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Quantum Theory

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: March 2010

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS3/X360 Review - 'Quantum Theory'

by Brian Dumlao on Oct. 15, 2010 @ 5:18 a.m. PDT

In Tecmo's third-person shooter players take on the role of the massive, gun-wielding warrior Syd and battle through intense action sequences in an unpredictable, shape-shifting battlefield. In addition to single player campaign, Quantum Theory also supports four modes of online multiplayer, complete with voice chat for real-time communication.

When Quantum Theory was initially announced in 2008, it wasn't exactly met with much fanfare. Some called it a feeble attempt at copying Gears of War while others wondered if Tecmo could create a similar style shooter, especially since they're known for developing games in other genres. Despite the lack of support from the gaming public, Tecmo pressed on with its vision and made it a multiplatform title to boot. As many had predicted, Quantum Theory copies a majority of things from Epic Games' famous third-person shooter. A game can't be judged on how well it cribbed from other games but must stand on its own merits. Unfortunately, there's rarely anything excellent about the title in question.

The game is set in the late 24th century, where mankind finds itself on the brink of extinction. A great war occurred centuries ago, and the remaining humans banded together to form colonies. As time passed, towers began to grow in a few abandoned cities while people looked on and wondered what to make of them. They soon realized that the towers brought about a bad omen, as a black substance came forth from the structures and caused nearby humans to turn against each other. You play the role of Syd, a wandering mercenary with no known past and only one purpose: destroy as many towers as possible.

There are pacing and substance issues with the story. The plot moves along very slowly, and it feels like a chore to reach the tower and finally get inside. Finding Felina, your sidekick for the rest of the journey, doesn't prove to be exciting, either, as both of you simply tell each other when there's one enemy left in the room before moving on. The pace begins to pick up toward the end, but the momentum is killed by a flashback sequence and barely seems to recover after that.

As for substance, you don't learn much of value aside from the fact that the towers are a source of evil. The prologue chapter spoils the big reveal about Felina's background, and you learn that the Nosferatu are the guardians of the tower, but beyond that, things simply occur and appear with no explanation. Do the journal entries, which are shown during each loading screen, serve as clues about who is responsible for the towers? If so, why did he create them in the first place? Where did the evil come from, and why was it named Thanatos? How did Syd break away from the bonds of the tower, and why does he put a coin on the body of the last militia member who died inside the tower? There are plenty of questions without answers, and you get the feeling that the developers put in plenty of actions and characters to deceive the player into thinking that there is a deep story where none exists. That feeling is justified by the end of the game when they try to shoehorn all of the background information in a fight, though that tactic is futile since the battle is too noisy for you to hear any dialogue.

As far as gameplay are concerned, the comparisons to Gears of War are justified. The camera presents you in third-person, with the camera focused over the shoulder. You can carry up to three guns simultaneously, and you have a regenerative health system. You have a run where the camera goes low to the ground. You can't jump, but you can take cover behind objects, vault over low objects, and do rolling dodges in every direction. Aside from an active reload system, grenades and a chainsaw weapon, if you know how Gears of War functions, you'll know how Quantum Theory functions.

The game has added a few items to the formula, though only two of them are welcome ones. The first is an attack where Syd throws Felina into an enemy, slicing the victim in the process. The move seems rather silly at first, but because you can take down bosses with it, you end up missing it when Syd and Felina are split up. The guns are more varied than you'd expect. You still have your standard machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns, but you also have lasers that bounce around the environment, napalm-like explosives, and particle converters that emulsify the enemy. The other major addition is some light platforming. There are a few times when you will be asked to transition from one platform to another, possibly due to large gaps in the floor. This wouldn't be a problem if Syd were athletic enough to perform a real jump, but he leaps forward into a roll just like his evasive maneuvers, so it's difficult to judge how close you need to be to the ledge to perform a successful jump. The many deaths resulting from misplaced jumps makes you feel that the mechanic should have been tweaked more or that platforming should have been left out of the game altogether.

The platforming elements are just one of the big gameplay problems plaguing Quantum Theory. One of the other issues is how far back the developers seem to have regressed in game design. Creating invisible walls to prevent players from going into unauthorized areas is something developers still do today, but in most cases, they make those areas look like they would be inaccessible anyway with the presence of debris or locked doors. There are quite a few rooms where doorways are wide open, but the player stops moving forward at the entrance. The practice of having enemies spawn behind the player is also back; on several occasions after clearing a room, new enemy waves spawn right behind the player, sapping away health in the process. Finally, there's the issue of boss fights, which never feel satisfying — with the exception of the final boss fight. You pump in bullet after bullet into a boss until you get to a cut scene that shows the enemy's demise or escape. There's no meter to show how close you are to killing the enemy, and there's no sign that the enemy is weakening. As a result, the fights feel shallow, and it makes you look forward to regular battles instead of these big encounters.

The multiplayer community is quite small, and while the overall experience isn't perfect, there is some fun to be had. The game features four different multiplayer modes. Oddly enough, only deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, named Executioner and Dead or Alive, respectively, are ranked. The customizable modes, Controlled Chaos and Guardian, where you must protect the female VIP of your team, remain unranked. Like other recent multiplayer games, ranked mode gives you the ability to bring your character up the ranks. While the ranks don't give you access to anything as you progress, it seems to follow an odd system where deaths can negate any points earned in kills, making it a very frustrating system for newcomers if they aren't very good yet.

Quantum Theory also makes a few peculiar decisions with multiplayer, particularly when it comes to characters. Male characters have several advantages in the game, including the ability to pick up weapons in the field that are unavailable in the pre-match layout and the ability to climb certain structures in levels. Female characters only get a speed advantage when running and a longer reach with their melee attack, but every weapon they pick up in the field only serves as ammo replenishment, and their weaponry is noticeably weaker than the men's armaments.

To further add to the frustration, only five levels are available for multiplayer play, so you could very well see every level in less than an hour. The levels are quite large, and one in particular is a nice, vertically themed level, but those who crave more variety will be out of luck. The online population is quite low at the moment, and that might not bode well later if people continue to ignore the game. Once you're in a game, though, the performance is decent with only a few bouts of lag encountered when someone dies.

The controls vary depending on the difficulty level you choose. The controls are responsive, if not familiar, since the X button handles both running options and everything with entering and exiting cover. All of your necessary attack and reload buttons are located on the shoulders, making them easy to access in a fight. The only exception is the melee button, though hitting Square in the middle of a fight isn't very difficult. The issue of difficulty affecting controls comes with auto-aiming. When playing on easy difficulty, the game snaps to an enemy in the vicinity of the crosshairs when zoom is initiated. When playing on normal or hard, though, auto-aim is completely gone. For gamers who are still trying to master the nuances of dual-stick control, this is a major change that they'll have to quickly get used to.

The graphics are technically good and artistically flawed. The characters and their weapons are detailed well, and every hero and enemy animates nicely throughout the game. The same can be said for about half of the environments, which ditch the same dark colors we've seen in this generation for something much brighter. The particle effects are great, especially the embers floating through most of the levels, and the frame rate is solid throughout.

Normally, players would be pleased with the level of the graphics, but all of that praise is offset by a very unappealing art style placed on your hero, the enemies and the weaponry. Both your hero and the enemies seem to be slathered in an armor that feels like a mixture of H.R. Giger art with more sheen and more skulls. Some bosses have this style carried out so far that it is impossible to see where their faces are when they speak, much less see any mouths move. Syd might have shed most of this armor, but his face is too scarred up, and he has tattoos that look like he's just been stitched together recently, so it might as well look like the same armor he shed long ago. The weaponry has also taken on this odd look, with the lone exception being a machine gun you pick up in the first two acts of the game.

The design is confusing enough that there is always an explanation about a weapon anytime you encounter one on the field. Something is certainly amiss when you need to be told that the mass of tar-colored spikes and gold designs lying on the floor is actually a standard shotgun. Things get worse when you zoom in with anything other than your default rifle and machine gun, thanks to the overly ornate crosshairs that appear on-screen. Not only are they too decorated, but they are also too wide, almost defeating the purpose of using them to get a better bead on enemies. Because of that, you seem to have a better shot at hitting the enemy if you shoot from the hip rather than taking the time to get a better shot with a zoom feature.

For the most part, the sound is the strongest element of Quantum Theory. As expected, the effects boom through the speakers well and are balanced so that each shot is heard clearly. The music is a nice mix of orchestral tunes and upbeat electronic music; they evoke a sense of action and epic scale of the events occurring on-screen. The score sounds good enough that a few people will mistake it as something ripped off from a bigger marquee title.

Most of the voices are done well, with only a few hints of overacting coming from your accompanying militia early in the game. Syd sounds too deadpan and emotionless almost all of the time. Whether he is disappointed at having one enemy left to kill or happy to find more ammo on the field, he sounds too withdrawn for the player to care. The voice of the tower is a mix of male and female voices speaking in unison, but toward the end, the voice's volume is turned down, making it difficult to hear. Considering how much story information is being conveyed at this juncture, this was a grave mistake. Another issue with the voices is with the repetition in phrases. Your militia in the first level will exhaust all of their battle phrases and repeat themselves several times. The same can be said when you're in battle with Filena, so it's annoying when she berates you for taking her kills for the umpteenth time.

Quantum Theory is not as bad as many make it out to be, but it is far from ideal. From a technical standpoint, the game is solid with a good soundtrack, graphics fitting for this console generation, and intuitive controls. From a gameplay standpoint, it is quite messy as the art style isn't all that appealing, the characters feel indifferent, and the story ultimately goes nowhere. There is a good amount of action, but the story fails to convey a real purpose, making the whole affair feel pointless. The title is a decent rental that can provide fun for a few hours, but don't be surprised if the desire to finish the game slips away before the end credits roll.

Score: 6.0/10

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