A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Quantum Break is a time-bending third-person shooter with lots of violence and profanity. Players use traditional ballistic weapons -- pistols, shotguns, rifles, and machine guns -- as well as fantastical time-shifting abilities to injure and kill human enemies. Blood gushes from wounds and splatters the ground, and altered-time effects can leave the bodies of dispatched enemies frozen in midair at the moments of their deaths. Most characters curse, especially Jack, the protagonist, who sprinkles "f--k" liberally throughout dialogue. Jack's a good guy who wants to save the world and tries especially hard to protect those he loves, and he generally doesn't fight unless forced, but he displays little remorse or regret as he systematically kills hundreds of nameless enemies.
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What's it about?
QUANTUM BREAK puts players in the shoes of Jack Joyce, the brother of a scientist who invents a time machine that puts the future in jeopardy. After an accident with the machine grants Jack the ability to briefly control the flow of time in local areas, he sets off on a mission to fix time. But he finds himself at odds with his longtime friend, Paul, who has become a ruthless shadow of the man Jack once knew. Paul possesses time-shifting powers, too, and believes he has the only solution to what he calls the "End of Time" -- a solution that will, at least initially, save only a small group of people. Consequently, Jack frequently finds himself engaged in shoot-outs with Paul's corporate military soldiers, many of whom also possess time-altering powers. The game plays out over five multipart acts, with brief "junction" points at the end of each act that allow players to become Paul and make an important decision for him that will affect what comes next. What comes after each of these sequences is a half-hour TV-style live-action (non-CGI) show that furthers parts of the story where Jack plays little or no role. When an episode ends, players jump back into Jack's shoes for a couple more hours of third-person shooting action and exploration before arriving at another junction point and TV episode. This cycle repeats several times.
Is it any good?
This action game is nothing if not daring. The manner in which it melds traditional third-person shooter action with its four-episode TV series is inspired; it's surprising how well the two seemingly disparate mediums go together. And while the show isn't HBO-quality, it's certainly watchable -- thanks largely to appearances by several recognizable Hollywood talents, including Shawn Ashmore (X-Men's Iceman), Lance Reddick (from John Wick), and Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones). Plus, Jack's time-shifting powers are pretty spectacular. He can create local bubbles where time stops for everyone but him, dodge past enemies without them even knowing, and occasionally even rewind time to, say, undo the collapse of an object he needs to cross over.
Unfortunately, the action starts to feel a bit same-y after a while. Use time power, shoot bad guys, take cover, and wait to recharge, repeat. It's also unevenly paced. Lengthy sections -- sometimes 10 or 20 minutes -- see players doing little more than tracking down and reading optional narrative notes that flesh out certain characters and concepts to do with time travel. Add to this an annoying visual effect associated with time stutters -- little blobs of pulsing light that flash so brightly they frequently completely white out the screen, blinding the player -- that appears midway through the game and only grows in intensity, and there's still clearly some work that needs to be done for any potential sequel. Quantum Break is worth investigating if only for its unique and effective blending of two very different storytelling mediums, but players looking first and foremost for a refined action game experience might wish Remedy Entertainment spent a little less time developing a TV show and more time focused on what players get up to in the game.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Action heroes in movies and games often don't express shock or remorse for killing their enemies, so what does this say about their characters? Would it benefit or hurt stories if more heroes displayed awareness of the significance of their violent actions?
Talk about the concept of time travel. Do you think it's possible? What dangers might it pose if it were real? Do you think scientists should spend time trying to make time travel a reality?
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