Exclusive Eyes-On Impressions Of Quantum Break's Live-Action TV Show
Quantum Break is doing something different than any modern narrative-focused game. The idea of segmenting gameplay with cutscenes between chapters is not new, but Quantum Break is opting for a live-action television show broken into a series of full-length episodes. Quantum Break is being built in Finland, but its television show is being created by Lifeboat Productions under the supervision of Remedy in the United States. During our visit to Remedy’s studio, we had a chance to see some extended clips of the show to get a better sense of how it will look and its role in the game.
For exclusive hands-on impressions of Quantum Break's gameplay, head here.
Kyle: We got to see a number of clips from the show in its current state, which is to say somewhat incomplete. The game is still months away, so the studio developing the show, Lifeboat, is still in production working on completing it in tandem with the work being done on the game. We saw an extended version of a scene shown briefly in a few trailers with Shawn Ashmore and Aiden Gillen talking to each other across a table in what appears to be some kind of prison cell, as well as a clip early in the game that overlaps with Ashmore’s character, Jack Joyce, getting a grasp on his powers.
Ben: That’s right Kyle, we saw those things with our eyes, and our eyes didn’t start bleeding. Honestly, I went into that portion of the demo expecting the worst. Video games don’t have a phenomenal track record incorporating live-action footage with gameplay, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the game was announced, I had flashbacks of old Sega CD games like Sewer Shark and Night Trap. Obviously, those games were super cheesy – and that’s part of their charm – but that definitely wouldn't fit with Quantum Break’s tone. Thankfully, after seeing a bit of the show, I can honestly say that it seems like they’re really going for it.
Kyle: Yeah, the actor performances are good. The scenes we saw were a bit overwrought, but there was definitely a level of intensity there proving the actors are taking this seriously. I get the impression they are approaching this as they would any film or television project. They’re not treating it as some weird video game thing. You can see and hear genuine respect for the material from their performances – even if it seems like it may be capable of going over the top at times.
Ben: I know what you mean. It seems like they have a pretty solid cast. I think Aidan Gillen is a good actor and I like Lance Reddick, who played Phillip Broyles on Fringe and Commander Zavala in Destiny. They even got Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings) for the game, but it seems he’s not actually in the show, just in the game. It makes me wonder if they spent their entire budget on the cast, because most of the sets we saw were pretty barebones.
Kyle: Yeah, some of the sets we saw looked like exactly that – a set or a soundstage, but I wouldn’t say it was to a distracting degree. I know something that is important to them is making sure the show and the game overlap smoothly. It’s probably hard to scout for a location that has already been created in a video game, so they had to build everything rather than find it. They told us a funny story about sending off an incomplete build of an environment for the show makers to recreate. However, Remedy had not finished creating this one lamp in the environment, so it appeared as a white box. When the show makers created the environment they were so thorough that they even built the white box to make sure the game and the show looked as close as possible.
Ben: Exactly Kyle! I also liked how the show ties back into the game. During one scene we saw two of Monarch's agents face off against each other. The action was getting heated, and they both pulled guns on each other then suddenly their guns disappeared. I know you were like, “What! that’s not normal.” But I was like, “Don’t worry, Kyle, I think they’ll explain this.” Then later on, when we were playing the game, we saw this same scene from Jack’s perspective. In the game, you witness a stutter and see how Jack uses it to break out of the back of a van they had him locked in. He discovered the two agents facing off against each other, paused because of the stutter, and he steals their guns. I really wanted him to tie their shoelaces together, but that wasn’t an option.
Kyle: Yeah, it was weird how I insisted on shouting out what I perceived as inaccuracies before they were resolved, but that's just sort of my thing. I should really just wait to see what is going to happen. One thing that irked me a bit, is how much profanity there was. It’s not that I dislike profanity, or find it inappropriate, it just felt like they were really trying to earn that mature tone by dropping as many f-bombs as possible – like a child trying to appear older than they are by using newly discovered bad language. To be fair, the scenes we saw were particularly intense, so I doubt the whole show so freely throws around bad language all the time, but in the isolated scenes we saw, I couldn’t help but notice.
Ben: One thing that surprised me the most about the show was the fact that there are only four episodes. They filmed several alternate versions of different scenes to account for the changes that will happen based on player choice, so even though we as the player only see those four episodes, Lifeboat probably did enough work to account for much more than that. Episode four has over forty variants, which sounds crazy, and I hope those changes actually make a big difference and it’s not just that one character has a black eye or not. I want these to be real important changes, which could be the case. In one of the scenes we saw a character die based on our choice, but in the alternate version of that scene she lives.
Kyle: Overall, I walked away impressed with the show. There is a very apparent level of excitement and respect for the show from both sides – the show creators and game creators. Those initial fears of a modern FMV game definitely fell to the wayside quickly, and I like seeing the overlap, like the one in the scene you referenced where the guns disappear, and we later find out why during gameplay. I'm still unsure of how well the game and show will transition into one another, as we only saw one example, but I am optimistic.
Ben: Agreed, which is why it seems all the more interesting that players will be able to skip past the show if they don’t want to watch it. I’d be interested to see how well Quantum Break’s story plays out if you skip the show entirely.
Kyle: It’s a Remedy game, a studio that has always valued story as much as every other aspect of its games, so you would certainly miss out on a huge element of the experience. I appreciate, however, that the option to focus purely on the gameplay, at the expense of playing through a strange disjointed story with huge gaps, does exist. I know I won’t be playing the game that way, personally, especially after getting a chance to see some of the show.
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