Quantum Theory review
Japanese developers have been attempting to breach the Western market ever since the unexpected early triumph of the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3. Capcom and Nintendo have summoned Western developers to do their bidding (Dead Rising 2 and Metroid Prime, for example), while Square Enix outright bought Eidos, and all the large-breasted, Western-friendly treasure hunters that came along with it. Tecmo Koei doesn't quite have the same deep pockets. Instead, they looked at one of the most popular games available this generation -- in this case, Gears of War -- and tried desperately to emulate it. Quantum Theory is the result, and I hate to report this but, yes, it’s just as bad as everyone thought it would be.
I caught a quick glimpse of Quantum Theory almost a year ago, and thought immediately to myself "Gears of War with shapeshifting landscapes... could be cool." If Quantum Theory had managed to live up to that simple formula, it would have been a much better game. Sadly, the gameplay cannot even properly emulate the game it is directly inspired by, and the potential of the constantly shifting tower that the player is attempting to ascend is mostly squandered. I say mostly, because there are moments where Quantum Theory lets you sample what could have been.
The experience is mercifully brief (approximately five hours on normal difficulty), being more reminiscent of a quarter-hungry arcade game where waves of similar enemies fill a series of similar rooms and must be defeated before moving on to the next. Quantum Theory arbitrarily extends its third act just when you think you're almost done. Out of nowhere, I was flashed back to what is essentially a prologue chapter. It wasn't bad, but it also didn't really add anything relevant to the story that hadn't already been alluded to many times before. I can't help but feel the Wayne's World Effect happened here, where after completing the game the developers realized it was only 40 minutes long and decided to add more waves of enemies to every room and even more slow-motion cutscenes of people getting killed.
The one way Quantum Theory manages to outshine its source material, however, is in the story department. I was perpetually intrigued by the idea of the Ark, the diabolosis, the Nosferatu, and especially the female companion Filena who pretty much makes the game for me, despite not being playable. Not just because Filena's a sexy, ass-kicking cosplayer's dream who may or may not be manufactured by the very entity she's fighting to destroy, but because she also enables the game's sole worthwhile gameplay element. Any time Filena is within Syd's, the main character, immediate vicinity, pressing the LB will throw her into the air, stunning nearby enemies. Holding LB will allow Syd to aim Filena, then throw her like a dart, insta-killing a single enemy in her flight path. Filena will also join in on melee combos, similar to the timed system seen in Resident Evil 5. Melee is almost completely useless when alone, but even with Filena, although cool, it's all too common to miss an enemy standing right in front of you and leave your backside vulnerable. Despite the game's short length, the developers seem absolutely determined to separate Syd and Filena every possible chance they get, a serious oversight on their part.
Speaking of being vulnerable, expect to hide like a cowardly little girl while your health recovers... a lot. Although every room in the game magically has waist-high walls and obstacles to take cover behind as if designed by pro paintballers, many of them do not actually provide any meaningful protection. I played through on easy to expedite my suffering, and even then Syd was constantly on the verge of death after just a few random shots of damage. I can't bare to imagine what playing on hard is like;. the word "sadomasochism" comes to mind.
Dialogue, UI, and enemies are taken directly from the Gears of War playbook, including small spiky creatures that must be punched away before exploding, aka Tickers. There are larger enemies that don't really mimic anything from Gears, but they're not anything special either. Bosses take a page out of the Sony E3 Conference book, insisting that you "hit their weak spots for massive damage." I was astonished to find that one boss is literally Phantom from Devil May Cry, not even edited in the slightest.
There is actually a decent number of weapons in the game but good luck telling the difference between them all. Despite a few unique additions to Syd's armory, there's not much differential between them all as they are mediocre, lacking any real punch. Once I found the Venom heavy machine gun, I never traded it for another weapon and never needed to, especially with Filena as backup.
One thing the Japanese can't seem to comprehend, even in this age, is that Western players don't want multiplayer, they need it. What would Gears of War be without drop-in drop-out co-op? Yet Quantum is strictly a lone affair, despite the fact that Syd almost always has at least one other character with him, if not more. I'd like to say that competitive multiplayer modes make up for it, somehow, but it doesn't matter since you will never, ever, find a game. I've searched all day and all night for a week and there is literally no one playing this game. I tried going to various forums to find some randoms and literally got laughed out.
Quantum Theory looks and feels like an anime-inspired fan mod of Gears of War 1. While I'm a devout supporter of doing things right the first time, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel that steps up its game, makes better use of Filena, and learns from the critical feedback the original received (which is nearly insurmountable at this point). Until then, Gears of War fans hoping for a new twist on their favorite shooter should wait on Hunted: Demon's Forge instead.