Review: Quantum Theory

Gears of War may not be perfect, but darn if I don’t love it. There’s something undeniably entertaining about intense chainsaw duels and pumping aliens full of lead. I wouldn’t touch its multiplayer with a ten foot pole, but the campaign and its co-op play keep me entranced. With that mindset, I assumed I would absolutely love Tecmo’s Quantum Theory, a me-too third-person shooter with most — if not all — of its gameplay mechanics ripped straight from the Xbox 360 powerhouse. Let’s just say that I was wrong.

From the very beginning of Quantum Theory, it’s made undeniably clear where the creators’ influences lie. The cover system, the distinct feeling of a “roadie run,” the weapons, and even the characters themselves seem so blatantly ripped straight out of Gears of War that on multiple occasions I found my mind wandering off, puzzling over whether or not I could trace any of the same developers back to having worked on both games.

Syd, the gruff, no-necked muscle man of a protagonist, is a no-nonsense type of guy who’s ready to stop the diablosis, a bizarre kind of substance that once touched will turn humans into snarling, grotesque mutants. This daunting task can seemingly be accomplished by infiltrating a strange tower which becomes the central point of the game’s narrative, and one of the only real discerning and unique pieces in this game that desperately wants to be another.

Syd’s not alone on his quest. He’s accompanied by fellow muscle men (of course) and an interesting young woman known as Filena, who is dead set on stopping the diablosis as well. As this game is centered solely around stopping, taking cover, shooting things, and running to the next area to repeat the cycle, it’s tough to explore the relationship between Syd and Filena, making emotional investment in the two characters a real chore rather than something that naturally happens during the game’s progression.

Beyond why you’re fighting or who you’re fighting with, at the very least Quantum Theory gets how you’re fighting down pat. This is your textbook stop-and-pop cover shooter. Syd sticks to cover nicely, and he’s even got a decent amount of weapons at his disposal, albeit the very same ones you’d see in practically any other similar game: shotguns, rocket launchers, machine guns, and the like. In Quantum Theory’s defense, these parts can actually be entertaining because they are done well. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the enemy AI. These guys are dumber than a bag of hammers. It’s all too easy to creep out from behind a shattered pillar and pop a cap in their heads all because they were too dumb to stay where it was safe. And let’s not even go into the geniuses who fire off grenade launchers in tighter spaces than Lady Gaga’s leotards.

So a little by-the-books kind of shooter wouldn’t be so abysmal if it had creative and interesting level design. Unfortunately, Quantum Theory falls short in that respect as well. Over 90% of your time is spent moving from one area another, staying put behind cover, eliminating enemies, and moving onward to the next area. And that’s it. You’ll keep doing this over and over so long that it will become easy to forget why you’re on this journey to begin with.

To its credit, the game does attempt to break up the monotony with some rail-shooting excursions and shoddy platforming, but in the end they only feel like brief reprieves from the sameness that permeates all areas of the game. Playing the game is almost as dull and drab as it looks. This actually does begin to change near the end of the campaign, where you’ll infiltrate the tower seen at the beginning of the game. It offers shape-shifting, twisting passages and constantly evolving walkways that are actually exciting to deal with. But you won’t see it until near the end of the road, and it’s likely you’ll shove off long before you can reap the benefits of staying on track. Even the ability to pick up Filena and use her as a weapon is rather ill-conceived, as half of the game is spent devoid of this interesting augment. What’s the use in that?

Quantum Theory is stretched out over a good eight hours, but due to dull environments, mind-numbingly repetitive gameplay, and its overall inadequacy, I wouldn’t recommend actually playing it that long. If you do manage to blow past all its single-player narrative has to offer, then there’s always multiplayer to check into. Again, like the entire game, it’s standard issue, and you’d be hard-pressed to actually find enough people to start up a game. Just days after release I had difficulty finding anyone to hop online with. I wasn’t particularly heartbroken, as there are far better offerings that are much more deserved of my time and attention.

In fact, that sums up how I feel about the game as a whole. Wanting desperately to emulate Gears of War isn’t its biggest flaw — it’s the fact that it fails so miserably at doing so. It’s as if it copied every single technical element and came close to mastering them, but removed any and all fun from the different pieces in the process. If you need something to tide you over until Gears of War 3 or your next big long-awaited release, I’d only suggest a rental for Quantum Theory, or the similar and much more engaging Dark Sector. Quantum Theory is many things, but an enjoyable experience it is not.

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