Saturday 18 January 2020

Games: Time for something completely different

* Quantum Break (XOne/PC) 4 Stars, Age: 18+

Quantum Break
Quantum Break
Trackmania Turbo
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Modern games borrow heavily from TV and film, without apology. It's understandable an immature industry craving respect should look to established media for everything from its visual language to its storytelling to its actors.

But no game has attempted so profound a crossover as Quantum Break, which assembles an established cast of bona-fide Hollywood stars and weaves them via live-action video and cut-scenes into an unusual shooter. The plot centres on megalomaniac Aidan Gillen discovering the secret to time travel and the player attempts to stop him.

Essentially, developer Remedy has shot a stylish 90-minute TV mini-series, broken it into four episodes and sandwiched them between lengthy chunks of game action that continue the brain-scrambling narrative. Notionally, your decisions and exploration affect the TV show, but in reality they generate minor edits, with the storyline progressing untrammelled.

QB functions primarily as a game, nonetheless. A pleasing mix of cover-based shooter and time-travelling superpowers lift it out of the ordinary, though the rather limp arsenal of weapons and flaccid AI conspire to dull its sheen. Still, there's much entertainment to be found in mixing up its reality-warping palette of slow-mo, fast-forward and reversal while admiring the superb special effects rendering a chaotic world in chaos.

Ultimately, QB is an ambitious if not entirely successful merger of two media. The TV show wouldn't look out of place on the Syfy channel, despite some scenery-chewing performances. The gameplay may not have the crackling tension of the foremost shooters.

But together they create a hybrid beast that deserves our attention. Just don't buy the PC version, however, which suffers from damning technical glitches.

Trackmania Turbo

(PS4/XOne), 5 Stars, Age: 7+

If at first you don't succeed, try again. And again (repeat to fade).

Trackmania has long captivated racing fans on PC with its practice-makes-perfect take on time trials set on wildly imaginative tracks. This much-coveted version for consoles survives the transition brilliantly, right down to the meticulous repetition required to achieve a gold medal.

An unconventional, giddy racer, Trackmania never pits you directly against others, online or off. Instead, you compete by yourself to complete hundreds of short tracks in the quickest time, shaving micro-seconds as you learn the curves, jumps and bumps.

The ghosts of earlier attempts (and those of other players) haunt the screen, taunting every mistake and urging you on. Just one more go, you say for the umpteenth time, until suddenly it's 3 o'clock in the morning. At a budget price of around €40, Trackmania Turbo is a steal.

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