PSA: don’t buy Quantum Break with a slow internet connection

TL;DR: If you have a slow or unstable internet connection, do not buy Quantum Break as you will not be able to enjoy it the way it was intended. As of writing, the “offline video add-on pack” isn’t even available for downloading unless you buy the game digitally, so if you have a retail copy, sucks to be you.

I’m usually not too keen to buy games before release on any platform because they tend to be overpriced and you never know if they are any good before reviews are in. With Quantum Break (and The Division before that) I made an exception mostly because I really liked the original Max Payne and Alan Wake wasn’t too shabby either. Also, a story-heavy game starring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Dominic Monaghan (Lost) and Lance Reddick (Bosch) as in-game characters as well as in the in-game TV show? Sign me up!

I got the game on Xbox One and my physical copy arrived a few days early, just in time for the weekend. On installing the game, I was asked to install an update weighing 4.8 gigabytes – the typical day one patch, nothing special, although I had to download it over night.

You see, I have two internet connections: one DSL link with 1mbit (not mbyte) speed and one via satellite yielding a maximum of 16mbit. I say maximum because the satellite connection rarely ever works as advertised – I might get the full capacity for a few minutes or maybe half an hour at best, then it’ll drop to sub-DSL speeds. Usually it picks up again in the night which means I can at least leave things running and hope it’ll be good in the morning, but with huge downloads that’s still rather unlikely. Occasionally the connection craps out entirely because satellite internet still seems to be pretty flaky when it comes to link stability. Nevertheless it’s quite useful as a backup connection especially since it doesn’t bog down our DSL. That way, my girlfriend can at least still play World of Warcraft while I download.

Pick your poison.

What I’d like to do? Download the episodes in SD, that’s what I’d really like to do.

I managed to download that day one patch over night as intended and was eager to at least start playing the game on Sunday. After the prologue chapter – which I enjoyed a great deal – I finally was treated to the first episode of the in-game TV show. At first, things went rather smoothly as the episode streamed fine, although in noticeably lower quality than even SD. About five minutes in, things started to act up. The video player started to buffer and not long afterwards a message popped up asking me to either “check my internet connection”, retry streaming the episode, skipping the episode altogether (yeah, that’s a great advice in a game that heavily relies on the player watching the videos to understand the story) or, and that’s the kicker, download a 75gb “offline video pack”. You read correctly: seventy-five gigabytes! To quote Lance Reddick from “Bosch”:

Who the fuck thought this would be a good idea?! Since the game is already 45gb, of course the videos wouldn’t fit on the disc, so some kind of download would have been required regardless. 75 gigabytes as the only option however is just insane because if you have a connection good enough to download that in any sensible amount of time you don’t need to download it anyway since you can just stream the episodes instead. So if this “offline video pack” is aimed at players with slow connections, why is it so big? It will take me a week or more of non-stop downloading the episodes just to be able to keep playing the game.

This kind of oversight boggles the mind. Why is there no option to get the videos in SD? A TV episode of 42 minutes usually doesn’t exceed 300mb, that should cut down size a bit. Or just download the video I want to watch so I don’t have to wait for days to even get started? Or hey, download the next video in the background while I play, possibly in SD should I so choose? How about that?

But no – as a developer in Finland where internet connections are blazing fast even in the countryside, Remedy had the idiotic idea to release the video add-on exclusively in 1080p with a crazy high bit rate, likely because it “works for them”. By the way, the game runs in upscaled 720p anyway so there’s really no reason for 1080p cut scenes. Hate to break it for you guys, but there are more people like me in the world. People with data plans, people with slow connections, and not just in rural Germany.

You might think that the back of the box would at least feature a prominent warning about having to download so much to be able to play properly. It doesn’t. According to the box, the game requires a “broadband internet connection”, but that’s something every single Xbox One box tells me, even for games that don’t need an internet connection at all. The box also states the game will need about 55 gigabytes on the hard drive which isn’t correct as well – it’s either 45gb for the base install or 120gb with the video add-on. The lack of warning is what pisses me off a great deal since I’d have gladly returned the unopened product had I known about this earlier. Now that it’s cracked open, no retailer will take it back unless we’re talking about Amazon and we don’t in my case.

"Bundle only"? Fantastic.

“Bundle only”? Fantastic.

The real kick in the nuts however is that you can’t even download the add-on pack because it’s not available for download unless you buy the game digitally. Retail version? Tough shit – the only download offered is part of the digital bundle. This might change once the game is out for real, though, but until then, there’ll be no Quantum Break for me. This issue has been resolved, the pack is now downloadable on its own.