Monday, August 8, 2016

Intelligent loops

I need to amend the statement that Quantum Break defines all of our actions are pre-destined. It is not quite that draconian in that the future can be changed because it hasn't happened yet. The past cannot because that die is already cast, even if that means something from the future went back to affect it.

Does your head hurt yet?

For example, I had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. If I find out later that there is an emergency recall on the product and that I have ingested a fatal dose of rat poison I would like very much to use my time machine to go back and prevent myself from eating the Honey Nut Cheerios in the first place.

But I can't. Because if I do that and am successful that means that I already would not have had that breakfast. If I did have that breakfast, which I did, it means that any future attempts to go back and change that will fail because that past has already happened.

Quantum Break does a very good job sticking to its own logic. The game is peppered with clues that something else is going on that are not explained until the end game when you go back in time and do them yourself. From the past you's point of view nothing ever changes, the present you is just making good on things that already happened.

It is the most logical, effective use of time travel as a plot device that I have seen in a long, long time. No paradoxes, no get out of jail free cards, no having to break the time machine to settle on a time line. There is only one timeline - the present and the past are set, only the future is malleable, but even it has no power over things that have already occurred, not matter when they occurred.

How this manifests itself in the hero's ability to stop time and shoot people in the head is not explained, nor is it important, because it looks really fucking cool.

Now if only the game could have managed to have an ending instead of a silly reveal that points to either DLC that I will never play or a sequel that is years off. Oh, and it needs to look better and either ditch the live action bits or, even better, render them in engine. The story told in the live action cutscenes was well done, it fleshed out non-central characters, making several of them much more relatable, but the jumping back and forth between real life and rendered life was jarring.

For example, Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch was quite intimidating in the flesh:


Rendered, not so much:


Be better, videogames! Be better!

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