Ethics / Ontology / Video Games

You Don’t Know Jack

This Friday I would like to give my praises to the time-chilling, fast paced video game, Quantum Break. I had been waiting for this game for over a year and a half, and it finally came earlier this April. Quantum Break is an exceptional story of the recent changes affecting protagonist Jack Joyce and those he has close ties with, as all of time unravels, coming to a complete end. Sounds pretty dramatic because it is! As someone who expected creative and fun gameplay due to the time-shifting theme, I was happily surprised to find a great storyline behind this game.

As mentioned above, Jack Joyce is the main playable character for most of Quantum Break. His time-themed abilities are the result of a ‘mishap’ with his close friend, Paul Serene, the antagonist throughout this game. Due to that same mishap, time now has lapses where it breaks, in which everything ceases to move – all except for Joyce and Serene. Since these two are infused with chronons – time travel material that gives them their powers – they are immune to the stutters in time, which allows for some exciting battles and innovative gameplay.

Perhaps, what is the most unique aspect of Quantum Break is the way the story advances. The entire campaign is divided into five acts with a live-action episode at the end of each act, something very few games have done and achieved. As a fan of great storylines more so than gameplay, Quantum Break made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I truly do not want to spoil any part of this game, so I will describe it as vaguely as possible.

Paul Serene seemed like your typical ‘rich villain that tries to save the world, but uses an unacceptable means,’ but he managed to have a really unique edge to him. For most of the game Serene proclaimed to know the events that were going to happen, which is how he was able to build an immensely successful company, Monarch Industries, and prepare for later events. Though he knew what actions the people around him were going to take, did he know the intentions behind each action? Were his prophetic actions successful? Serene’s time-traveling prowess reminded me of Dr. Manhattan. Though both could see their strings, they could not act outside of their destinies themselves. The argument between free-will and determinism is spurred by Serene as he constantly lectures Joyce on his perceived naivety towards his inability to ‘change the future.’ The ethical views of Serene and Joyce also rival each other as one is willing to sacrifice people to save some, while the other believes that they should put forth efforts to save everyone. A distinction often made between characters though this one has a different output.

The half-hour episodes after each act were just as much a treat as the game itself, so skipping will probably fog your understanding of the overlaying story. Trust me, it’s not something you would want to skip anyway. By the end of the game, I was questioning the character of Jack Joyce, Joyce’s interview with Monarch Industries, and what happened to the characters after the last scene.

Particularly since I am a great admirer of stories with time-altering events, this game appealed to me on a quantum level (yeah, I know.) Fans of the comic book hero Flash would certainly adorn the fighting abilities of Jack Joyce. With the ability to halt projectiles and escape enemies’ attention in a matter of seconds, while utilizing any pistol or semi-automatic you find is a temptation worth indulging in. Until that fan-fueled Flash game is finally developed Quantum Break will suffice as my speedy, action thriller.

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