Time travel has been a core plot device in entertainment for as long as we can remember. From classic tales like Jules Verne’s The Time Machine to contemporary favourites such as the Back to the Future trilogy, those of us blessed with a sense of imagination have had plenty of choices when it comes to stories of time travel.
Quantum Break is Remedy Entertainment’s latest foray into interactive storytelling, with quantum physics and time manipulation as the central theme in this 3rd-person action game.
Past titles from Remedy have been known for their cinematic presentation and finely-tuned action sequences, and if what I played last week is any indication, Quantum Break should live up to the standards set by Max Payne and Alan Wake.
I spent a good hour or so with the introductory chapter, which introduces players to the principal characters of Quantum Break. Gamers will be playing through the vast majority of the game as protagonist Jack Joyce, played by Shawn “Iceman” Ashmore of X-men movie fame.
An old friend, Paul Serene (Aiden “Littlefinger” Gillen from Game of Thrones) has summoned Jack to his research facility in the middle of the night, which kicks off a chain of events involving Jack’s estranged brother William (Dominic “Merry” Monaghan from the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Suffice to say, things go awry at the lab, and Jack abruptly finds himself caught up in a temporal struggle he does not fully understand.
Stories involving time travel are complicated by nature, and I will not go further into detail just yet. However, what has been set up is certainly intriguing, and that’s not even taking into account the amazing production values that have gone into this title. Each episode of the game is accompanied by a full 20-minute live action segment, that can play out differently depending on the player’s choices during gameplay.
While divergent paths are nothing new in gaming, having the plot of what is essentially a TV mini-series adapt to player choice is unprecedented. If Remedy is looking to up the ante when it comes to cinematic storytelling in video games, they’re definitely on the right track.
The gameplay in Quantum Break will feel instantly familiar to fans of sci-fi shooters like Mass Effect. Jack isn’t much of a Hollywood gunslinger, so don’t expect him to go diving through the air with guns akimbo, John Woo-style. What Jack does have at his disposal though, are a variety of time-based powers.
With the tap of a button, Jack can freeze an enemy in place long enough to empty an entire submachine gun magazine into him, with immensely satisfying results (trust me) when the effect wears off and the target is suddenly struck by 20 bullets all at once. This ability can also be used to solve movement puzzles, allowing Jack to manipulate the environment and gain access to previously unreachable areas. Think of it as a supercharged version of the Stasis Module from Dead Space.
Jack can also use his time powers in a defensive manner. The Time Shield is essentially a mini-Titan bubble from Destiny, stopping all manner of enemy projectiles for a short time when deployed. For players who prefer to keep moving, Time Dodge is invaluable, allowing you to zip around the battlefield like the Flash and pull off all sorts of impossible flanking maneuvers.
It’s clear that Quantum Break was not designed to be played like a traditional cover-based 3rd-person shooter, and the existence of Time Dodge reinforces that notion. The incredulous reaction that you get from the AI enemies when you literally run circles around them is just icing on the cake.
To be perfectly honest, despite being a big fan of Remedy’s past games, I was a little apprehensive about how Quantum Break would turn out, given how ambitious it sounded. But I came away from this preview with my fears assuaged. Quantum Break is really shaping up to be a quality action game with a intriguing premise, fantastic production values, and brilliant presentation. I absolutely look forward to playing through the full game over the coming days, and you can expect a full review here on Geek Culture soon!