Quantum Break is somewhat of a remnant of the original vision for the Xbox One, the all-in-one entertainment system from Microsoft. A fusion of video gaming and live-action TV, Quantum Break is an ambitious project and whilst it’s not without its flaws, the concept works much better than it has any right to. With Max Payne and Alan Wake to their name, Remedy Entertainment have a healthy stable of fantastic cinematic action games behind them. Quantum Break feels like the logical next step of Remedy’s development, combining the fast-paced, time-bending action of Max Payne with the episodic, character-driven storytelling of Alan Wake to create something truly special.
Centred around the conflict between best-friends-turned-worst-enemies Jack Joyce and Paul Serene, Quantum Break tells the story of the end of time. An experiment with a time machine at the Riverport University goes airy, as they usually do and the resulting chaos imbues both our hero and villain with the ability to control time, as well as leading to a fracture in time that ultimately dooms us all. Just as the experiment goes tits up, security personnel from the mysterious Monarch Solutions show up and start shooting the place up. Paul flees into the time machine and gets sent to the future, whilst Jack and his brother Will leg it out of the building, whereupon they run into the now suddenly villainous Paul who promptly murders Will, giving Jack his primary motivation.
Quantum Break’s plot and character motivations are incredibly intricate and I could spend a few thousand words here just trying to give you the cliff notes version but I won’t; suffice to say, the story is top-notch. Remedy have done their research and learnt lessons from film and gaming’s previous forays into time travel-based stories and managed to craft a set of rules and constants based on the most predominant theories of how time travel might work. What’s more, they successfully manage to stick to those rules, avoiding the common pitfalls when dealing with time travel and the resulting paradoxes. The characters themselves are well-realised and, more importantly well portrayed by their respective actors. Shawn Ashmore does a fantastic job of bringing the rebellious and hot-headed Jack Joyce to life whilst Game of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen portrays the sombre but viciously determined Paul Serene with the gusto you’d expect from him. The supporting cast is great too, with Dominic Monaghan providing a lot of the humour as Jack’s socially awkward but brilliant scientist brother. The star of show has to be Beth Wilder though, portrayed by Courtney Hope, who plays an agent within Monarch who is working against them to prevent to end of time. Her interactions with Jack and Will make it clear early on that she knows a lot more than she’s letting on and her character arc is one of the strongest in the game, for the most part. Sorry but I’d be getting into spoiler territory to explain that qualifier and it’s not a deal-breaker.