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Quantum Break (PC) hands-on preview: Half video game, half TV show, all weird

Hayden Dingman | March 2, 2016
For when you can't decide between Netflix and Steam.

Remedy is a weird studio. This is my singular takeaway from playing two hours of Quantum Break last week at a preview event—enough time to take me through the first act of Remedy’s hybrid game/TV show (out of a planned five). And uh...yeah. It’s as strange as I thought.

And not solely because I think I saw a trailer for an Alan Wake sequel in the middle of it.

Primer

I’ve seen a lot of Quantum Break trailers, but I don’t think I really understood what the hell it was until I got my hands on it. I mean, hybrid game/TV show? What?

The two halves are more separate than I thought. Having only half-paid attention to the game until recently (when Microsoft announced it was coming to the PC too), I’d envisioned something closer to an old-school FMV game. Maybe you’d play for ten minutes, watch some live-action scenes, then play another ten minutes and repeat. Like Metal Gear Solid if Kojima had done all the action in 35mm.

Not even close. Instead the TV episodes are proper network length and come at the close of each act. I’ll get into it more later.

The point is: Quantum Break is more video game than I anticipated. I finished the first act in two hours or so, and an hour and a half of that was standard video game fare. You play as Jack Joyce—an adventurer, a troublemaker, a...I don’t know. Brother to a theoretical physicist? Gun-shooting guy?

He’s a nobody, essentially. A nobody that just so happens to have a wildly eccentric brother and a rich best friend. Those two have collaborated to make a time machine in the middle of a college campus, generating a black hole and ripping apart the fabric of the universe.

Professors are really taking advantage of tenure these days.

Our man Jack is caught in the middle of this whole experiment-turned-catastrophe. The black hole collapses, but not before granting Jack a host of time-warping powers. Powers he mostly uses to shoot a lot of guys.

You’ve got your “Freeze time in place” bubble. Your “Bullet-repelling shield made from raw time energy or whatever.” The always-useful “Highlight important objects in the environment for some reason” power. And, best of all, the “Time-slowing dodge maneuver” a.k.a. it’s Max Payne.

Seriously, Quantum Break plays a lot like Remedy’s original Max Payne games. There’s no Matrixesque slow-motion dives and somersaults, but Jack essentially teleports ten feet away and then time slows down for a second or two while you pop off shots. Welcome back, bullet time.

This is in addition to Remedy’s other signature touches, like pausing to listen to fake radio shows or Jack’s internal monologuing. Quantum Break is...well, it’s Remedy. Bold, sort of crazy, and plenty intriguing.

 

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