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Quantum Theory
Score: 40%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Team Tachyon
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
At this year's E3, Quantum Theory was mere yards from the Microsoft exhibit, where they were showing off Gears of War 3. Unfortunately, the common sentiment regarding Tecmo's third-person shooter seemed to be polite variants of "it's a rip-off of Gears." I think I can speak for most other writers when I say that we sometimes struggle to rise above such statements; we generally try our best to approach each new title with a completely blank slate. I've spent my share of time with Quantum Theory, and I can say with all confidence: yes, it is a rip-off. Now, the term rip-off indicates a distinct lack of originality, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the level of quality is poor. Let's be fair: Dante's Inferno is a shameless ripoff of God of War, but the gameplay isn't bad. This is where Quantum Theory fails: none of it is much fun to play. Even its best moments are uninspired.

Quantum Theory runs with the same "Destroyed Beauty" theme that Epic Games has been implementing in its now classic third-person shooter franchise. Syd is an ugly, scarred hunk of meat, but he's supposed to look that way. I can't get any further into the topic without risking spoilers. (Not that you'd care.) He could pass for a former Delta Squad member, but only if he was dishonorably discharged after taking a bath in a high octane imulsion pool. Filena doesn't do much to change the public's perception of Tecmo's character design trends. She's a fair-skinned buxom warrior, 'nuff said. The tower that drives Quantum Theory's story along has an interesting look to it; the best way to describe it is "opulent and organic." Kind of like Nexus in Gears of War 2...

The best parts of Quantum Theory's sound design are forgettable, with maybe one exception. As Syd makes his way to the top of the tower, a heavily-distorted voice can be heard over an intercom system. This makes it abundantly clear that Syd is being observed from a purely scientific standpoint, and the almost monotonous delivery actually works to the advantage of the game's admittedly weak atmosphere. The rest of it is either mediocre or worse. The music doesn't really score any points for or against the game, but the voice acting is bad. Of course, the poor guy voicing Syd doesn't have anything to work with -- apart from choice one-liners such as "Die," "Heh. Splat," or "Mmm... Ammo."

Quantum Theory's story will have you laughing and shaking your head at the same time. In a post-apocalyptic world that doesn't at all look worthy of salvation, a mysterious substance known as diablosis has been corrupting everything it touches, even people. Those affected are transformed into Locust -- erm, Infected. A lone warrior named Marcus -- I mean Syd -- travels the land, bringing down diablosis-ridden towers and killing Infected. The game begins as he approaches the biggest one he's seen. His mission? Go in, break everything, kill everyone, and bring the tower down. Of course, things don't go according to plan, and he ends up meeting Filena, a bouncy killer (and likely future Dead or Alive character) who has a predilection for swords. Though her agenda doesn't exactly accommodate Syd's "Kill, kill, kill" M.O., they end up joining forces. Co-op fans, don't get your hopes up; Filena is nothing more than an A.I. buddy.

Quantum Theory is a point-A-to-point-B third-person shooter. With the exception of a few watercooler moments, all you'll be doing is running from cover point to cover point while blasting Infected away. The watercooler moments repeat themselves too often, and they last way too long. Most of them involve the tower's tendency to mutate and shape-shift. Others involve Syd as he implausibly hangs on to flying, diving, and looping chunks of diablosis (which bears an uncomfortable resemblance to fecal matter).

Even on its easiest difficulty setting, Quantum Theory is a thoroughly punishing game. This is largely due to its unforgiving and poorly-conceived combat scenarios. A good cover shooter doesn't present you with a situation where a completely unorganized enemy force flanks you from more than five different positions. Quantum Theory does just that. Picture yourself in the middle of a giant room, under pressure from multiple turrets. As you chip away at each turret, the intercom voice chirps in to announce the arrival of additional "cellular defenses." From where? The freaking rear. You must get out of cover to fight these new guys and somehow escape the wrath of those pesky turrets. To add insult to injury, the game doesn't stop throwing waves of enemies at you until you're completely pissed off. It isn't long before the entire affair feels like work.

As if the combat difficulty wasn't enough to make Quantum Theory a nerve-wracking experience, Team Tachyon inexplicably made the decision to include platforming segments. Several of these require you to make leaps of faith, most of which end up rewarding you with a quick trip to the Game Over screen. From there, you get to load a checkpoint that usually begins before a big shooting sequence. Like I said, it's punishing.

Game Mechanics:
People have been referring to this game as a rip-off for good reason. Quantum Theory doesn't merely borrow from the best: it unapologetically steals from it. That's fair enough, I guess -- but do the mechanics work? Some of them do. Others are fumbled or just plain broken.

Quantum Theory makes use of the same one-button stop-and-pop mechanics that were implemented so successfully in Gears of War, but certain transition moves have been either forgotten or ignored. Save for rudimentary moves like cover slips, there isn't much to work with; no SWAT turns here. This game also makes use of the classic "zoom-to-point-of-interest" button, but 99% of the time, it will give you an extreme close-up of a wall. The shooting is unsatisfying, as well; the guns all have the same twisted organic look, and the targeting reticles are simply ridiculous.

Filena runs around and fights on her own most of the time, but Syd can call on her for help every now and then. A series of timed button presses allows them to perform a close-quarters Combo Attack. In a bizarre and distinctly Japanese twist, Filena can be used as a weapon. Syd can pick her up and hurl or lob her at any hostiles. A successful application of this attack usually results in one less Infected to deal with, and it always results in an unimpressive slow-motion shot of her striking her foe. This mechanic isn't very interesting, and it's sometimes difficult to execute.

Quantum Theory has a multiplayer mode, but nobody's playing it. In my two weeks with the game, I've not been able to get into a single match. It's probably for the best.

If you're looking for a great third-person shooter to tide you over until Gears of War 3 or Uncharted 3, this isn't it. If you haven't played a third-person shooter, there are far, far better places to start than Quantum Theory.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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