Quantum Break is a third-person action game that incorporates cover shooter gameplay. The game’s protagonist is Jack Joyce, and it begins in the middle of the action at the fictitious Riverport University in the Northeastern United States. He’s there with his talented brother William Joyce, a physics expert at the university. They are experimenting with time travel, and it is immediately revealed that the experiments have gone wrong at the outset of the game. They also create stuttering, which disrupts time flow in ordinary situations. While soldiers arrive to cover up the disaster, Jack and his brother must flee the complex. His brother is kidnapped, and Jack sets out to find a method to bring him back with the help of a woman named Beth Wilder, whom he meets early on. Jack and Paul Serene, who are introduced later, both get different time-manipulation skills through the tests. They are initially best friends, but their powers cause them to diverge. Paul, unlike Jack, possesses precognition and can see into the future. He wants to get rid of Jack and Beth to be the only one who can use the powers.

The game is divided into five big acts in which the player controls the protagonist, Joyce. Between the five acts, the game follows antagonist Serene in four episodes. These are presented as four episodes of a live-action TV series, each lasting around 20 minutes. They are viewed rather than played, yet there are interactive elements. There are “junction points” at the beginning of each episode where critical decisions can be taken that affect subsequent events, resulting in a branching tale. Similarly, certain discoveries and choices in the acts alter the story via ‘quantum ripples,’ so the TV programs are not a fixed order for every player.

Joyce must fire his way through levels in the acts. The resistance is primarily made up of soldiers that work for Serene’s company, Monarch Solutions, and hunt down Joyce on his behalf. He can carry up to three different firearms, including pistols, shotguns, and machine guns, each with its own sort of ammo. However, ammunition is limited. Thus players are encouraged to employ the multiple time-manipulation powers or fire explosive objects in the environment to dispatch adversaries quickly. Weapons can also be obtained from dead foes. When near a cover choice, seeking cover is accomplished with a simple movement, and exiting cover is accomplished in the same manner, without using an additional key or button. It is possible to shoot around or above cover and pop out swiftly.

Different time-centric talents progressively become available. These emphasize defense and mobility rather than transforming the primary character into a superhero who is no longer vulnerable. Later in the game, adversaries with time powers or significantly more difficult to defeat, such as snipers, arise. Joyce begins by using Time Dodge to move swiftly for a few meters. Others include Time Vision, which acts as a radar pulse to detect opponents through walls, highlight items in various colors, keep track of objectives, locate luminous chronon sources, and locate locations where time can be rewound. Time Stop puts forth a wave that temporarily stops adversaries and bullets trapped in it. At the same time, Time Shield produces a temporary shield around Joyce that stops bullets and damages nearby enemies. Offensively, Time Blast and Time Rush are used. Blast fires an energy ball that hurts and throws foes while Rush pulls Joyce forward swiftly, acting as an enhanced form of Time Dodge and allowing for a melee attack. Except for Shield, all of these can be used while moving, and they each have their own recharge times; thus many of them can be used in sequence as a movement and attack combo. The abilities can be improved by gathering chronon particles from chronon sources.

Not every aspect of the game revolves around shooting. Other time stutters serve as puzzle sequences. These scenes are reminiscent of mazes in which everything is frozen in time. During this, abilities can be used to restore portions of the environments to their original state and establish a path to progress, similar to how environmental puzzles are solved. There are also various valuables to find in the acts, like documents, laptops, and media, which add to the story.