Quantum Break launches on PC and Xbox One in a handful of weeks, and aims to give players a mix of third-person, time-bending gunplay along with a strange, distinctly un-video game focus on lengthy full-motion video cut-scenes starring big-name Hollywood actors. It feels weird to even say that now, a few years after it was first announced – like it’s a game from an alternate universe where Mad Dog McCree was as influential as Super Mario Bros., where the Xbox One actually became the definitive All-In-One Entertainment Center and didn’t shut down its entertainment initiative shortly before launching its Halo television series.
It would be weird, that is, if we were talking about any other developer in the world. Quantum Break comes from Remedy Entertainment, the creators of modern classics like Max Payne and Alan Wake. Once you realize who is behind Xbox’s upcoming shooter, it’s easy to see why this bizarre television experiment makes total sense: Remedy’s games, stories, and characters are all obsessed with television, and Quantum Break represents the logical conclusion of the studio’s unique approach to video game storytelling.
Remedy’s had Hollywood aspirations ever since the release of its breakout hit, Max Payne. The game itself is a pastiche of film noir, Hong Kong action cinema, and graphic novels, as our titular hero monologues his way through a series of high-octane gun battles and convoluted subplots. But the game is always winking at the player, its references proudly worn on its sleeve accompanied by the sly (possibly constipated?) grin of its protagonist. This was a game that began to deconstruct itself at the end of the second act, as Max runs through a seemingly neverending loop of misery during a drug-induced nightmare, believing himself to be stuck in a graphic novel or a computer game.
Outside of all the violence, the melodrama, the cursing, and other adult content, there’s Lords and Ladies, a fictional television show our anti-hero stumbles across during his quest for revenge. The show pops up during brief moments of calm, providing a respite from all the wanton …