Entertainment

TV and video game worlds collide with Quantum Break

Setting down your controller to watch a television episode in the middle of your game, maybe grab some popcorn and a drink, is exactly what Quantum Break, starring a digitized version of Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore, expects and wants you to do.

Launches April 5 on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs

Manipulate time to slow down your enemies or warp time around you, creating a shield, in Quantum Break. (Remedy Entertainment)

Setting down your controller to watch a television episode in the middle of your game, maybe grab some popcorn and a drink, is exactly what Quantum Break expects and wants you to do.

The third-person shooter, out on the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs April 5, is a mixed-media experiment that includes live-action cutscenes that play out much like a network television action show such as Continuum or The Blacklist.

Some gamers may be skeptical of the integration, based on the poor reception these types of experiments have received in the past, but if they give it a chance and go into it with an open mind they may have some serious fun.

Remedy Entertainment, the Finland-based studio behind Quantum Break, made a name for itself creating games with a modern television-like feel, such as 2010's Alan Wake, and Quantum feels like a natural extension of this style.

Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore talks to CBC News about playing Jack Joyce in the new video game-TV hybrid Quantum Break, for the Xbox One and Windows 10. 3:22

In the game, players take control of Jack Joyce, played by Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore, known for his role as Iceman in the X-Men movies. Thanks to a science experiment gone wrong, Joyce is given the ability to manipulate time, from freezing people and objects to dodging enemy fire by dashing at the speed of sound.

Joyce uses his newfound powers — and a million bullets — to defeat the main villain Paul Serene, Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen, and his hired security force that act more like thugs than trained guards.

Fans of serial television dramas will love watching the live-action episodes, which were produced separately by Los Angeles studio Lifeboat Entertainment. Lasting roughly a half hour each, they are a good break from the gameplay without taking you too far out of the action.

Aidan Gillen stars as the villain, and the main point-of-view character in Quantum Break's TV-style cutscenes. (Remedy Entertainment)

The episodes pick up where the in-game levels end, but instead of continuing to follow Joyce, the point-of-view shifts to the villain, Serene. Instead of watching the hero save the world, you'll be watching a group of people cheat, lie and kill each other to get what they want. You might catch yourself being charmed by the handsome killer Liam or cheering on Charlie when he steps out of his comfort zone.

​The player is then given the opportunity to steer the story — and who Serene will trust, manipulate or kill — depending on what kind of villain is desired.

Seeing the other side of the story will require you to take extended breaks in the middle of gameplay.You do have the option to skip them, but you'll risk missing out on large chunks of the story.

To make sure the characters in the video game and television portions mirrored each other, some top-notch facial and performance-capture technology was used. The heroes and villains look exactly like the actors who play them. Costumes and sets also match perfectly, making smooth transitions between the two.

A digitized Shawn Ashmore plays Jack Joyce, the player-controller character with the power to control time. (Remedy Entertainment)

The game offers varying degrees of difficulties for those who may not be the best at shooters, but enjoy the supernatural and storytelling aspects. So if you are here for the show, getting through the game might not be too much of an obstacle.

As far as Microsoft exclusives go, this one takes chances, and the intense effort is admirable and appreciated.  

Pros

  • Adjustable difficulty makes it friendly to new and hardcore gamers alike
  • Well-done and thoughtful live action cutscenes
  • Get to influence the story from both the heroes' and villains' sides

Cons

  • ​Joyce doesn't go through as much character development as the villains
  • Unnecessarily long reading materials scattered throughout the levels
  • Getting through levels can take a lot of trial and error

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