Words About Video Games

41 Games: Quantum Break

Some twenty years after Gabriel Knight 2 and its ilk, two more important releases have experimented once more with full motion video.

I played Her Story shortly after it came out, and while I took issue with some of its storytelling choices, its use of FMV was beyond reproach--the cheap, simplicity of the video was perfectly suited to the central conceit, which saw the player combing through disorganized and incomplete footage from a series of police interviews with a single suspect/witness. I can't imagine Her Story any other way.

Quantum Break was a much bigger-budget release and its results are decidedly more mixed. It was made for a moment that never really happened: Microsoft's hopes of turning the Xbox One into your all-in-one media box, switching seamlessly between games, TV, and films, were dashed almost the moment they were announced.

So here we have a game that switches between snippets of a competently produced SyFy-style TV drama and a third-person action game, complete with action genre hallmarks like the ability to slow time. Shawn Ashmore lends his likeness and voice to the game's main character, but barely appears in the filmed segments, which focus instead on a set of side characters whose misadventures weave in and out of the main events of the game.

The result is an experience that can't help but feel disjointed, but that also manages to lend more depth to its supporting cast than the average third-person game. It's an odd contradiction: on the one hand, I don't think the FMV sections do enough to transform or elevate the experience to justify their existence; on the other, I don't think I'd remember the game half as well without them.