Quantum Theory tried to offer something new to the overcrowded third person shooter genre with its post apocalyptic world, living tower, and lead characters – a massive brute and his lithe sidekick. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out exactly as Tecmo Koei planned. You know you’re in trouble when the "big bad tower" is the most interesting part of the game.
Quantum Theory presents an especially bleak view of the feature. The world’s been ravaged, people live in small colonies and all of a sudden these towers are spring up. While these towers initially seemed content to stand there and look menacing, they’ve now started spewing this toxin called diablosis, which contaminates the land and turns any people it touches into monsters called Infected. Did I mention diablosis looks like a huge, flying, legless centipede?
Which brings us to Syd. Surly Syd destroys these towers. The game begins with him in one that’s falling apart, assisted by a woman-creature-thing named Nyx that apparently lived in the tower and was helping him destroy her home. Except when the tower died, she died, so Syd was the only one out alive. He’s a muscle-bound, mutant-looking tank of a man who’s decided to go around to each tower and tear it down. He finds himself in one of the outskirt colonies at the start of the game, joining the colony’s militia in their attempt to take down the tower. Really, he’s just using the soldiers as meat shields until he gets inside, where he finds a tower on the verge of corruption, filled with Nosferatu monsters and a woman-mutant-person-wannabe badass named Fileena who’s trying to reach her father at the top.
One of Quantum Theory‘s selling points is the living tower, which is supposed to have shifting cover. Unfortunately, that moving and shifting cover doesn’t appear that often. In most stages, there is permanent cover to hide behind. Some of it is good enough to hide behind for multiple waves of enemies. So, if you find a good spot, you can pretty much stay there for the entire time you need to be in that area. When you’re done, make sure to press X to make Syd step away from cover. Otherwise he’ll just stay squatting behind it. Even after six hours playing, I’d forget about that and press back on the analog stick, then wonder why he wasn’t moving.
Even worse is when you step into an area with no cover, which does happen surprisingly enough. (And in boss stages too!) In a normal third person shooter, I’d say it’s no big deal. It makes you run and gun, but Syd is not a run and gun kind of hero. He lumbers. If he runs, he’ll only run straight in one direction, like a drunk elephant. He’ll continue on his uncontrolled path until he hits an item he can take cover behind, then he’ll automatically take cover. Which means you have to quick remember to press X if you’re being chased, otherwise he’s a huge target. He can do an evasive dodge roll, which is easier to control, but you can’t shoot and roll.
The attempt to blend platforming in is horrible too. There will be segments in which Syd will have to climb or jump around the environment, sometimes as it is crumbling around him. He is just not built for it. His run is awkward and offers little control over where he’s going. Jumping is a miss as well, thankfully most crucial ones are semi-automatic, just requiring players to push circle when they reach a certain spot.
Then there are the surprisingly deadly, small Nosferatu enemies. Those little guys, right up there. I hate those guys! They’re really fast and will creep up on you when you least suspect it. This will cause Syd to abandon his cover once he’s attacked, leaving him susceptible to gunfire as you struggle to pull up his gun and get the small menace in sight. You’d think you could resort to a melee attack when something like this happens, but then Syd would have to be facing the enemy. Even with larger enemies, melee attacks can be problematic since they are difficult to aim. You think you’ve got Syd pointed in the right direction but nope, no you don’t! Which means you get to watch him flail helplessly as you try to force him to face the enemy that’s standing right in front of him and shooting/beating him.
The way guns are managed is also disappointing. Syd can carry three guns at a time. So if you find another one and pick it up, one from your inventory disappears. Which I learned quickly when running to the tower, after I accidentally dropped a really cool one. If the gun you dropped still has ammo, it’ll appear on the ground. If it didn’t, it’s gone. The game automatically swaps the gun on the ground with the one you have equipped, which means you have to shift before picking it up to make sure you’re dropping the right one. Know what would have been awesome? A little box that popped up and said something like, "You’ve found a lousy shotgun. Do you want to swap it for your awesome grenade launcher?"
Quantum Theory‘s biggest, and possibly only, positive is undoubtedly its story. It may start out slow, but I did find that I wanted to play more as I began to learn more about the towers and to uncover the truth behind them. The dialogue is horrible, but the loading screen quotes are intriguing and the general plot has some potential. It isn’t an awesome story, but it does get interesting and will probably be one of the main reasons people will take the time to finish the game. I know I trudged though because I wanted to know more about the tower. (I didn’t really care too much about Syd or Fileena.)
Thankfully, Quantum Theory isn’t terribly difficult, if you decide that story does make it worth playing. There are three levels of difficulty and, if there are places to take cover, then it’s quite difficult to die. Even on the more difficult modes! Aiming is abysmal on anything other than Easy mode though, so you may want to stick with that. (Controlling Syd is challenge enough!) The fact that there’s no health meter helps with the whole not dying thing. If Syd takes too much damage, the screen will get blood-stained and will throb. Running behind cover for a minute or two will make the screen return to normal and allow Syd to heal so you can send him out to take more damage.
I would have liked to have covered the online multiplayer as well, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t find anyone else playing. Seriously. I tried on four separate occasions and couldn’t find any multiplayer matches. I even tried creating my own rooms. One time I managed to get one other player to join said room, but it took over 15 minutes to find that one person and he/she left when he/she saw I was the only other person there. And since the only multiplayer available is online Network multiplayer, it’s not like I could just grab a friend and make them come over to play Quantum Theory with me.
In our playtests, we always try to be balanced and avoid harsh judgments or recommendations. What one person dislikes may be treasured by another. For Quantum Theory, I’m making an exception. If you’re interested in it, rent it first. Set it to easy mode and set aside four or five days to get through the story. That way, you’ll avoid aiming issues and Syd’s cumbersome movements won’t result in endless deaths. Maybe you’ll even be able to find a multiplayer match!
Food for Thought
- I thought some more Nosferatu variations would have been nice. Initially, when you go from the Infected outside the tower to the Nosferatu inside, I figured that this would be common and there would be lots of assorted enemies. Instead, they all seemed to look the same.
- I wish there had been an actual save function. There are just checkpoints scattered throughout Quantum Theory, and when you pass one the game automatically saves.
- The 5.1gb install was a bummer too. If you have an older PS3 (one with 80gb or less), that’s a lot of hard drive space.
- The inside of the tower did look pretty, and sometimes even impressive at times. Even if there wasn’t as much moving/shifting/living/sparkling cover.
- A color palette with more variation to it would have been nice too, and kept the tower from feeling repetitious. The areas all started to blend together and look the same after a while.
- I think "waddle" is a good way to describe how Syd moves. It implies a sort of helpless lumbering, while also capturing his difficult to control movements.