Quantum Break Hands-On Preview

Set for release in just under a month’s time, Quantum Break is the next in a line of story-driven thrillers that Remedy Entertainment has become so well known for. Recently, we were invited to a press event to go hands-on with the game and get some early impressions of it.

Before diving in, we were given a quick introduction by Thomas Puha, Remedy’s head of public relations. One of the key points to Puha’s briefing was the claim that Remedy placed player experience at the forefront of all else, which I later found to have certainly been the case. On that same note, Puha also stated that the focus during development had been on ‘feelings over features’, with the game aimed towards evoking emotion from players.SCREEN_0002_Layer 5Quantum Break follows Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) who, upon returning to his home of Riverport, gets caught up in a time travel experiment gone horribly wrong. Left with some newfound abilities, he also finds that the world around him is beginning to stutter in time, and that time completely stopping altogether is only inevitable. He takes the fight up against former friend Paul Serene (Aiden Gillen), similarly gifted with powers of time manipulation (and to use a cliché) in a literal race against time.

I must commend Remedy and Lifeboat Productions for assembling such a stellar cast to bring Quantum Break to life. Both the in-game and in the live-action element feature some noticeable names, such as Shawn Ashmore and Brooke Nevin (Animorphs), Aiden Gillen (The Wire) and Lance Reddick (Fringe). Interviewing Puha later on, it was said that these people had been hired not for their fame, but for their talent and ability to act both on screen and for motion capture.SCREEN_0001_Layer 6The game’s definite selling point is the fact that it is a wonderful blend of transmedia, drawing together both video game and traditional television storytelling. While the video game tells the story of protagonist Jack Joyce, the accompanying live-action episodes instead follow Paul Serene and Monarch. However, it is worth noting that watching the TV episodes is entirely optional; players can choose to just play through the game and still be able to follow the story. I must say that I feel that players should not resign themselves to the game alone, and instead watch the episodes in their entirety to get the most out of the experience.

Branching off that, Quantum Break’s narrative is quite non-linear in nature. Having a soft spot for great storytelling, I rather admire the fact that Remedy offers players such a great deal of agency throughout the game. From early on, players have the ability to manipulate the way that events play out both in the game and in the live-action episodes, leading to quite a bit of replay value.SCREEN_0000_Layer 7For the most part, this comes into play with the ‘Junction Points’ that occur at the conclusion of each act of the game. Here, players take control of Paul Serene for a small time, and must make a decision between two choices, which then affects the following live-action episode and the course of the game. With Serene’s ability to look into the future, players have the option of getting a brief glimpse of how events will play out. I found that to be quite an interesting feature, a sort of taster to encourage players to go back and make the other choice. On a lesser scale, players can also optionally seek out and interact with Quantum Ripples, which are objects in the world indicated by a marker, and have a slight effect later on, like changing what is seen in the background of some live-action scenes. Combined, these two aspects definitely encourage the player to go back and play through Quantum Break multiple times, with over 40 versions of the live-action episodes to watch, as well as numerous ways that the game itself can be played out.

For a game whose premise is so grounded in theoretical physics, it was good to see that Remedy had achieved a blend of not completely dumbing down the science, but also making Quantum Break easily accessible to the masses. Certainly, there is quite a fair amount of scientific talk in the game, but it is for the most part relegated to ‘Narrative Objects’ scattered throughout the world. Such objects are visible by an on-screen indicator, and are completely optional. Being that they generally take the form of items like radios and computer tablets, their purpose is to shed more light on occurrences in the game and provide more background information. Having managed to progress into Act 2, I was informed by Puha that the team had actually gone so far as to change what information these objects presented, depending on the actions of the player. On that alone, it would certainly be worth it to replay the game over and over again to see just how much things changed.SCREEN_0003_Layer 4In Quantum Break, players will have access to a wide range of abilities, including:

  • Time Stop – briefly slowing down time in a small area; players can trap enemy troops and quickly fire bullets into that specific area, magnifying their effect on hostiles once time returns to normal
  • Time Dodge – while moving in any given direction, players can trigger the ability and instantly appear several metres away
  • Time Vision – when immobile, activating this ability can highlight all hostiles in the immediate area, as well as explosives and ammunition

Quantum Break is ground-breaking. It does an amazing job of bringing together a video game and live-action TV narrative, and particularly more so with the player’s ability to affect how it all plays out. Described to be a ‘summer blockbuster’, the game is a cinematic thriller that does not shy away from its scientific roots, but still remains able to keep players hooked until the end. Having made my way quite a fair bit into Quantum Break, I can safely say that it certainly stands out from the rest.