There's More to Quantum Break Than You Might Think
I got 99 problems and time is definitely one of them.
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Quantum Break is a game about a man seeking to rescue the very fabric of time. But if you caught the gameplay demo that Remedy debuted on stage at Microsoft's Gamescom 2014 press conference, you might be under the impression that time must be rescued with a whole lot of gunfire and slow-motion punches to the face. See, there was a pretty big focus on combat in this first look at the upcoming Xbox One exclusive. So much so that you might be forgiven for thinking that's the entire game. Well, don't worry. There's a whole lot more to Quantum Break than that.
In a follow-up appointment here at Gamescom, I got a chance to see what happens after that stage demo ends. First, let's set the scene. Our hero, an everyman named Jack who can continue moving even when time has literally come to a standstill, is caught up in a tussle with the militarized security guards of Monarch Solutions, a shadowy corporation with some very evil intentions who want to keep Jack from reaching his goal. Some shots are exchanged, a bunch of armed guards get taken down, and there's a whole lot of chaos on a bridge overrun by destroyed cars and terrified bystanders.
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Yesterday's gameplay premiere ended with a climactic fight on the bridge, but today's demo took things a few steps further. What followed was a sequence that focused on Jack's struggle to traverse through some truly harrowing stutters in time, moments when everything has frozen in place save for a few select objects. What made this scene interesting is that time froze just as a runaway barge came crashing into the bridge, sending the whole thing crashing down in a hailstorm of twisted metal and mangled concrete.
This left Jack in a pretty tricky position. With no way to predict how long time would remain frozen, he had to dash across the tumbling wreckage of the bridge before it all came crashing down into the river below. Making things even more tricky was the fact that certain objects are caught in a "destructive loop," to use a term offered by Remedy creative director Sam Lake. Imagine a taxi hurling forward into another car, or a truck carrying a load of gravel overturning and spilling its load onto the asphalt. Now imagine that happening over and over again even as the rest of the world around it appears to be frozen in place. It's kind of a head trip, but that's Quantum Break in a nutshell.
The whole thing felt a bit like a 3D platforming game, something in the mold of Uncharted where the grace and athleticism of Nathan Drake has been traded for some truly incredible visual effects. The one area where Jack holds an advantage, though, is in his ability to manipulate certain objects--freezing falling debris in place to make a functional walkway and that sort of thing.
The sequence of leaps and shimmies looked somewhat linear, leaving me wondering how much Quantum Break relies on sheer spectacle to keep these moments interesting. But in the moment, watching the scene unfold, it certainly made me eager to try the game out for myself...even if I didn't entirely understand what was going on.
In other words, I was happy to see there's more to Quantum Break than just combat. It can be an absolute mindf**k of a platformer when it flips that switch, adding another layer to its story of a world where time is slowly coming undone. It's a game that I'm still trying to wrap my head around, but I'm ready to take on the challenge.