Quantum Break is putting the 'time travel' back into 'time travel'

Warning: If you don't want even vague spoilers for Quantum Break's story, stop right here.

Having seen all of Quantum Break's moving parts in action, it still takes some explaining. Anyone who's followed the game knows that it's part Remedy shooter - with all the slow-mo John Woo-isms that implies - and part pseudo-Syfy Original, with a built-in live-action TV show to watch between chapters. You'll also probably know that the choices you make on behalf of the game's antagonist, Paul Serene (now played by Aiden 'man who is Littlefinger' Gillen) will affect how the show and the game play out.

For instance, Remedy creative director Sam Lake showed me one "Junction Point" that faced you with an eyewitness to the shady Monarch corporation's dealings. There are two options: PR (blackmail her into making a statement that makes Monarch look noble in the eyes of the public) or Hardline (get a goon to shoot her in the head after she swears at you). In the context of the TV show, we simply see one of two alternative scenes filmed in the last year and a half of production. The game makes it a little more complex.

This character can be felt in her absence. She can become an ally of lead character Jack Joyce (who has an entirely new head since last we saw him in action, that of Shaun 'man who is Iceman from X-Men' Ashmore). Presumably, her death will also have a tangible effect beyond her simply not being there; otherwise, there would be literally no point in making the choice. Not only do the 22-minute episodes make you watch from the bad guy's point of view, they force you to act on his behalf, like some twisted Choose Your Own Adventure where there are no take-backsies.

But this isn't the extent of Quantum Break's literally manipulative cross-media weirdness. The TV show and game don't run on chronologically from one another, meaning you'll occasionally be time travelling back to a scene you've already witnessed, only from a new angle. The show includes a cagey standoff between two bit-part players, who have their guns mysteriously stolen in the blink of an eye. In the game's version of the scene, Joyce freezes time from the shadows, steals the guns, and leaves (presumably to unload their clips on loads of faceless baddies).

It's a cute conceit, something that might not be quite new (FMV interludes have been around for decades, and what were Metal Gear Solid 4's half-hour cutscenes if not bemusing TV shows?), but certainly feels more deftly handled here than in most previous examples.

And let's not forget that there's a proper, no-fooling shooter in there too. Jack Joyce might lack for Max Payne's quips and creaky metaphors, but he outstrips him for cool-as-heck powers. They range from the self-explanatory (Time Dash and Time Dodge) to the outright weird (Time Blast explodes all the... seconds... around an enemy, I guess?). It makes for frantic and - possibly more importantly - spectacular gunfights, as you alter time around yourself and enemies, and watch them hang in marionette poses as they're dispatched and get caught in time.

There's even the hint of some Tomb Raider-alike deadly platforming in there. Stutters, which are broken loops of time, turn what would be a single throwaway set-piece in another action game into interactive tangles of trouble. I saw a beached tanker collapsing onto a shipyard over and again, necessitating timing runs through poor, constantly crumpling shipping containers, or maneuvering underneath a gap in the ship's chassis before it crashed down again, like some deadly game of Hole in the Wall.

There's clearly a lot at work here, and we've only had our own broken-up set of footage to understand it. How it will all fit together as a whole is of paramount concern, not least because those TV episodes will have to seriously pull their own weight to necessitate breaking up the flow of Remedy's premier action attributes. This is a science experiment of its own - but one I don't want to see fail out of morbid curiosity, for once.

Joe Skrebels
Joe first fell in love with games when a copy of The Lion King on SNES became his stepfather in 1994. When the cartridge left his mother in 2001, he turned to his priest - a limited edition crystal Xbox - for guidance. And now he's here.