Review: Quantum Theory (PS3)

Title: Quantum Theory
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Tecmo
Price: $59.99

It’s no secret that Tecmo’s Quantum Theory has been consistently compared to the highly rated and successful Xbox 360 exclusive – Gears of War.  When I first heard this comparison I thought that this could potentially be a good thing.  You see, unlike many gamers, I’m perfectly comfortable playing “copy-cat” games so long as the game being copied was fun, enjoyable and worthy of a clone in the first place.  Case in point, Dante’s Inferno was excessively compared to God of War and, for the most part, I agree with that.  The problem is, I loved God of War and happily embraced Dante’s Inferno as a God of War-like game with an independent story.  Of course Dante’s Inferno could never fully live up to the hype that the God of War franchise has earned but it was a nice substitute and filled that void when I needed it the most.  Although Quantum Theory, upon initial inspection, envelopes the look and feel of Gears of War it’s unable to do much more beyond that.

You play as Syd, a comically-ripped, roadie-running warrior with a past that never fully gets fleshed out.  All that is really known from the beginning of the game is that he has taken it upon himself to rid the world of the Living Towers that have cropped up and become infected with a substance referred to as diabolsis that is causing all hell to break loose.  Armed to unleash his own version of hell Syd is often accompanied by other military-type warriors that generally don’t make it from one level to the next.  More often than not Syd’s partners have been added into the game to promote future cut scenes that provide for their slow motion demise – which is all they really seem to be good for.

Another AI partner that eventually comes into play and is just as mysterious in origin as Syd, is Filena – a graceful, yet strong woman who effortlessly wields a sword as her primary weapon of choice.  Although few and far between, the ability to combine Syd’s brute force with Filena’s acrobatic attack style is one area that the developers at Tecmo tease the player with but never fully let them realize.  This is due to the constant forced separation the two characters undergo throughout their journey.  It is an unfortunate twist in the game because when paired up Syd is able to throw Filena’s nimble, sword swinging ass at the nearest enemy like an NFL Quarterback All Star.  The result, when not ridiculously blocked by an otherwise insubstantial obstacle, is typically instant death to even the most intimidating of non-boss enemies.  It was also the only time when combat didn’t feel repetitive, unoriginal and boring.

Although the aforementioned combat is both boring and extremely repetitious the game controls that Tecmo has set in place make it just a tad more bearable.  Again, very much inspired by the likes of Gears of War, the cover and shoot mechanics seem to be spot on for the most part.  Practically the only thing not directly reminiscent of Gears of War in this regard is the inability to jump/dive/roll from one cover to another.  Other than that it’s all there and there is cover aplenty to use from beginning to end.  It often comes in handy throughout the game but also feels somewhat overused when considering the insanely predictable and, for the most part, non-threatening AI enemies.

Each battle sequence was fairly common: enter room, get to the next exit and kill all enemies that get in your way.  Rinse and repeat . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.  An annoyance I quickly found with some of  these levels was in the fact that you could not progress to the next area of the Tower until the room has been completely cleared of enemies.  This is neither uncommon nor unwelcome in most cases unless you have to continually look around for the remaining enemies that you didn’t know still existed.  Because of the plethora of cover points and the dumb-down AI you often find yourself peaking around every corner and behind every column looking for those remaining enemies that took it upon themselves to stand there and not engage themselves in the preceding battle.  I’d like to think they were laying in wait, ready to strike, but it became abundantly clear this was not the case.  They were just, well…there; waiting to be disposed of.

Prior to starting Quantum Theory I came off some extremely story-heavy games (Red Dead Redemption and Alan Wake) and realized how important story can be with the success or failure for a new title.  Roughly 6 hours into Quantum Theory my hopes for a story to be told via flashbacks, new characters, campfire tales or the like were all but erased out of existence.  Very little is ever explained as to the nature of the Living Tower, Filena or the diabolis.  But wait, a spark of possibility emerges.  After a mid-game boss battle the player is plunged into the world of Syd before he became a one-man army, to a time when he was a faceless, helmeted soldier.  A glimmer of hope emerges that I’ll finally understand how this all came to be.  Several levels later I ultimately get to the revelation, the meaning to this back story plot.  The joke is on me when I come to realize the big reveal is not in a lengthy explanation divulging how this war came to be but rather how our hero’s forehead became scarred with a prominent X.  That’s pretty much it.  End of back story and back to real time war.  Yay!

Because the gameplay is short of revolutionary and the story is less than epic all that remained was the hope that I would, at the very least, have something pretty to look at.  Just minutes in I realized that Quantum Theory would have been more appropriately released in September of 2005 and not 2010.  To say the images, both in-game and cut scene, were a bit outdated is somewhat of an understatement: edges were jagged, colors were saturated and the facial animations were bland.  Nothing that I saw even came close to what I would have expected from a September 2010 release date.

On occasion some of the cut scenes involved a fair amount of entertainment value but they generally did nothing to further an already non-existent story and often overused the ultra slow-motion deaths of Syd’s dwindling partners.  I will say that the developers at Tecmo put in some extra man hours to graphically illustrate the individual head shots that you’ll experience many, many times throughout the campaign.  These head explosions (literally) start out as impressive but, by the game’s conclusion, come off as almost comical.

Eventually the scenery changes from the drab, apocalyptic world to the more vivid and colorful Living Tower.  As you ascend to elevated levels the life and color increases substantially but it’s still not nearly enough to represent a what-could-have-been scenario.  Had the developers given the same amount of attention and detail to the visuals that they most assuredly given to the polished cover system this game could have been a real stunner in the looks department.

One aspect Team Tecmo did apparently spend some time on was in adding real life to the Living Tower.  Quite often the environment in which Syd traverses shifts and changes forcing him to alter his path and make snap decisions.  The visuals and game mechanics that went into this piece of the story is one of the rare high points and something that really seemed to work.  Unfortunately, like your often separated partner Filena, these highlights go far more often than they come.  But when they do eventually make a repeat appearance they are a welcome addition to an otherwise uneventful backdrop.

Not much can be said of the audio for Quantum Theory.  The various musical scores range from unenthusiastic to outright strange and somewhat inappropriate.  Every now and then everything comes together, as one would expect, and the drama of the scene is accentuated by the accompanying music.

The voice acting, for the most part, was accurate with the facial animation but in all honesty I would have almost rather the characters said nothing at all.  The cut scene dialogue borders on ridiculous and over-dramatization while the in-game banter between Syd and Filena is practically unbearable.

In addition, the repitition of some key phrases will haunt my slumber for many weeks to come.  I eventually lost count of how many time Syd utters the phrase “Mmmm…ammo” every time he replenishes his supply and became nearly numb to his “Die…die…die” mantra.  These overused phrases are just another sign of the shallow depths of this game.

Quantum Theory makes the claim of included Online Multiplayer in the form of Team Battle and Battle Royal.  Unfortunately I am unable to accurately review this portion of the game.  Not for a lack of trying mind you.  Over the lifecycle of playing the single player campaign I made several concerted efforts to sample this online multiplayer.  I was simply never able to find a game that consisted of the bare minimum number of players to start with.  My last attempt (waiting to add four players) clocked in at an astounding 22 minutes…. and it still never happened.  Just a few weeks after its release and the online multi-player is a barren wasteland.  To be honest, after playing the single player campaign, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

This is a bad time of year for the introduction of a new IP based on the shear volume of AAA titles that have already been released or are set to release in the near future.  This is an even worse time of year for the introduction of a new IP that wouldn’t be able to hold its own even during the drought of summer.  Quantum Theory is just such a release.  It lacks in originality and what it attempts to copy from other legendary titles comes off as forced.  Although Quantum Theory does have moments of spark and creativity they don’t stick around long enough to really engage the player.  If you thought this was finally the PlayStation 3’s answer to the Xbox 360’s mighty Gears of War franchise you’ll be sadly disappointed.  The real kicker here is even if you never had said thoughts to begin with, you’ll still be disappointed.


Written by Bill Braun

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