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.

Quest log update: July

Upon turning on my Xbox One today to install the next game on my quest to complete all the (interesting) AAA games I missed over the last years, I was greeted by yet another patch download. Considering how little I used the console since I got it, it’s probably no surprise, but I remember downloading a huge update only recently, so it’s getting a bit on my nerves. What’s even worse is that the update aborts all the time, but it doesn’t automatically try to resume, so I have to check on the console every few minutes. Argh!

Right after finishing the stellar, but technically flawed The Wolf Among Us, the new Batman Arkham Knight game was released. Having played none of the previous Batman titles I was interested enough to at least take a look at Batman Arkham Asylum, a game I had on my shelf for a good two years without even cracking it open. I must admit that I have very little interest in super heroes in general and Batman in particular because I am no longer 12 years old, but after watching a review on the latest game, the combat system looked compelling enough to at least take a look.

Well, what can a say – I didn’t really stop “taking a look” until I reached what I presume is the final boss fight. It’s certainly a better game than I had anticipated – and it’s still looking great despite it’s age – but I must admit the combat system didn’t really click with me. I could fumble and button mash my way to the end, but that’s probably it. Not sure if I’ll bother to try and complete it – even though I really liked the puzzles, I feel like I have seen enough of the game to move on.

Next on the agenda was The Walking Dead including its “400 Days” DLC. Oddly enough the technical issues The Wolf Among Us had weren’t present here at all, although I did run into my fair share of glitches, including an almost game-breaking bug where a door I was supposed to open wasn’t clickable until I replayed the entire scene. My verdict? Doesn’t quite beat The Wolf Among Us in terms of artwork, writing or characters, but it’s certainly an experience worth having. The DLC was nice, but rather short – I wouldn’t have bought it on it’s own, but it was included in the GOTY anyway.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

93% completion is way more than I expected to reach.

Finally I felt ready to tackle the next game in the seemingly endless Assassin’s Creed franchise: Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. Having been severely disappointed by the mediocre third installment with it’s hodgepodge of systems, I was pretty certain the next contender would be even less enjoyable, but fortunately for me, that wasn’t the case. Black Flag certainly offers a lot of stuff, but it’s a way more structured offering than the previous game, and most of the systems actually make sense in context of the game. There’s still way too much nonsensical stuff to collect and most of the crap doesn’t even count in terms of achievements – I am looking at you, Animus Fragment! – but the treasure maps are a cool addition and I greatly enjoyed the thrill of exploring shark-infested shipwrecks. For a 360 game, the graphics were excellent, especially after AC3 was a step back in that department, and the music was also really good. One should not forget the fantastic Shanties, of which I got several stuck in my head now, especially “Leave Her, Johnny“.

Despite being not very interested in pirate life in general – again, I’m no longer a kid – I did enjoy the story very much, but the best “addition” was the almost entire lack of WTF moments in the “real world” sequences. Where all games including AC3 had a ludicrous storyline filled with crazy talk about beings of old trying to save humanity from certain doom, almost all of that got tossed out of the window. Instead, the player works for Abstergo Entertainment, a Templar-run company which is clearly a spitting image of Ubisoft, and this setup was much more fun to me than the usual doom-and-gloom setup of the older games. The cameos by certain Assassins during the present-day episodes were greatly appreciated as well, as well as the fantastic end sequence.

Not sure how the game's visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

Not sure how the game’s visuals improve on the Xbox One, but this is certainly not an ugly game.

After about 40 hours of sailing the seven seas, I got to a point where I didn’t care enough about the remaining achievements to continue playing. I loved my time on the Jackdaw, but I’ll take after Edward Kenway and move on.

I’ll need a while to recharge my spirits before the next Assassin’s Creed, which will be Rogue, so the next game to cross off my list will be Ryse: Son of Rome. Despite having the Xbox One for over a year now, I never played anything on it except for Watch_Dogs which is multi-platform anyway and certainly doesn’t look like a next-gen title should. Now I just need to wait for my Xbox One to finally download the update … 1675 megabytes to go, moving at a snail’s pace. Oh well, I guess it’s time for me to relax.