Review

Quantum Theory Review (Xbox360)

Quantum Theory subscribes to the design philosophy that if you can't come up with a decent idea yourself, simply command 'inspiration' from a nearby top-seller and ride those coat-tails all the way to the bank. In this case, the unwitting recipient of such attention is Gears of War, and the pilfering of mechanics, art style and even control layout is staggeringly, unrelentingly brazen.

This time round, your heroic meat-head is named Syd. He's the sort of gruff-talking, armour-clad and muscle-bound walking cliche that Epic managed to infuse with knowingly overplayed machismo and set against a cast of suitably wise-cracking goons, but in Tecmo-Koei's world, becomes one of the blandest and most insipid leads in modern gaming. Character design follows the emo-lite "mysterious dark stranger" template through to its logical conclusion, with plot and dialogue that feels like a greatest hits version of every sci-fantasy shooter to come before it. "More! Give me MORE!" Syd often screams whilst reaming his way through identikit monsters, "Please don't..." pleads the person on the other side of the TV, through gnashing teeth.

Yuk

Of course there are worse games to clone, and Epic's stop-and-pop mechanics have wound up in various copycat titles since release; but the honesty involved in Quantum Theory's smash-and-grab doesn't make its particular cocktail of third-person action any less uncomfortable; indeed quite the opposite. Everything has been mimicked, including the weapon switching, roadie run, cover mechanics, right-bumper reloading, colour palette, faux-gothic dilapidated architecture, breakable cover, on-screen contextual icons and even the audio for specific mechanical weapon noises.

With that in mind, if you look at any of the screens on this page, you can pretty much imagine exactly how Quantum Theory plays. Combat is broken into short bursts of cover-fire-cover-reload, with a mad dash between pillars or a risky foray into the open to pick up ammo in-between (even the boxes are practically the same). Levels are broken down into mini-arenas of sorts, usually with two or three waves of enemies spilling into the fray as you reach invisible checkpoints. Weaponry can be scarce and the limited inventory retains Gears' traditional tug-of-war between choosing an almost-empty rifle or picking up that shiny but rather useless grenade launcher, but with the additional removal of any decent close-quarters attack capability, outside of a quick melee swipe to the face.

You can throw this woman at people. She doesn't mind

To continue on familiar ground, you'll not be fighting alone either. Occasionally flanked by fellow mercenaries or soldiers, you'll have no direct control over your armed colleagues, save for a female compatriot whom you can physically launch at enemies for a quick instant-kill on all but the most difficult opponents. It's like having the worlds most clumsy sniper rifle to hand, and it's probably the most interesting mechanic in the entire game. Or at least, it would be the worlds most clumsy sniper rifle, if the traditional weaponry in Quantum Theory didn't do a damn fine job of approaching that coveted mantle by itself.

The combat is, in a word, turgid. A mixture of weak gun feedback, sluggish movement and twitchy aiming make even basic enemies frustratingly adept at avoiding your incoming fire, but unless you're playing on hard mode, they don't really pack a punch in return. As a result, firefights simply last far longer than they should, even though your opponents have minimal AI capability, often choosing to 'hide' themselves in cover that's directly to your side. Perhaps most frustrating though, is the animation system that literally 'pops' enemies out of cover or throws them out of your line of sight with almost every successful shot. Quickly re-aiming to hit them a second time is a lottery thanks to the controls, and an almost non-existant dead-zone compounds matters further.

Ooh ooh! I know this one, hold on...

The plot too, is mostly incomprehensible and delivered with a lack of production value that suddenly pulls every other 'mediocre shooter' into context. It's not that I'm above caring about the plight of Syd and discovering what happened in his past or why he has to destroy tower after tower of decaying techno-fungus, but the way the cutscenes and story-delivery occur in the game, it almost seems like the developer is. There's no personality, no enthusiasm, and little confidence in the material on display; so why should anybody care?

In short then, Quantum Theory is just too flat, too unpolished and too unoriginal to make any positive lasting impression. There is little to offer here that you won't have seen implemented with far greater quality elsewhere, except perhaps the ability to throw a woman at somebodies head. As tempted as I am to say that mechanic alone makes it worth a purchase, it really, really doesn't.

Best Game Moment: Destroying those pesky annoying turrets

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