Transmedia storytelling is becoming the buzzword for gaming and television studios of late.
Essentially, it's the idea that a single narrative can play out over various mediums and join together at certain points. Initially, it was done via ARGs - alternate-reality games. Lost, for example, had a huge ARG that played out during a couple of seasons where Internet sleuths discovered huge tracts of story and plot about what was going in the main series. Quantum Break, however, is more closer to a gaming experience than a TV show. The game is split into five acts, with a 22-minute episode played out at the end of each act. What you do in the game affects what happens in the episode, with junction points at the end of the act serving as a sort-of Choose Your Own Adventure medium.
Story is paramount to Quantum Break, but what makes it so frustrating is that the story is, well, sorta stupid. Your character is played by Shawn Ashmore, who you'll know from the X-Men series as Iceman or, if you're of a certain vintage, Animorphs. Remember that? Anyway, your older brother Dominic Monaghan has gotten mixed up in a time-travelling experiment gone wrong that's been funded by Aiden Gillen. Monaghan believes that Gillen's infernal machine will end time as we know it whilst Gillen, the antagonist of the piece, is concerned with saving lives. The story spreads out from this point as you see supporting characters like The Wire's Lance Reddick, Gossip Girl's Patrick Heusinger and Prison Break's Marshall Allman enter in and a convoluted story about a mega-corporation known as Monarch Solutions involved with... well, it's complicated.
Simply put, Quantum Break wants to blur the line between television and gaming and make the experience into one. On that front, it doesn't necessarily work. The 22-minute episodes, although not entirely important to how the game plays, is intended to give you a richer understanding of the story. Likewise, each area is littered with narrative points you can find that'll make the experience more immersive. It's commendable to put that amount of thought and input to story, but the sad fact is that the gameplay comes up lacking against it.
When you strip away the wrapping, Quantum Break is a pretty standard third-person shooter. Your character is given special abilities as the result of an accident at the start of the game, meaning you can stop and accelerate time to your liking and use it to identify enemies. As it progresses, so to do your abilities and your skill with them. In most cases, the time powers are for attack, however more than once, you'll have to use them to figure out a way through the level. Pretty soon, of course, it becomes rote and reasonably easy to figure out what works with what.
It's an intriguing concept, blending television and gaming into one experience, and something that will become more common in the near future. While the television aspect of the game is interesting for how you choose how it plays out, the gameplay aspect is a little rote and predictable. Had more time been giving to make it a more unique experience than just a standard, run-of-the-mill shooter / platformer, there'd be more to sing about here.
Sadly, there isn't. A decent effort and some interesting moments, but the gameplay's too predictable and samey to be anything more.
Platform: Xbox One / Windows 10
Developer / Publisher: Remedy Entertainment / Microsoft Studios