A Deeper Look at Quantum Break’s Time-Shifting Powers

Sure, you likely know that Quantum Break blends intense third-person action with the captivating twists and turns of a live-action TV show. You know that this Xbox One console exclusive features the mesmerizing acting talents of Aidan Gillen in a villainous role – different than the one he plays on “Game of Thrones” as the devious Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, but no less deadly and scheming. You also know that Dominic Monaghan, another actor from a famous fantasy series (that would be “The Lord of the Rings,” of course), also plays a crucial role, so there’s plenty of star power here to draw you in and keep you hooked.

But while the famous faces are well-known, the time-shifting powers at the center of this experimental transmedia experience haven’t been raved about in quite as much detail. Here’s a look at what you can expect when time itself fractures – and the power of the universe itself is subsequently unleashed.

A Brief History of Time

At Riverport University, an elite college in the northeastern United States, an impressive collection of brilliant minds have harnessed the space-time continuum. However, not all of these scientific mavericks see eye-to-eye – such as the impulsive, headstrong Paul Serene (Gillen), head of the shadowy company known as Monarch Solutions, and the pragmatic genius William Joyce (Monaghan). Basically, think of it like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson in the midst of a bitter blood feud!

And it all soon turns very personal. William’s brother, Jack (played by Shawn Ashmore, best known as Iceman in the “X-Men” films), gets a little too close to a time-travel experiment at Riverport, and he soon finds an army of Monarch security upon him. Thankfully for Jack, however, the accident infuses him with a slate of time-manipulating powers that are perfect for navigating this conflict – and his mastery of space-time would make even Einstein envious. Considering that developer Remedy popularized the concept of “bullet time” back in 2001 with the original Max Payne, it only makes sense that the studio is taking the idea to the next level in Quantum Break.

To hear William tell it, time is like an egg – and now, due to Paul’s reckless experiments, that egg has suddenly cracked. While the disaster might have given Jack superhuman abilities, the universe itself has absolutely no time to lose.

Out of This World

Jack wields several time-manipulating powers, but the one that makes the rest of his arsenal tick is Time Vision, which allows him to uncover the location of foes, traps, and items – but it only works when he’s standing still. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent way to scout the premises and put Jack in the best position to succeed. And just like Max Payne’s bullet time gave Max the edge against impossible odds more than a decade ago, Time Vision gives Jack the tools to survive what’s essentially a private army from Monarch Solutions trying to track him down.

When there’s a lull in combat, however, Jack can trigger Time Echoes – ripples from the past that help him play amateur detective. He can trace the path of the enemy and discover the location of allies, or even overhear conversations that add some nuance to Quantum Break’s twist-laden tale.

Time Echoes are all about subtlety. Jack’s next power, Time Stop, is as spectacular as it gets: Everyone in the area freezes (friend or foe), and you can run around and explore, even ripping weapons straight from enemies to use for yourself. Not every Time Stop is equal, however. Jack can also cast a smaller, localized Time Stop in a specific area – in order to freeze a gunman hot on his tail, for instance. From there, Jack can walk right up and take out his foe before the baddie even knows what hit him.

Jack’s powers don’t simply revolve around offense, though. When you’re in need of a quick evasive maneuver, there’s no better option than the Time Dodge. If you’re quick with your button maneuvers after a Time Dodge, in fact, you can trigger Focus Time, which allows for some spectacular enemy takedowns.

This last power might be the coolest one of all, however. Most gaming action heroes have one choice when a bullet comes whizzing at them: Get out of the way. Not Jack; he can summon a projectile-deflecting Time Shield, knocking back bullets and giving him the time to get out of a sniper’s line of fire.

A Switch in Perspective

Quantum Break antagonist Paul Serene isn’t without his own powers, however, and you’ll get the chance to take control of Monarch Solutions’ mastermind at the end of each act and make specific choices – called Junction Impacts – that cause butterfly-effect ripples across the rest of the story. Your decision at each Junction Impact affects the course of the game and live-action show that plays after each act.

For example, after Jack’s accident, Paul can choose to launch a full-on PR blitz to get the public on his side. Alternatively, he can decide that dead men tell no tales, and make sure any witnesses are dealt with – permanently. Keep in mind that there’s absolutely no “right” answer, though. Each of these choices brings rippling consequences, although Paul does have an advantage on the rest of us when he makes a choice: He can actually see the outcome of his actions.

Of course, this is hardly all Jack and Paul have in their respective arsenals, and Quantum Break serves up plenty of surprises when it come to both gameplay and the live-action show.

This is one of the most intriguing Xbox One releases in quite some time, and any fan of third-person action or shock-filled narratives should give it a shot. When you purchase Quantum Break, however, you don’t just get the game – you also get Remedy’s Alan Wake (along with its The Signal and The Writer content packs) for Xbox 360, playable on Xbox One via the time-shifting wizardry known as Backward Compatibility. Quantum Break is available now. It’s about time!