Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Why Quantum Break bends all the rules

New Xbox One game Quantum Break bends time and boundaries. Chris Schulz investigates the ambitious video game-TV show crossover.
Screenshot from Xbox One game Quantum Break.
Screenshot from Xbox One game Quantum Break.

You'll meet the pixelated version of Aidan Gillen early in Quantum Break. You'll then get to play as the star from Game of Thrones.

Then you can watch the real-life version of Gillen perform in an episode of TV based on the game.

Confused? You should be. Quantum Break's creators know they're attempting something new and strange with their latest game.

Screenshot from Quantum Break.
Screenshot from Quantum Break.

"Some people have told us, 'We're rooting for you but you guys are crazy for trying it'," laughs Remedy Entertainment's communications director Thomas Puha.

Puha admits it's been a lengthy and "muddled" time for the Finnish developers, who are known for devoting years to crafting cinematic masterpieces such as Max Payne and Alan Wake.

First pitched in 2011, Microsoft chose Quantum Break over an Alan Wake sequel because it fitted snugly into plans to launch an entire channel of original TV content on Xbox One.

Those plans were scrapped in 2014, so Quantum Break's TV episodes have been crammed into the game in an experiment Puha says has been a rollercoaster ride.

"We announced way too early, back in 2013 when it was just an idea of what it could be. It's a journey of discovery, which is really scary because you're spending a lot of money," he says.

Quantum Break works like this: First, you play a chapter of the game, a drama about a time-travel experiment that goes wrong.

Shawn Ashmore from Xbox One game Quantum Break.
Shawn Ashmore from Xbox One game Quantum Break.

Then, you sit through the first of four 20-minute live action episodes included in the game to help expand the story from a different point of view. After that, you grab your controller back and play another chapter.

It sounds confusing, but Puha says the concept works seamlessly. He believes the game's big-budget TV show - starring major names such as X-Men's Shawn Ashmore, Lost's Dominic Monaghan, and The Wire's Lance Reddick - is as good as anything else on TV.

"These aren't cut scenes. It's a full, network-quality live action TV show that mostly focuses on a different set of characters," he says. "The game is about the heroes, the live action show focuses on the villains. You get to experience both sides of the story."

Screenshot from Quantum Break
Screenshot from Quantum Break

And it's stories that Remedy are known for delivering. They spend time crafting dense narratives with troubled characters and tense action. Quantum Break saw them grow to a team of 130, with a dedicated group of writers who spent years getting the game's time-travel components just right.

"They spent a long time coming up with the rules of time travel. The core idea is, if you can go back in time, can you change anything? The biggest problem is all the loopholes. After 18 months they were still figuring it out," he says. "Sometimes someone would go to the writer's room and say, 'Hey guys what if I do this?' They'd go, 'Aw, no,' and have to start again."

Lance Reddick in a scene from the TV show in Quantum Break.
Lance Reddick in a scene from the TV show in Quantum Break.

That means Quantum Break is a game in which players can influence the story - but not the outcome. What you do influences the path you take - and the TV shows you get to watch.

And though it comes with just one ending, Puha wants players to watch all the TV episodes to get the full experience. "When people play the game, they get it. Some can't wrap their heads around it. Fair enough, but give it a shot."

What: Quantum Break
Starring: Shawn Ashmore, Dominic Monaghan, Aidan Gillen, Lance Reddick
For fans of: Max Payne, Alan Wake, Infamous: Second Son
Available: From April 5

- TimeOut

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 18 Jan 2017 10:27:12 Processing Time: 571ms