Time travel is confusing business, and there’s a reason no one has cracked this particular egg just yet. What happens when we go back and try and change something? Does the future change? Does it remain intact? Is the action of trying to change something the reason it occurred in the first place? Does that mean we have no control over the future? Does it mean we do?
Quantum Break, the intellectually stimulating time-travelling third person shooter tackles these questions head on in a powerful narrative adventure, that manages to rank in the upper echelons of gaming experiences this generation.
Remedy Entertainment are no strangers to telling engaging, captivating stories that manage to subvert your expectations of them, and Quantum Break starts out no differently. In no time at all you’re introduced to both Jack Joyce and Paul Serene, played by brilliantly motion-captured actors Shawn Ashmore and Aiden Gillen respectively. Jack, the brother to one of the world’s leading scientists in the fictional field of Joyce particles, unwittingly becomes a major player in an event known as the Fracture – an avalanche of misbehaving chronon particles that will eventually bring about the end of time.
It’s this accident that imbues Jack with most of his time-bending powers, but one that accelerates the often scientifically intriguing narrative forward at a blisteringly fast pace. It might not seem that way after a campy first Act and a bit, where Quantum Break is so desperately trying to establishes it universe rules, character motives and direction before really diving in, but Quantum Break picks up these pieces in intriguing ways from then on.
What seems like exposition heavy sequences at the start slowly reveal themselves as pivotal moments in the games narrative, as Remedy reigns in the temptation to hop from time period to time period and instead uses (in my opinion) a far more grounded, reasonable approach to how time and its flow works. It leads to some incredibly powerful moments dealing with hope and despair in equal measure, with the entire cast of captured actors doing a fine job of bringing their characters to life in astonishing detail.
Detail here being an operative word, because Remedy have painstakingly created a world within which Quantum Break exists that feels so real, so engrossing that it’s hard not to get lost within it. Curious placements of classified emails aside, there’s a wealth of knowledge to rummage through and examine that I spent a lot of my time searching for open PC terminals, discarded smartphones and sometimes just lonely television sets.
Everything that Quantum Break wants you to know is thrown at you, but it’s borderline criminal to race through it all and ignore the phenomenal (and often narratively important) writing that is scattered throughout its world.
And it would be equally criminal to not talk about Quantum Break’s narrative without touching on its most peculiar piece: the inclusion of a dynamic live-action series that splits up each act. While each segment of gameplay should take you roughly two hours to complete, they’re halted by 30 minute long live-action episodes which draw the camera back and focus on a wider set of characters in the narrative. Many of the pivotal characters in the series don’t manifest in the game, although Aidan Gillen’s Paul Serene makes an impact on both digital and live fronts.