Announced last year as Tecmo's stab at a "TPS," PlayStation 3 game Quantum Theory drew immediate comparisons to Gears of War, partly because of its heavily armored and beefy protagonist Syd and its cover system. Those comparisons were mostly fair.
We played the Tokyo Game Show demo of Quantum Theory at the PlayStation booth, immediately feeling comfortable with the controls. Quantum Theory feels immediately like standard third-person shooter stuff—aim and shoot with the left and right triggers, take cover behind walls and sprint with the X button. Quantum Theory—simply known as Quantum in North America—looks to have borrowed heavily from the current generation of shooters, then given a Japanese visual flair.
While the shooting and hand-to-hand combat is stock stuff, Quantum Theory has something its forebears don't—an AI controlled lady-partner named Filena. Oh, and you can throw her. Simply tap the L1 button when Filena is around and Syd will launch her toward your target. When we tossed her at a foe shielded by a mounted gun, she hovered above them momentarily, firing what appeared to be an electrically charged weapon, stunning the gunner.
A second attack with Filena, performed by holding down the L1 button, will send her flying directly at the enemy, slashing at them with her sword. The time commitment dedicated to holding the button down a second longer deals more damage, as one might expect.
Two levels were on hand at Tokyo Game Show. The first showed off Syd and Filena's co-op abilities as the player shoots through a series of ornate-looking—but somehow also generic-looking—bad guys. Killing one turns them instantly into an explosion of mustard-colored goo. And killing those goo-filled enemies can be done with one of Quantum Theory's many guns or a melee combo attack.
Quantum Theory's guns have fancy names and fancy designs—many look like dragon heads or a chaotic metal sculpture worn on the arm—but they do pretty standard stuff. The Impulsus is a shotgun. The Plasma Lancer is a sniper rifle. The Gravedigger is a machine gun. And the Arc Screamer shoots electric bolts. You can carry three of these beastly looking weapons at a time, picking them up (down, with the D-pad) from fallen foes. They sound chunky and look heavy, but don't give much of a sensation of weight.
The second portion of the TGS Quantum Theory demo shows off the game's other core gimmick, the living tower that Syd and Filena climb throughout the game. The game was advertised to offer organic cover, with waist-high walls growing and shrinking so that Syd and his foes can hide behind them. But I was a little surprised to see just how much of the tower was in flux. Massive bridges and platforms shifted as I walked through the level. That added some small amount of platforming, part of the action game elements that Tecmo is bringing to the genre.
While some of what Quantum Theory is bringing to the third person shooter genre is interesting, the game currently smacks of a Gears of War clone, with animation, character design and gameplay aspects that feel more copied wholesale than inspired by. And even though it's still many months away from its "early 2010" release, the game looks rough. The graphic design is officially described as an "art nouveau style world that is on the verge of becoming postapocalyptic, which merges the beauty of organic motifs with technology" but it tends to be dark, depressing and garish with muddy textures and chunky geometry.
On the bright side, it sounds like Quantum Theory director Makoto Shibata is not oblivious to some of these visual problems. He said during an interview at TGS that the team will continue to work on the game's graphics over the coming months. Shibata also says that the team will be improving upon the enemy AI to make the action a little more interesting. We hope that the game's iffy camera is also on the list of planned improvements.
There's definitely potential in Quantum Theory, if the combination of third-person shooting and action game mechanics can find the right balance. What we know of the storyline so far is interesting, as is the organic tower that Syd and Filena must climb. But we'll check in on it closer to completion to see if some of the kinks have been worked out.