that everybody knows and it's not the few time powers thrown in there that convinced me that there was anything exceptional that hasn't been done before (and sometime in a better way) in other games.

Add to that the significant amount of references to Alan Wake (at one point you almost come to think that it's in game advertising).

For people who developed an in-house game engine especially for Quantum Break that they subtitled "Remedy Storytelling Technology" I think that Remedy fails to grasp the definition of storytelling. The narrative is foremost what you write, it's the substance of what you want to tell. Storytelling is an art, the art of conveying the narrative in a way that grabs players by the guts, make them wonder, make them beg for more, keep them interested until the end, give them emotions, make them guess, anticipate and -- because this is a game -- participate. I failed to get any of that from Quantum Break storytelling. I was interested just enough to finish the game, my participation was reduced to fighting people who were shooting at me and I was emotionally detached. I guess that the game wanted me to feel something for some of the characters but even at the moment I should have exploded with rage -- at least I think Remedy was aiming for that (won't say more to avoid spoilers) -- my only thought was (and I almost quote myself): "OK, so what's next? Gosh I hope the end of this game is near. Oh look I can't jump... again..."

So sorry Remedy but your storytelling technology completely failed me. Oh and one more thing... Nobody ever told you that storytelling is a human thing first and foremost? No technology in there. Just people who know how to tell a tale. You were pretty good at it in Max Payne how comes Quantum Break is such a mess?
« Last Edit: October 24, 2020, 02:34:51 PM by Starfox »

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein