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Video Game / Quantum Break

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The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

Quantum Break is a game developed by Remedy Entertainment, released April 5th, 2016. Opening at Riverport University, Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) helps his buddy Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen) with a demonstration in the labs, only to discover he's built a time machine. Turning it on, Jack's brother Will Joyce appears as it starts to malfunction, warning that they're going to break time. Despite rushing to the controls, Will is too late to stop the machine going haywire, dousing both Jack and Paul in chronon radiation and giving them time travel superpowers. Unable to free Paul from the machine, Jack and Will flee as Monarch Solutions agents open fire on them, forcing Paul to jump into the future.

Escaping into the university, Jack and Will discover that time is randomly stuttering due to a fracture in it, and will only get worse unless Will can fix it. In an attempt to escape, the duo meets the mastermind of Monarch Solutions: it's an older, jaded Paul Serene. Escaping in the first act, Paul explains he jumped too far forwards, finding himself after the end of time. Explaining that events cannot be changed as it just causes it anyway, Paul warns Jack not to interfere with his plans. And then things start getting confusing.

Quantum Break is especially unique in that not only do players control Jack Joyce, but the end of each act has them control villain Paul Serene, using his precognition ability to somewhat predict the future and make certain choices to impact the plot. This is then compounded with "TV drama"-type episodes playing between acts, which show things from the perspective of Serene and secondary characters tied to Monarch. As such, be wary of spoilers for either.

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  • 100% Completion: There's tons of collectables, some of which even impact the TV show or only appear if Serene makes a certain decision (which necessitates a second playthrough to see the outcome and make them appear). Of course, some of these are a total pain: for example, a quantum ripple at the university requires stopping and examining a whiteboard of equations while Will wanders ahead talking. Will soon comes back to see where you are and corrects the error in the equation, but given you're running for your lives and he's telling you to hurry, it means ignoring the Continue Your Mission, Dammit! atmosphere.
  • All There in the Manual: To ludicrous degrees. The collectables can just be picked up and immediately closed, but they provide insight on things from the laws of The 'Verse to secret character motives and plot twists. With that said, it's possible to finish the game without even watching the episodes between acts, but you can expect to be thoroughly confused.
    • A special mention goes towards the incredibly confusing parts of Episode 4 and Act 5, which can be better understood provided you play through the game again and find all the collectables. The ambiguous, unsigned note outside Serene's office, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash in the ending, his ability to keep reappearing despite visibly dying, and his motives to sabotage the Lifeboat all point to Hatch somehow being a shifter that can live in areas with stable time. Of course, see only one or two of those and odds are good you'll fail to piece it together and only find bewilderment.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Jack and Will manage to use the countermeasure to stop the Fracture and Paul is stopped. But did the Joyce brothers actually stop the End of Time from occurring, or did they merely postpone it to the oft-mentioned date of 2021, and is Paul actually dead or has he become a Shifter? Also, is Jack beginning to show symptoms of Chronon Syndrome at the end? And just who or what in the hell is Hatch?.
  • And I Must Scream: The end result of the Chronon Syndrome is turing into a "Shifter": a person who exists in a state of quantum superposition in which they are alive and dead at the same time. According to Hatch and his experience with being a Shifter, it's a hellish experience.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Alternate documents exist in alternate timelines, as vital events are obviously going to impact some things down to the internal emails. However, provided you've completed both timelines and collected the item in at least one of the continuities, then finishing the chapter will unlock the alternate version; in other words, only finding that one email on your second playthrough removes the need to finish the chapter, jump back and make the opposite decision again, then play back through the level to find it again.
  • Anti-Villain: Just about all of the bad guys fit into this, thanks to the live-action TV series, which focuses on them and humanizes them. Paul Serene is the biggest example, of the Well-Intentioned Extremist variety, since he's doing everything he's doing in order to ensure from humanity's survival. The fact that he regrets his villainous actions several times throughout the story also makes him a Tragic Villain. Even Hatch seems to have noble, if ominous, intentions.
  • Apocalypse How: The End of Time is a Class X-4. When time finally does stop, it stops everywhere, in the entire universe.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: The game has significant damage drop off over long range, so much so that at anything past about 100 feet you can empty an entire magazine of assault rifle fire into even a basic Mook and he'll still not die. The game is very much designed for close range gunfights.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted; unarmored mooks die extremely quickly, while Monarch troopers equipped with full body armor can soak several bullets before falling and can even resist at least a couple of headshots from anything except a heavy weapon. The Heavily Armored Mook enemies can soak 2-3 mags of full auto weapons fire, whereas the Final Boss isn't wearing any armor at all and dies after just 2 shots.
  • Arc Number: 01122 pops up a lot if you pay close enough attention to the game's dialogue and collectibles. Nick has a rather hilarious theory that the number is at the heart of Monarch's operations in Riverport by way of a complicated math equation he invents involving the years 1999 and 2010. The thing is he was at least partially right: 01122 is part of the results yielded by the fixed equation that makes the time machine run correctly, and it's also pops up as winning lottery numbers. It's also similar to Riverport's zipcode, according to Nick.
  • Arc Symbol: 9/11 is a recurring element in the backstories of Beth and Paul, both of whom travelled back to 1999 to set the opposing events of the game in motion. Both apparently (and multiple versions of both) attempted to halt the terrorist attack, but failed, proving to them that the future is inevitable and the timeline can't be altered.
  • Asshole Victim: Sofia Amaral. For sabotaging the time machine which led Beth to the End of Time and to the past where she gets killed by Paul, no one sheds a tear for Amaral when Paul murders her under the belief that she has betrayed him to join forces with Jack, should the player chooses to trust Hatch than her.
  • Black Box: Will's "countermeasure" he plans to use to fix time turns out to be Monarch's "Chronon Field Regulator", which they stole years before. All their time tech is based on what little they were able to learn from it without taking it apart, as Serene is fairly sure that they wouldn't be able to put it back together again. Will specifically says that they've repurposed it to act as a "Chronon Field Regulator".
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Beth Wilder is killed.
  • Brand X: Averted. Paul's "timeline" whiteboards show him strategically investing in real companies like Apple, Twitter, and Facebook at their cheapest stock prices, as well as dumping them just before major scandals.
  • Calling Your Attacks: "Shotgunner advancing on target!"
  • Came Back Wrong: Invoked verbatim in a story trailer, as getting hit by the Timey-Wimey Ball can change you in various ways. Jack and Paul's powers are nearly identical, except for the fact that Paul has degenerated further through the "Chronon Syndrome" that causes the powers, and this developed new abilities like those of Seers.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Subverted. Jack setting up the time machine in the opening allows him to start up Will's first time machine, but it turns out to be broken and he doesn't know how to fix it.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Blue tinge is stuttered time and the color of Jack's time powers; orange tinge is used to mark objects that can be interacted with; and red tinge marks obstacles and hazards.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Nick Masters is this to Amy Ferraro's Deadpan Snarker.
  • Color Wash: The game uses a blue-tinged color palette similar to Fringe.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Jack and other characters will voice what you need to do if you don't make progress in a few minutes. Which gets irritating as hell since they'll keep barking it while you try to read through the lengthy collectables or figure out a way to the optional upgrade collectables.
  • Create Your Own Villain: In her diary the future version of Beth reflects that her constant attempts to assassinate the young Paul Serene at the End of Time likely helped shaped him into the ruthless killer he is in the present day.
  • Creepy Child:
    Woman: What is it that makes you so different?
    Girl: Are you sure you wanna know?
    Woman: Pretty sure.
    Girl touches the woman and gives her a vision of a cargo ship crashing into a bridge
  • Deadpan Snarker: Amy Ferraro is this to Nick Masters' Cloud Cuckoolander.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Beth gets hit with this hard after being sent to the End of Time by Dr. Amaral. Seeing proof that the End of Time was coming, and with it the certainty that it couldn't be stopped and everything she's been training for since her childhood was in vain makes her extremely jaded and hardened when Jack finds her in 2010.
  • Didn't See That Coming: When Hatch blows up Dr. Kim's lab, he doesn't expect there to be a survivor who can testify against him to Serene..
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: One of Amaral's emails regards Paul's decay in physical and mental health. It tells that Paul confided a dream where he and Jack kept passing through the same door he chose only to exit at the same spot, until he and then Jack end up burning up in agony, with Jack demanding to know why he made this door the only choice. Provided you finish all timelines, it appears to be foreshadowing: the singular door is Paul picking a specific timeline yet being stuck on fate's rails as he can't stop key events, the arguing is his being unable to make Jack co-operative and happy as he will never understand time is fixed, and the travelling through burning them is Paul, and then later Jack, contracting Chronon Syndrome from their time-travel exploits.
  • Dying Town: Riverport, which is stated in-game to be an Expy of Detroit, has been suffering this for generations since the destruction of its ship building industry. Monarch Solutions managed to revitalize the town's economy somewhat by setting up their headquarters and numerous operations in the city.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Alan Wake is by far the most prevalent. Things like copies of "The Sudden Stop" (Wake's last Alex Casey book) lying everywhere, to the video teaser in the protester tent (with narration from the man himself), to Past!Will wearing a Night Springs shirt, the posters for Stonecrow, the Old Gods of Asgard tribute band (which includes Bright Falls on the tour list), to the Night Springs auditions gag in Act Four.
    • Max Payne and Sam Lake also get referenced a bunch through the constipated scowl — Lake is seen doing the scowl in the Alan Wake protester video for the mugshot photo, and examining the old poster of Jack's highschool band shows one of the band members is Lake scowling in a wig.
    • Control: a side area on the upper floor where you face the first Juggeraught has a side area where Monarch is experimenting with a device that lets time pass normally during a time stutter, the room has a table of synchronised ball clickers, much like the Synchronity Lab in the Oldest House.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Shifters, people affected by the final stage of Chronon Syndrome, are people who had their personal timelines all collapse and merge into one. Being at the same time alive and dead, they only truly "exist" in a "zero-state" (timeless) environment and violently attack anything that is chronon-powered since the presence of a chronon-powered being makes them very uncomfortable. And they look like permanently changing disformed humanoid beings if Dr Kim's file and appearance is to be believed.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • The End of Time, and by extent every time the world collapses into a stutter. The laws of physics as we understand them are simply a joke in these situations, especially since chronon-powered characters like Jack can manipulate objects while time is stopped.
    • Ground Zero. The location of Will's first time travel experiments or, to be more precise, the original activation location of the CFR, time is constantly shifting and jumping around. There's a massive security perimeter around it to keep people out, but only a few seconds after Jack enters the most dangerous zone in the area, time jumps back several years and the perimeter vanishes. Spontaneous time travel can happen there at any time, without warning; Jack witnesses himself climbing over a fence a few seconds in the future, then when he climbs the fence and looks back, he sees his past self watching. When he finally enters the building where the time machine was built, it's like watch life run at fast-forward, with objects and people jumping around as they change position in spacetime. All the while, days pass in seconds and the building slips back and forth between various states of decay.
  • Elite Mook: Strikers, the troopers who are able to move during stutters. Thanks to their chronon gear, some of Jack's time powers have no effect on them, and they can use Time Dash just like he can. Juggernauts are even stronger; they lack Time Dash, but they carry grenade launchers and are so heavily armored on the front that you need to get around them and shoot their chronon packs.
  • Emergency Weapon: Played with. Your default pistol always has infinite ammo, but it's not only a competent weapon in its own right, but you can also switch it out for other, potentially more powerful pistols, which also have infinite ammo. The Heavy Pistol is a Punch-Packing Pistol that is a one-hit kill on most enemies, while the Burst-Fire Pistol fires in three-round bursts (and has a larger magazine to accommodate this).
  • Establishing Character Moment:
  • Exploding Barrels: Explosive barrels and gas tanks are seen in the gunfights. There's also chronon canisters, which require you to stack bullets to blow them up, but once they do explode, freeze time for several seconds.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Played with; some of the important events in the game happen as much as seventeen years ago, but from Jack's perspective, everything happens across 26 hours.
  • False Flag Operation: In the timeline wherein Hatch gives a speech at the Gala, an apparent assassin shoots at him, narrowly missing. Jack can see said the shooter being given orders to make it look like a botched assassination. Am e-mail from Hatch to Ogawa proves that he'd planned it as part of his plan to force Paul Serene into becoming a Shifter so Hatch could take over Monarch.
  • For Want of a Nail: By finding and triggering "quantum ripples", Jack can trigger chain reactions that have interesting, if non-story related, consequences that can be examined in the quantum ripple reports. For instance, turning off the power at a construction site causes one of the workers to quit in frustration and start a career as a politician.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the beginning of the game, you can look into the room beneath the statue in the university plaza and see the chronon dampener Jack disables in Act 5.
    • Beth loves 80's music like Toto. So much so it's her nickname, which is the signature on all the graffiti that shows key timeline events.
    • During the opening, when Jack brings up the possibility of a paradox by having Paul not enter the time machine to go to the past after his future self has already emerged, Paul claims that time is a loop; his not entering is impossible, as he's already entered. Time travel being a Stable Time Loop is the cause of much of the conflict in later parts of the game and drives Beth over the Despair Event Horizon in act 4.
    • While rooting around Will's belongings in Bradbury Pool Hall, you can find a group of targets tucked away under a staircase, which would seem odd for Will to be using. They're not his targets. They're Future!Beth's, and when Jack goes back to 2010, he finds her shooting at them.
    • Liam is mentioned at one point to have dropped out of the Striker program due to being found psychologically unstable (well, it certainly wasn't for lack of capability) — in other words, he has some experience with the equipment. In a possible timeline, Serene tasks him with guarding the CFR from you, and you end up fighting him in full Striker gear.
    • Monarch radio chatter in the opening briefly mentions gunfire in a parking garage. It's Jack, traveling back to the past to rescue Will.
    • In Act 4, Jack can review a Monarch timeline, which Beth says is required reading for employees. July 4, 2010 is flagged as the end of Phase 1 and beginning of Phase 2 of their plan which is the day they steal the CFR from Will.
  • Future Me Scares Me: In Act 4 after seeing the future-telling graffiti bears her nickname "Toto", Beth reveals that when she was a girl, a woman she believes to be an angel appeared and gave her a notebook that predicted the future, the notes within being a constant source of distress when she had to watch them all occur. Reaching 2010 and reading Future!Beth's diary not only reveals she was incredibly anxious actually giving herself the diary, but the graffiti was merely a means of relieving stress, allowing her to express feelings about future events she couldn't talk to anyone about.
  • Glass Cannon: As mentioned elsewhere, the Final Boss goes down with only two hits. But his shockwave attack will kill you instantly, and it takes very precise timing to avoid.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Martin Hatch, who has mastered his time manipulation abilities to such an extent that he can go anywhere, in anytime, in any timeline. His motives are extremely vague, and possibly incomprehensible, but it has something to do with ensuring the End of Time and evolving humanity beyond its current limitations.
    "This world is ending! But one world's end is merely another's beginning. My world will bring renewal. My world will see balance!"
  • Hammerspace: Jack's default pistol easily fits into his jacket, but rifles and shotguns seem to be pretty much pulled out of thin air.
  • Happy Ending Override: Heavily implied (and confirm in Control) for American Nightmare by a television at the university indicating that Alan Wake is still trapped in the Dark Place after five years.
  • Heavily Armored Mook:
    • Heavy Shotgunners, Heavy Machinegunners, and Chronon Dampener Troopers are a pretty classic example; they wear heavy armor and can soak a couple of magazines of assault rifle fire, but their armor slows their movements down to a slow walk. They're best taken out with a combination of time powers and headshots from heavy weapons.
    • Juggernauts, wearing a suit of high-tech power armor, fight with grenade launchers and can only be damaged by throwing objects at them or shooting their exposed backs.
  • Hero of Another Story: The live-action TV series focuses on Liam Burke and his Heel–Face Turn. He even gets a Boss Fight with Hatch, who is otherwise unfought by Jack.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: As Paul Serene, you can choose to launch a Monarch PR campaign that turns the city against Jack, or simply go Hardline and murder all witnesses under the guise of a freak accident (but damage Monarch's reputation).
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Hatch. See below..
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Shifters, who are humans stuck in a state of quantum superposition in which they exist and don't exist at the same time (much like Schrödinger's Cat) and can only exist in a zero state (or timeless) environment.
    • There's also Martin Hatch, who is evidently a lot more than he at first seems. From what little we know of the guy, he encountered a "natural time machine" in a cave and became a Shifter, and then eventually evolved into something more. He's apparently able to travel anywhere and anytime, and manipulated his way into Monarch for the purpose of somehow preparing humanity for it's evolution into an existence beyond the constraints of time.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Everyone, since the game is made with a complimentary live-action TV show in mind. Therefore, the actors in the TV show need to be rendered as they appear in Real Life in-game. One notable exception is Charlie Wincott, who appears in gameplay only in a body bag or one of Monarch's generic "beekeeper" stutterproof suits, presumably to save having to model him for the one scene.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Future!Paul and Future!Beth. If seeing the Eldritch Location that is the end of time wasn't enough, travelling to the past meant sitting through things like 9/11 again, totally unable to stop it occurring as the past is fixed, before drawing the conclusion that the end of time is just as certain. If anything, you can hardly be surprised.
  • Jitter Cam: The live-action segments are fond of this, especially during action sequences.
  • King Mook: When Jack fights Liam Burke towards the end of the game in the Control timeline, he's basically a regular Striker with more health and a chronon dampener that disables your superpowers for the duration of the fight. He also doesn't seem to take extra damage from headshots, to prevent you from ending the "boss fight" too fast.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Monarch personnel wearing chronon harnesses (including Strikers, Juggernauts, chronon dampener-equipped Heavies, and the regular soldiers wearing orange hazmat suits) can move during stutters and also break out from your time-stop abilities. All your other powers work fine against them, though the Juggernauts are heavily armored enough to resist chronon explosions.
  • MacGuffin: The countermeasure, or the Chronon Field Regulator (CFR for short) as Monarch calls it. It's a device built by Will to fix the Fracture which is why the heroes want it, but Monarch wants it for other reasons, since they believe the End of Time can't be stopped, and they need it to power the Lifeboat.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Serene and Monarch arrive in 2010 just after Jack and Beth discover it in Will's safe, taking it from them.
  • Meaningful Name: Paul Serene's corporation, Monarch Solutions, is named after the Monarch butterfly, and this brings to mind the butterfly effect. "Monarch", according to the OED, also means "A sovereign head of state, especially a king, queen, or emperor," or in essence, someone with immense power. A fitting name for someone who controls time itself for his own gain. Paul's radio callsign is even "Monarch Actual"note .
    • Even if it is not as obvious as before, Jack Joyce continues the trend of Remedy Entertainment's protagonists having a meaningful surname. In this case, Joyce rhymes with "choice", something which you will have to do at regular intervals in the game. A Jack is also a type of playing card, just like a king. Further, Jack is once mistakenly referred to as James Joyce, the author of Finnegan's Wake. In that novel, the final sentence loops around to the first sentence, creating a loop.
    • Serene is quite, well, serene about the impending catastrophe, Jack's interference, and his own condition, thanks to his visions.
    • Martin Hatch is hatching some sort of plan to sabotage Paul's plans and evolve humanity to his state of being. He also refers to himself as a "hatch" in his note (as in a gateway between two different states of evolution.
    • Beth Wilder is actually a spy. In other words, she's not under the Monarch's control. Wild, you might say. Fitting that the name "Elizabeth" itself has royal connotations.
    • Liam Burke's surname means "fortified manor". Fitting for a guy heavily motivated by love of his wife, who we only see at his home. His name is also another version of William, and Will Joyce is similarly willing to go to extreme measures to protect people.
  • Medium Blending: In between each level of the game, there's a live-action segment laid out like an episode of a TV show that tells the story of Liam Burke and his interactions with Monarch. Will's video diaries are also done in live action.
  • Mega-Corp: Monarch Solutions is big enough to have a small army of heavy armed soldiers and military vehicles, though they subvert normal depictions of this trope by actually being well-intentioned rather than just greedy.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: All enemies the player kills in the game are male. This also makes Beth the only (onscreen) female security guard in the game, which adheres to The Smurfette Principle (though she's far from the only meaningful female character in the game itself).
  • Mind Screw: Naturally this comes with any complicated enough time travel story, but Quantum Break is nonetheless more involved than a lot of time travel fiction, and the unexplained/ambiguous nature of many things in the game will through you for a loop.
  • Multiple Endings: Inverted — the final ending remains solid (which is compounded by universe rules) but the path there means there's effectively two whole storylines of potential through Serene's choices.

  • Narrative Filigree: The documents clear up hidden motivations, fill in readers on the universe's laws and time travel restrictions, the real-life physics and up-to-date quantum theories about time travel, and even hide a few twists and key foreshadowing bits. Of course, you can just ignore them or pick them up and immediately close them if you're in it for 100% Completion.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Most of the game takes place in October 2016, a few months after the game's release date.
  • Noodle Incident: Jack and Paul's trip to Utah is frequently brought up to establish Jack's reckless behavior. All we know is it involved a ram statuette, a van, "slightly illegal" behavior, and eventually a lawsuit against Monarch by the state of Utah.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Jack fights Monarch mooks in 2010, they wildly freak out at his time travel powers as they have never encountered anything like it. By 2016, they are trained to handle it so their reactions are much more businesslike.
  • Personality Powers / Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Paul Serene believes that "time is a closed loop" because he can see the future. Jack Joyce says Screw Destiny because he's a Time Master.
    • Ironically, Paul has an incredible amount of power over the future, actively shaping the plot with his prophecy-guided decisions. Though Jack's powers make him an unstoppable badass, all he can do is Follow the Plotted Line. For example, after the Time Crash begins, Paul can choose to either spin the incident with a PR campaign that will subject Jack to The Lopsided Arm of the Law, but permit him to learn Monarch's secrets from living witnesses, or kill all the witnesses to protect his secrets, which will keep Jack in the dark at the cost of the entire city violently rising up against Monarch.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The civilian ally you rescue from Monarch at the beginning of act 2 acts as this, albeit in different ways: Nick, in the Hardline timeline, is a Cloud Cuckoolander, where Amy is a Deadpan Snarker. Also, Dr. Morpin and Dr. Ranger in the quantum ripple reports, who act as Those Two Guys.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When Beth puts on Toto's "Africa", Amy doesn't recognize the band. Nick, on the other hand, mentions he loves the song.
  • Production Foreshadowing:
    • Possibly - one Chronon Source is right in front of a large piece of graffiti reading "AWE", for Altered World Event - which this definitely would count as, assuming these take place in the same timeline.
    • The Alan Wake commercial, titled Return, is about a pair of FBI agents searching for Alan Wake and encountering his doppelganger, Mr. Scratch. One of the agents is named Alex Casey, the same name as the protagonist of the book series Wake wrote, and is voiced by James McCaffrey. This foreshadows the plot of Alan Wake II, with another FBI agent with the same name and voice actor.
  • Product Placement: The game is exclusive to the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows platforms, and was published by Microsoft Studios. Unsurprisingly, all of the characters in the game use branded Windows Phones (presumably standard issued by Monarch) and computers that visibly run on the Windows 10 operating system. Depending on what choice you make at the final junction, you can see that Paul's personal computer is a Surface.
    • Nissan also pops up a lot in various ads seen around Riverport, and all of the Monarch company cars as well as Liam Burke's personal Z350 are Nissan as well.
  • Rewatch Bonus: This being a game about time travel, there's a lot of little, not-plot-important details about who did what when that go unexplained in the first playthrough but make perfect sense in the second. Ditto for the choices too, as playing back through and deliberately going for Paul's other choice impacts the TV show significantly and lets you find alternate versions of documents.
  • Running Gag: Will's egg metaphors. He uses them in the university opening, but viewing his documents and presentations around his lab use it frequently to explain things in layman terms to no avail. Jack once tries using it when talking to his companion... and gets as confused a response as he himself had.
  • Sequel Hook: The Fracture has been healed in 2016, but there are hints that the true End of Time will still occur in 2021, Martin Hatch is in full control of Monarch Solutions, and Jack's Chronon Syndrome has progressed to the point where he is starting to see visions of possible futures like Paul did. Also, despite all the evidence that You Can't Fight Fate, Jack remains determined to find a way to save Beth Wilder.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Jack's trip back to 2010 is ultimately this. Though Beth gave her journal to her younger self as per the Stable Time Loop, all that is accomplished after Jack's inclusion in the time period is Paul stealing the CFR for himself (proving that he had it the entire time), and Beth being shot dead.
  • Sigil Spam: Monarch has some very aggressive branding. Including the game's save icon.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Although technically not shotguns, the carbine and the light machine gun are classified as such in-game for balance purposes, and the former proves to be a very useful weapon in later battles, packing a powerful punch and fairly decent range without the muzzle climb of the assault rifle.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The achievements for clearing each difficulty on Easy, Normal and Hard respectively are Time Bandit, Time Cop and Time Lord.
    • There's an in-game commercial for a TV show based on Alan Wake. A book written by Alan Wake can also be found in the game. Confusingly, Alan Wake also appears to exist as a Show Within a Show, since numerous characters can be found either playing or referencing playing the game, like the Monarch employee who's singing along to "Children of the Elder God" while playing on her work station.
    • Upon viewing Jack's powers for himself, Nick asks if he's an X-Man, which doubles as an Actor Allusion for Shawn Ashmore.
    • While infiltrating the Monarch mansion on Gull Island, Jack jokingly asks Beth if he's walking into a Bond villain lair, to which she replies that he better not fall in the shark tank.
    • The scientists responsible for filling out Monarch's quantum ripple reports are named Dr. Ron Morpin and Dr. Terri Ranger.
    • Like the title character of Captain Blood: His Odyssey, Paul is a man of science with a New Testament first name who's taken out of his normal life by happenstance and forced to claw his way to the top of a new field using his wits and abilities. If Paul's accent is any indication, he may even be Irish, just like Blood.
    • One of the notes on the timeline boards in Paul's office in Act V takes two lines from William Blake's "The Tyger."
  • Show Within a Show: Alan Wake exists as a game In-Universe... and apparently as an actual author. If you believe in the game's evidence for alternate timelines/universes, this could explain it.
  • Stable Time Loop:
    • The nature of time travel in the game runs on this. You can travel to the past but you can't change anything that's already come to past, and any attempt to do so would result in that event. This is why Serene is planning to survive the End of Time rather than stop it, because he believes everything to be inevitable. Though the game implies that through infection with chronon particles a person can "evolve" enough to be able to change things, or at least access alternate timelines/universes.
    • The entire reason Beth and Jack make a plot around the CFR is because Will's notes mention it mysteriously disappeared around a certain date and they're in a universe full of time machines. Additionally, the entire reason Beth is where she is comes down to her older self giving her a notebook on future events, leading her to the life she leads and allowing her to travel back and give the notebook to herself.
    • Paul notes that this is the reason he invented stutter equipment in the first place: Beth was wearing one of the devices his company would later invent when they met in the end of time, thus inspiring him to invent it in the first place.
  • Stationary Boss: The final fight plays out like this. Instead of fighting you directly with his own time powers (which, granted, didn't work out so well for the few dozen Strikers who tried to do that), Serene just hovers in one spot with a time shield active and sends his mooks to fight you. After each wave of mooks he sends out a huge chronon explosion to try and kill you, but this also drops his shield and leaves him vulnerable to being shot. And since he's not wearing armor, it only takes a few bullets to kill him.
  • Superhero: While not exactly advertised as such, writer and creator Sam Lake does note that Jack's control of time essentially makes him a modern-day superhero and thinks of this game as being an origins story for him.
  • Superhero Packing Heat: Jack uses plenty of guns in addition to his time powers, with both given roughly equal prominence.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: The Final Boss battle. During the waves of Monarch troops, Paul remains inside of a Time Shield that Jack cannot hit him inside of. As the last troop in each wave falls, Paul lets loose his anti-temporal wave attack, knocking out his shields in an attempt to kill Jack himself. While this could be explained the first time as him thinking it would work, he tries it again after the first just got him shot, which results in his death. Although it's completely justified, as those appear to be all the men in the building, and he cannot radio for reinforcements during a stutter, and taking on Jack with a gun is even more suicidal. And if he stands there behind his shield doing nothing, Jack and Will can just leave with the CFR!
  • Take Cover!: Played with. Jack automatically takes cover behind most objects, but enemies are very aggressive and take full advantage of their numbers, flanking him at every opportunity and forcing you to stay mobile (e.g. spamming cover locations with grenades). Trying to play the game like a typical cover shooter is an easy way to die quickly.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Will and Jack manage to close the Fracture... But Martin Hatch managed to pin all blame for the incident on Paul Serene and become a Karma Houdini. Worse, Jack shows access to Paul's "junctions" in the final moments, indicating that his Chronon Syndrome, like that of Paul, is getting worse.
  • Those Two Guys: Dr. Ron Morphin and Dr. Terri Ranger, better known by the initials "RM" and "TR", who are responsible for filling out the quantum ripple reports that can be accessed by collecting certain items in the game.
  • Time Crash: The failure of the time machine in the opening causes a fracture in time that leads to the flow of time getting interrupted and, eventually, stopping: the End of Time. As the End approaches, different timelines start intersecting, beginning with a moment where a cargo ship accidentally plows through a major traffic bridge; it was in a timeline where the bridge was up before it switched to one where the bridge was down.
  • Time Is Dangerous: Chronon particles are very useful for creating time manipulation including a Stable Time Loop Time Machine, but are also the cause of Chronon Syndrome through repeated or intensive exposure to the radiation they generate. The syndrome's symptoms include Sanity Slippage, physical pain and the end result is the afflicted individual being subjected to an And I Must Scream fate before becoming a shifter. The shifters can only act in frozen time and, if they ''can act in normal time like Martin Hatch, are in constant agony in that situation.
  • Time Master: Jack's power, shared by Paul. It manifests itself in the form of five different abilities:
    • Time Dodge freezes time to evade attacks.
    • Time Rush permits Jack attack enemies while time is frozen.
    • Time Stop freezes individual enemies in time. They can then be shot repeatedly and every bullet will strike simultaneously; this is described as "stacking".
    • Time Shield creates areas of frozen time, which enemies and bullets cannot pass.
    • Time Blast speeds time up at a distance, causing rapid entropic decay AKA an explosion.
  • Toxic Phlebotinum: Chronon particles are very useful for creating time manipulation technology but are also the cause of Chronon Syndrome through repeated or intensive exposure to the radiation they generate. The syndrome's symptoms include Sanity Slippage, physical pain and the end result is the afflicted individual being subjected to an And I Must Scream fate before becoming a Humanoid Abomination shifter.
  • Tricked Out Time: Jack saves Will from his death in the opening by going back to that time and pulling him away before the collapsing library can crush him. Jack tries to use this as evidence that you can change things, but Will points out that, from Past!Jack's point of view, it still looks like Will died, and so Jack hasn't really changed anything; though he is grateful nonetheless, as he would have died without Jack's intervention - an uncertain event can be "changed". Will expands on this, saying that as neither of them has personally observed the End of Time, they have a chance to stop it - one chance.
    Will: Everything you have done to get to this point was necessary. The past... is set.
    Jack: ...But the future isn't.
  • The Unfought: There's lots of build up to a potential battle with the Shifters — the grotesque Humanoid Abomination end result of Chronon Syndrome — but unfortunately it never comes. The closest we get is a cutscene where Jack encounters Martin Hatch in his Shifter form.
  • Unique Enemy: There are only about 5 chronon dampener-equipped Heavies and 4 Juggernauts fought throughout the entire game.
  • Very High Velocity Rounds: Bullets travel at normal speeds in stutters. However, if you freeze something in normal time and try to shoot it, the bullets will stop the moment they enter the time-stopped region. Once time starts back up again, they'll resume their original speeds. The game actually points this out, calls the technique "stacking", and recommends you do it to increase your damage. Jack eventually discovers that all this occurs because Monarch has designed special guns for use in stutters - working on similar principles to the Striker suits - and he never uses a gun that wasn't taken from a Monarch soldier.
    Jack: Even when time stops, guns don't.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Paul Serene, and by extension, all of Monarch Solutions. They're just looking for a solution to the Fracture and a way to stop the End of Time.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Paul used to be best friends with Jack until the time travel experiment went awry. Jack is bewildered that the man he was jovially snarking with just minutes before is cold-blooded and vicious enough to kill his brother right in front of him. Of course, to Paul, years passed in that time, a decade of them in the past.
  • World of Snark: Downplayed. There are only one or two full-blown Deadpan Snarkers, but pretty much every character gets at least one snarky comment in at some point.
  • You Already Changed the Past: A central theme, as Paul has found that key events cannot be undone, as any attempts otherwise just guarantee it'll happen. This is compounded by Future!Beth, who has also seen the end of time and believes it can't be stopped.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Martin Hatch is implied to be some sort of highly evolved human (maybe) whose nature and motives are so beyond normal human understanding that he doesn't really waste time explaining them.