Once upon a time there was a fox that spied some grapes high up on a branch. The fox tried to jump and pull them down; he tried to climb the tree; he tried everything he could think of to get those grapes - all to no avail. Finally, eaten up with frustration, he decided the fruit was a lost cause.
"Ehh," he muttered to himself, "I'm sure those grapes are sour."
My suspicion is that the gaming media has a collective case of sour grapes when it comes to Quantum Theory. The early buzz saw a pronounced split between gamer and critic scores that went far beyond what you normally see. Since this wasn't an old, popular, multi-sequel franchise (the kind that critics tend to slam as much as fanboys love to defend), there must be some other explanation for the wretched ratings on one side and the decent marks on the other.
The first review I looked at was at a popular site where the writer freely admitted that he didn't even complete the game before bestowing his score upon it. You see, he got stuck. He made it something like 80% into the game before his skills failed him. Based on his detailed description, having completed Quantum Theory myself, I know exactly the part he was talking about. I got stuck there too for a bit, just like I got stuck in some other areas. But it was far, far from the "impossible" scenario he described.
But the review was still published and some readers were undoubtedly turned off to a game they probably would have enjoyed. My theory is that the reason there was such a discrepancy between the reactions of critics and those of readers is twofold: (a) Quantum Theory is a Gears of War clone for the PS3 and (b) the readers paid for their copies while the sites were given theirs.
My suspicion is that the gaming media has a collective case of sour grapes when it comes to Quantum Theory.
The first thing you have to do when writing a review like this is establish that you're judging the game on its own merits. Even though Gears enjoys near-religious status among my circle of gaming friends, I have to remember there is a large percentage of the readership that has never played it, and some of them don't even have the console to play it on. So let's address everyone else first: the bulk of Quantum Theory plays almost exactly like Gears of War, with some tradeoffs here and there that distinguish it. If it upsets you to play games that strongly remind you of other games, you've been warned. If you want more of the gameplay that Epic Games made famous, you've been informed. The rest of this article is for those who just want to know if it's a good game.
You see, if you're a game reviewer and Tecmo Koei sends you Quantum Theory, it's tempting to say to yourself, "This is just like Gears and I beat that in six hours. No problem." Then you start playing and you get held up in a few places. Six hours go by. Seven. Eight. Then you really get stuck - long after you thought you'd already be done. So you pull the sour grapes play.
But if you're a gamer that's dropped fifty or sixty bucks on the same game, you have no real interest in having the game be over in six hours. You might not have a stack of free titles lined up for you to play. You might not mind having to work for the ending, since you are not just waiting for the credits so you can start your review and go on to the next thing.
The core gameplay of Quantum Theory is shooting and taking cover. You are Sid, a gruff, gravelly voiced mystery man with huge armor and an affinity for enormous ordnance. You can carry three guns with you at a time, switching out for ones you pick off the corpses of your demonic enemies. If ammo gets low or shooting gets old, you can use the same weapons for melee attacks. If you take too much damage, the screen turns red and your senses start to fail - but you can just step behind a column or crouch behind a low wall to start the healing process.
The setting is primarily a mysterious tower that arose after 99.8% of the world's human population was eliminated. Sid is there to destroy the thing, and he meets Filena along the way - a partner just as mysterious and deadly as he is. She is not playable and she is not around for the entire game, but when she's there she can be thrown, grenade-like, at enemies and adds some pizzazz to melee attacks if you're timing's strong.
The combination of the gameplay, look, and story make for an attractive package, and I can see this game garnering a little cult following somewhere down the line. An optional game-long collect quest can fill in a lot of the details of how the world got to where it is and how Filena's tied in. The game mechanics are solid, headshots come with an immensely satisfying zoomed-in explosion, and the corruption in the world even affects the walls you hide behind. You can be facing a whole nest of opposition only to have your shelter suddenly sink into the ground, leaving you a sitting duck.
If you're very good at this type of game and you don't go hunting around for the story-telling collectibles, you will probably finish it a lot faster, but Quantum Theory took me around thirteen hours to complete. It starts out a little slow, but by the end it demands aggressive shooting and quick reactions. If that's too much for you . . . well,didn't Dragon's Lair come out for the Wii last week? You could spit in a random direction and hit a game that'll hold your hand, but some of us don't mind earning our stripes.