I Actually Played This — Quantum Theory
Welcome to I Actually Played This, the place were I play the video games that most gamers have, out of caution, ignorance, or common sense, never played. Please do not attempt to play any of these games yourself. Remember that actually playing these games may undermine your health, well being, consumer confidence, and belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. I am a professional, and as such have already lost my soul. Don't try this at home.
Whenever people stop me on the street, grab me by the collar and scream in my face “How? How? How I can I break into the glamorous world of complaining about bad video games on the internet?” I always make sure to tell them there's no one, particular thing that makes any person qualified to tread the hallowed halls of I Actually Played This™ International Headquarters & Underground Lair; rather, it takes a series of bad choices, spaced out over the course a lifetime. Sure, we've all played the odd bad video game from time to time, but here at IAPT Ltd. we employ a diverse staff of hollow-eyed wastrels so accustomed to the the crushing weight of video game awfulness that if they played a good game the shock would likely kill them, like deep-sea fish accustomed to the pressure and darkness of the ocean floor being dragged to the surface.
What I'm saying—and I hope you can hear me over all the wailing in the background—is that here at I Actually Played This Death Cult and Holding Company, we give bad video games our very best. In return for our best, the bad video games produce a kind of noxious-smelling sludge that we churn into a fine slurry, which we in turn feed the race of trolls who write articles like this very one on their special ergonomic troll keyboards. (FYI, we will be reducing the trolls' hours so we don't have to give them health care under the Affordable Care Act.) Our monolithic corporation is determined to bring you the very best of the very worst, mining the bottom of the video game barrel to uncover abominations that were often deliberately erased from the annals of gaming lore, and I just can't tell you how overjoyed we were when the goat's steaming entrails spilled across the pentagram and spelled out the words Quantum Theory, in Comic Sans front.
Quantum Theory is a very, very, very, very, very bad third person shooter for the PS3 and Xbox 360 that was developed by Team Tachyon and published by Tecmo in September of 2010 and not f**ked into a red witch by a demented noble who then gave birth to it in a cave in 299AL, as one would suspect having played it. By the time the credits rolled my mind abounded with questions, but like all great crimes against humanity Quantum Theory raises one question that overrides all others: Why? Why, Team Tachyon? Why, Tecmo? Why? Why release a copy of Gears of War that looks and plays like a launch title in September of 2010, when Gears of War 1 was released in September of 2006 and Gears of War 2 was released in November of 2008? Why did you give your main character the personality of a serial killer with an entire troupe of Cub Scouts in his basement, only less mature? Why do the female characters' breasts jiggle spastically like socks full of Jell-O? Why do dead enemies explode like firecrackers full of blood? Why do all the firearms sound like they're named after monster trucks? Why is the game unrelentingly stupid 99% of the time, then why does it explode in a supernova of philosophical speculation during its coda? Why, when you saw what you'd created, did you not take Quantum Theory out behind the shed and end its misery?
Quantum Theory, very appropriately, opens upon a scene of catastrophic failure and collapse. We hear (and see, if we have the captions on) the words “We did it! Hah hah! We did it! Look at it fall! Every Nosferatu in this Ark dies! This is our work, Syd! Ours! We brought this Ark down! You hear that, audience? That's what this game is about! It's about this guy named Syd destroying these things called Arks!” She doesn't say those last three sentences, but she may as well have. The camera then fades in on Syd and Nyx scampering down an enormous flight of stairs, exalting in their victory as the building collapses around them. What is this building? Who are these people? Why did they destroy the building? Quantum Theory answers all of these questions with a hearty “f**k you” and barrels ahead with what it seems to legitimately believe is its story. A part of the staircase breaks away and dangles vertically, causing Syd to hunker down and cling to it as it snaps away and tumbles downward, careening off another set of stairs before finally crashing to solid ground, arriving in the middle of a battle with creatures Nyx helpfully identifies as Nosferatus. A firefight ensues, and if it wasn't already clear by the way Syd hunches down to run, it is here that Quantum Theory reveals it isn't just gorging at the same trough of cover-based shooter gameplay that has defined this console generation, it is trying to straight up Single White Female the Gears of War franchise.
Quantum Theory is not merely cribbing from Gears of War as so many games have, Quantum Theory is taking it to an entirely different and thoroughly creepy level: Quantum Theory is stealing Gears of War's clothes and showing Gears of War's picture to its hairstylist and crawling into bed with Gears of War's boyfriend. Quantum Theory doesn't want to be like Gears of War, it wants to be Gears of War, it wants to cut into it, to tear the flesh, to wear the flesh, to be born into new worlds where its flesh becomes its key. The mechanics aren't just similar, they are precisely the same, only implemented with bewildering incompetence. It plays like something Epic Games would have made if the entire development team had encountered traumatic brain injuries in between Gears of War 2 and 3. As I played on and sank deeper and deeper into the mire that is Quantum Theory I was reminded of The Asylum, the film studio that produces Direct To DVD mockbusters of popular films with titles like Snakes on a Train, Transmorphers, and The Da Vinci Treasure, (they make copies of good films too, I imagine) films that bear a superficial resemblance to their more popular counterparts but are made for vanishingly small sums of money, and whose quality tends to reside in a squalid nether-realm below even Sci Fi Original Movies. The Asylum's aim isn't to make good movies but to exploit the nearsighted and confused, and their only objective in making a movie is that it fit the legal definition of “movie”. It's an ethos Tecmo Co., Ltd. appears to embrace with Quantum Theory, the best that can be said of which is it technically qualifies as a video game. You can try playing it, but unless you've never played or even heard of a series of video games called Gears of War, you'll spend all of Quantum Theory comparing it to its inspiration and cataloging the ways it comes up short. Tecmo might as well have gone for it and given Quantum Theory a sound-alike name like Gears of Thor or Tears of War since “quantum theory” has absolutely nothing to do with the game, the words are never even spoken aloud.
In the middle of their daring escape Nyx slouches over in pain and yells “Uagh!! What the hell?!” (When we juxtapose 'Uagh' with 'Hah Hah' we can see that Quantum Theory has a real problem spelling onomatopoeia.) She cries “Syd...go! I'm not making it out.” Syd says “...Die well, Nyx.” thus affirming his status as a badass, in case his having the physique off a cement mixer full of human growth hormone hadn't already clued us in. As he flees the coming ruin Syd says “Nyx... Dammit. I thought you could make it. But you're a part of this Ark. When the Ark dies, you die. There's nothing I can do.” Syd hitches a ride on what appears for all the world to be a giant floating spiky black turd and makes his escape while soliloquizing “Every Ark it's the same. The Nosferatu. The Gillskin. The Ark itself. Everything dies. I'm all that's left. Destroying these Arks is all I live for. It's all I know. These Arks have killed everyone I've ever fought with. So I'll tear every last one of them down. That's the story of this dumb game. And right up to the very end, it's all you're gonna get.” Again, I'm extemporizing a smidge, but there's truth in my lies. After its opening level any hint of a story is banished from the world of Quantum Theory. From the gameplay it's clear that the world has been wasted by war and there are many alien-looking towers dotting the ruins that occasionally spew forth gun toting monsters to kill humans, but the hows and whys of all of this are nowhere to be found, and it's bizarre that after such flagrant expositional dialogue like what we were subjected to in the opening level everyone suddenly clams up. Again, as futile as it may be, one can't help but wonder why. Quantum Theory definitely deserves the lion's share of the blame for its storytelling woes, but this likely wouldn't have happened if the guys & gals at Tecmo hadn't taken all the terrible lessons of Gears of War's story to heart. Yet while the first Gears of War compensated for its underdeveloped plot with solid gameplay, Quantum Theory plays as smoothly as a rascal scooter going down an escalator the wrong way.
Ducking behind cover should stop bullets from hitting you. I try not to overburden myself with absolute beliefs in this life, but it is my sober conviction that rich people should pay taxes, Idris Elba should be the next James Bond, and taking cover in a video game should shield one from bullets, but Quantum Theory begs to differ. Quantum Theory may feature huge alien towers that spew forth giant, magically floating spiky black turds, but it is an absolute stickler for realism when it comes to its cover mechanics. If any sliver of Syd protrudes from the object he's hiding behind the enemy will see it and hit it, which will be often, since Syd looks like a Gorilla Juice Head who just got into Norwegian Black Metal and is trying way too hard. It's a bad situation that's only rendered worse by something the game calls Shape Changing Battlefields, which is when cover rises up or sinks into the ground with the help of the aforementioned giant pointy floating black turds, which the characters in the game hilariously refer to as “Diablises”, pronounced “dee-ab-lis-es”. I think I know what the developers were going for. The singular word “Diablis” sounds mysterious and cool, but the characters always use the plural term “Diablises” which sounds completely ridiculous, like “Breasteses”. I don't think Tecmo had any native English speakers working on the translation, a theory which would also explain why the game provides directions like “Thanatos is deflecting all your attacks. You must destroying something in the chamber.” Such ethno-linguistic tomfoolery is forgivable or even charming if it's in a fun game, but Quantum Theory can't even ape Gears of War properly. Just as a movie like The Room or Birdemic can make you appreciate all the hard work and craftsmanship that goes into even the most staid Hollywood film, I never appreciated just how elegantly orchestrated the enemy encounters in Gears of War were until I played Quantum Theory. Gears of War also occasionally employs what Quantum Theory calls Shape Changing Battlefields, but they're designed with some degree of intelligence. In Quantum Theory cover is largely irrelevant, since if your enemy is slightly above you or slightly to the side of you they can hit you, regardless of cover. Enemies are astonishingly accurate, and distance seems to have no effect on their accuracy. The enemies also have the same character animation as Syd, which means they snap to cover in a flash. The mechanics are so broken that the only way to make the game playable was to nerf all the weapons, and that's exactly what Team Tachyon did. Despite having names like Revenant, Gravedigger, Viper, Thornshade, Arc Screamer and Blood Cleaver, the weapons feel like they have no impact, and you just plug away at enemies until they all explode and a door opens that lets you move on into the next room of the tower. I don't know why killing enemies opens doors. The enemies behave in direct contrast to their complex ornamental design: they shoot, they walk towards you, they sometimes have close up attacks, that's pretty much it. Enemies aren't threatening but annoying, particularly since they're the only thing between you and finally being done with the interminable ordeal that is Quantum Theory. Attempts to add variety to the fighting are likewise stymied by poor design. There are periods where Syd clings to a Diablis turd and flies around while enemies shoot at him, but the game doesn't let you move the targeting reticule fast enough to effectively aim at anyone. I tried to use a turret, but it wouldn't turn far enough to hit enemies. There's one point where you're hanging on a Diablis turd flying up a corridor and a monster crawls up after you, and the only thing you have to do to survive is press the fire button. You don't even have to aim. All of this is bad enough on it's own, but it's rendered even more worse by the fact that you have to be Syd for the entire game, one of the most repellent characters ever excreted by the video game industry.
There's a thin line between a cold blooded badass and a full blown psychopath, a line that producers of bad video games have a nasty habit of overstepping. Quantum Theory's Syd is devoid of redeeming qualities; at least the guy in Rogue Warrior had Mickey Rourke's potty mouth to lend charm to the proceedings. Syd's voice sounds like the director told the voice actor “Give me your best cartoon rapist. No, not someone that rapes cartoons, a rapist that is a cartoon. You know, Christian Bale's Batman, but as a sexual predator.” When Syd picks up ammunition he says “Mmm... ammo.” in the same sexually menacing drawl Ted Levine employs in Silence of the Lambs. It's much easier to imagine Syd stroking a firearm and crooning “Would you shoot me? I'd shoot me. I'd shoot me so hard.” than learning to love again with Filena, the new female he teams up to attack the tower with. It's hard to see what Filena sees in Syd, who tells her “You're more useful to me alive than dead, that's all.” He also talks to himself as he fights, spouting one-liners designed to impress to nine year old boys like “Ugh, there's only one left, weak.” and “Hey, c'mon, lemmie kill you already like I did all your friends.” Then again, judging from the words Sid and Filena exchange with each other, it could be that it's simply impossible to judge their relationship by human standards. Syd can pick up Filena and throw her to strike an enemy with her sword, and on just such an occasion he was heard to remark “Cut 'em a new hole.” Not “Cut 'em a new asshole.” mind you, but “Cut 'em a new hole.” Apparently any old hole will do for Syd. At one point Filena yells “Don't let them get your back, I need you alive.” I thought people getting my back was a good thing! Their most mysterious exchange is when Syd says “Those things'll flatten you if you're not careful.” and Filena replies “I don't need to get any flatter.” What does that mean? Is she joking that she has a flat chest? Is the average breast size of Nosferatus in the Quantum Theory universe something I should be familiar with?
Filena is a Nosferatu and Syd is a Gillskin, which spells trouble, because the two groups have kind of have a whole “Capulets and Montagues of the inexplicable giant tower in the post-apocalyptic wasteland” thing going on. Nosferatus and Gillskins behave exactly the same—the Nosferatus don't suck blood and the Gillskins don't... gill skin, I guess—they even have the same character animations. Their differences are purely aesthetic: the difference between Nosferatus and Gillskins is the difference between knockoff Antoni Gaudí and knockoff H.R. Giger. The Nosferatus are gold or silver with helmets covering their faces and such an excess of bump mapping on their armor that it looks like they're wearing crumpled up pieces of paper. Nosferatus are found in the lower sections of the tower, and inhabit areas clearly inspired by the iconic architecture of Antoni Gaudí, who in turn derived inspiration from the organic forms of the natural world. The cathedral-like areas are undeniably pretty, but they're imitative, not innovative, and as such they're creatively sterile. Gaudí's incredible ability to manipulate form to channel space in a way that's at once counter-intuitive and natural is entirely absent in the environments of Quantum Theory, which appropriate Gaudí's style to lend a patina of organic majesty to their living tower, but it's just that: a facade that, coupled with such crappy gameplay, amounts to nothing more than gilding the bars of your cage. Gillskins inhabit a darker realm and supposedly kill Nosferatus, but this isn't Covenant and Flood or even Locusts and Lambent; Nosferatus and Gillskins seldom meet and even when they do there's no difference in the way they fight. The fact that Syd, a Gillskin, is teaming up with Filena, a Nosferatu, is supposed to be some huge, taboo-breaking deal, but the world isn't fleshed out competently enough for us to feel any real ramifications, outside of a bad guy sincerely yelling the line “WE ARE GILLSKINS SYD! GIVE UP THAT NOSFERATU!” in his ultra-evil voice, which is unintentionally hilarious—the best kind of hilarious.
Getting through this game was a terrible ordeal full of bugs and bad acting and bad writing and dull gameplay, but when I finally, finally got to the end of it, I was astonished to discover that Quantum Theory legitimately believed I still gave a rat's ass about the story that it had neglected for ten-odd hours. When Syd finally gets to the top of the Ark tower and reaches the One Thing The Good Guy Has To Destroy To Blow Up The Whole Structure (Every evil fortress needs one!) the artificial intelligence governing the Ark launched into this huge, long-winded monologue about how the world was ravaged by war and there were genetic alchemists who fabricated the Arks to use an accelerated form of evolution to fabricate a new form of life that would thrive in this hostile environment and Kevin Spacey was Keyser Soze who was a ghost a whole time and Rosebud was his sled and it was all I could do to keep myself from screaming at the screen “Now?! NOW? Now that I've finally finished with your terrible video game you want to explain the whole friggin' plot to me? NOW?!” Quantum Theory's story is like a boyfriend or girlfriend who ignores you and puts you off and never calls, but the moment you say “enough already” and break it off they won't leave you the hell alone. YOU ONLY WANT ME BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HAVE ME, QUANTUM THEORY!
How Long I Could Make Myself Play: Entire game.
How Bad Is It As Described By A Film On IMDB's Bottom 100 List: Muscle-bound Ator and his mute Asian sidekick travel from the ends of the Earth to save his aged mentor from the evil mustachioed Zor.
Redeeming Factors(if any): There's a brief post-credits sequence that shows Filena and Syd approaching a new set of twin towers. This sequel will never be realized, and it's safe to assume that they both tripped on something and died immediately after the camera faded out.