Microsoft’s press conference at Gamescom in Cologne finally gave us our first look at the gameplay elements that drive Remedy Entertainment’s brand new, ground-breaking project, Quantum Break, and having captured only a brief glimpse of its Time-Amplified Gameplay, I think it’s fair to say that there weren’t many who walked away disappointed by it.
But of course, the fantastic looking action sequences - such as those that they demonstrated - aren’t all there is to the company’s latest masterpiece, there’s simply so much more. And rightly so too, as Remedy prepare to tread entirely new ground with the trailblazing work that they are currently doing on this project, work that will blur the lines between interactive and non-interactive storytelling, between videogames and TV. Work that might redefine the boundaries of what is entirely possible in gaming and raise the bar for the others that dare to follow in their footsteps. In short, Quantum Break is the future of gaming.
For those that don’t know already, the story of Quantum Break follows the lives of two men who are caught up in a failed time travel experiment at Riverport University, leaving both men wholly changed by the experience, and empowered by it. One of which, Paul Serene, the game’s antagonist, is arguably the most powerful of the two, as he can see multiple futures simultaneously, allowing him to make decisions in the present to ensure that his choices will come to fruition. He is the founder of the conglomerate, Monarch Corporation, whose forces and technology he deploys in order to prevent Jack Joyce, the game’s protagonist, from setting things right again. Of course, there’s a lot at stake, the very fabric of time is coming apart, leaving the world standing upon the precipice of its destruction, and leaving Jack as the only man capable of saving it, and indeed us all.
“There needs to be a little bit of crazy when dreaming up a new concept,” Sam Lake has been quoted as saying, yet when writing the narrative, Remedy actually consulted with scientists from CERN to ensure that their story remained grounded within the framework of today’s theoretical physics. Of course, it’s hardly the science of the game that is likely to win over gamers, but rather its intense, action packed gameplay, which was demonstrated so superbly at Gamescom. There, a captive audience were enthralled by Jack’s gunplay, time based powers and hand to hand combat skills, along with the game’s stunning, Northlight Engine (the company’s proprietary technology) powered visuals. Yet that gameplay showcase was still only a mere glimpse into the workings of Remedy’s new game.
Some journalists were given the opportunity to see an extended version of the demo following the unveiling on August 12th, and this allowed them to witness another side of its finely balanced gameplay. Following on from the end of his battle atop the bridge with the forces of the Monarch Corporation, Jack continues to traverse the structure, but at this point a barge crashes into it, twisting its metal structure beyond recognition and sending some, and eventually, all of it hurtling into the water below. Time, however, freezes at this very moment, leaving Jack with only one option, to cross the bridge before time corrects itself and the bridge completely collapses. The gameplay here change quite considerably, seeing Jack have to leap from platform to platform, avoiding objects caught in destructive time loops, or utilising his powers to freeze these in place, creating temporary platforms to help him across. One of the criticisms that has been levelled at the company’s previous game, Alan Wake, was that it was something of a one trick pony, and whilst I, personally, found the game to be nothing short of spectacular, it’s still nice to see a change of pace making its way into Quantum Break. And this, along with its more unique features, must be where both Microsoft and Remedy are pinning their hopes that this game will achieve the commercial success that sadly eluded its predecessor.
This, of course, leads me on to exactly what separates Quantum Break from the rest of the chasing pack-it isn't simply a videogame. Quantum Break incorporates a live action television show as well, and whilst this has yet to be shot (shooting is set to be completed in the next few months), the manner in which the two storytelling aspects interact is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of all. What we do know is that playing through a chapter of the game will result in a junction, at this point the player actually takes control of the antagonist where they have to choose one from a selection of possible futures, this will then determine the episode of the show that the player will then watch to further the narrative (this is entirely optional). It is believed that the happenings in that episode will then, in turn, affect how the player tackles the next stage of the game. The choices that the player makes will be acted out in the show, they can see it unravel before them, creating what the team refer to as being that player’s “director’s cut” of the game. It will certainly be interesting to see how many options that the player has available to them, and with it, how many episodes of the series there will be. Remedy’s Sam Lake has already stated that this is to be only the first season of Quantum Break, so evidently, both he and the rest of the team have so much more planned for us in the future.
Quantum Break undoubtedly promises to be the ultimate Remedy experience, combining the enjoyable, over the top action of Max Payne, with the high quality story telling prevalent on Alan Wake, creating what will surely find itself as one of the Xbox One’s shining lights. Combining Remedy’s videogame know how, with the full integration of a live action television show - an industry first - Quantum Break looks set to become a generation defining experience, a videogame characterised not simply by its gorgeous next-generation visuals, but how it can open doors for every pioneer operating within the videogame industry. There can simply be no denying that Remedy have something truly exciting on their hands here, and the wait until Quantum Break’s release next year is going to be an especially long and arduous one.