Quantum Break: Preview - Games Weekly

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quantum Break: Preview

The rules of popular children's television show Bernard’s Watch stated that young Bernard couldn't use his magical stopwatch to commit crimes or hurt people. “AHA,” thought Remedy,  creator of Alan Wake and Max Payne, and huge fan of giving games human names. “What if Bernard was about 20 years older, beardier and was forced to watch actual tragedies unfold in slow motion until his mind snapped and he threw cars at soldiers?” Thus, Quantum Break, a game that skates around the laws of physics like Brian Cox reading out Stephen Hawking on ice, was created. True story.

In a recent walkthrough narrated by the chunky Scandinavian tones of writer Sam Lake, shows Jack Joyce navigating a bridge plagued by constant ‘stutters’ in time, which alternate between freezing everything in place and triggering them back into real time. Jack is able to move freely while the rest of the world is frozen,  making for some pretty amazing set pieces as he weaves through vehicles in mid explosion and bullets in mid-air. It’s an imperfect time freeze, all twitchy and spluttery certain bits of scenery are constantly trying to revert to their previous state, resulting in cars flying across the screen only to reset to their frozen position, broken bits of metal screeching and grinding beneath you.
Stutters are illustrated with jagged shards scattered about
All this time you're eavesdropping on the enemy, Monarch Solutions, as they radio instructions to each other. “Don’t harm the civilians,” they say, shortly before a barrage of explosions sends a truck hurtling your way, launched off the side of a bridge. What was that sound? Probably civilians being hurt. Up you go to check out what’s happening, and sure enough there’s a tableau of civilians, huddled and hurling Molotov cocktails at an armed guard. The scene tells a story, as one woman cradles a dead man in her arms “Murderer!” she screams at the guard, in the slowed echoey tones of someone coming around from dental surgery in a tunnel.

It’s aesthetically impressive, with the stutters illustrated with jagged shards scattered around the place like fragments of a mirror, and cars twitchily exploding, rewinding and re-exploding. In the background is a gritty soundtrack: heavy breathing, Inception-style bass hums, creaking metal and screeches. It’s probably intended to lend an air of urgency and danger, but given that it sounds a bit like dubstep done entirely with whale voices, it starts to grate after a while.

Close range cover-shooting battles seem fast-paced for a game about the slowing of time, strange platforming sections, set across a deconstructing walkway, look less exciting but still require a grasp of the time control to get through. Quantum Break clearly has style to spare, but we wonder if
time trickery isn't disguising some conservative ideas. Time will tell.

Once upon a time
Here’s how it breaks down 
After a time-travel experiment goes horribly wrong, the fabric of time itself begins to disintegrate. Three witnesses to the failed experiment gain the ability to manipulate time: Paul Serene can see into the future, and uses this power to decide what decisions to make, going on to found Monarch Solutions and become the game’s antagonist. Meanwhile, Jack Joyce (that’s you), controls the flow of time stopping or restarting fragments as he sees fit.

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