Like any good superhero, Jack Joyce - after being blasted with dangerous Chronon energy in a freakish lab experiment gone awry - needs to get to know his new abilities. Unlike a superhero movie though, a game can’t afford to spend hours building up to the best stuff, so Quantum Break throws almost all of Jack’s skills at you within the first Act, asking you to get to know them the hard way. Having played around with them for a fair few hours, here’s our early guide to what each power does, and the little touches that make them stand out.
Let’s start easy. You’ve seen this kind of power a hundred times before - the world goes all monochrome, with points of interest - enemies, objectives and interactive elements - highlighted for your pleasure. In the case of Quantum Break, it’s more of a pre-planning tool than anything else - combat moves fast, and throws challenges at you constantly. Getting a sense of how many enemies there are, what type of enemy they are, and where you want them (clue: next to an explosive barrel) is recommended before every fight. Don’t expect to use it too much mid-battle, though - you’ll be dead before you can say “oh there he- URK”.
Easily Jack’s most versatile power, Time Stop projects a bubble of frozen, er, time wherever your crosshair’s pointing. That could be an enemy you want to lock down for a little bit, a grenade travelling your way, an explosive you want to use as a time-delayed bomb or, most satisfying of all, a way of capturing a clip-ful of bullets in one place, then watching them eject like a hyper-shotgun once the bubble collapses. There’s little more badass, or weirdly gorgeous, than catching a couple of guys in a Time Stop, then watching it light up orange with refracted prismatic tracer light, before sending them to their high-speed doom.
At first try, Time Dodge seems pretty simple, a riff on any number of brawlers’ dodge mechanics, designed to shift you away from harm and out of cover. In reality, there’s a bit more to it. It borrows pretty specifically from one of those brawlers, for a start - Bayonetta’s built around Witch Time, a burst of slow motion after a successful dodge. Time Dodge is similar - every squirt of speed is rewarded with a few seconds of “Focus” (think Max Payne’s Bullet Time) afterwards, making it a far more offensive power than it might seem. On top of that, Dodge into an enemy and you’ll initiate a melee attack, stunning whoever’s on the receiving end.
This is another surprising one. While it’s primary function is pretty clear - turn it on and you’ll generate some impermeable cover, turning bullets into harmless miniature firework shows - it’s doubles as another melee attack, bubbling enemies away from you as it sweeps into existence. It makes a nice combo with Dodge - fire yourself unexpectedly into a crowd, smash a well-armoured foe, take out a couple of more distant threats using Focus, then activate the Shield to hit the armoured guy again. Maybe Time Stop him too, just for fun.
The only power we didn’t get to try in our hands-on (we’re told it’s unlocked about halfway through the game), Rush looks like an upgraded Dodge, a period of shoe-melting high-speed running that’d put Sonic to shame. It even comes with Dodge’s melee attack if you run into a fleshy obstacle. Talking to the developers, however, it seems as though Rush is best used as a get-out clause in the game’s really dangerous fights - Jack moves so quickly while you use it that enemies lose track of his position, making it almost a stealth mechanic. Get into a bind, and you can switch it on to change cover and attack from a whole new perspective.
Jack’s powers make him a superhero in a world of regular guys, and everyone knows that superhero stories only really work when a villain can match the heroes for strength. Quantum Break has a lot of villains. At the end of our time with the game, it suddenly introduced Strikers, tooled-up bad guys with suits that let them manipulate time like Jack, specifically moving as fast as he does. We’re told that new enemy types will pop up regularly, either matching your skills, or even taking them away. Turns out learning how your skills work is as useful for knowing what others are going to do to you, as what you’re going to do to them.
We're told that there are only five powers in the game, but last year's Gamescom demo included one we've not seen mentioned since - this jagged blast. It could well have been removed for being too passive - the designers want you out of cover and in the thick of it, rather than hanging around behind it - but there's always the chance that they're keeping secrets...