It's safe to say, even from the outset, that Tecmo's Quantum Theory is cribbing heavily, if not entirely, from Gears of War. That'd hardly be surprising considering the myriad of ways in which the expertly implemented mechanics of Epic's sci-fi masterpiece have been co-opted for other, often lesser, titles, but seldom have we seen a game try so hard not simply to borrow from Gears of War, but to become it...And in an industry brimming with games that dangerously skirt the line between homage and outright theft, that's saying something.
You play as Syd, a beefy, thick-armed, gun-wielding badass with the throaty baritone of Marcus Fenix and the facial scars to match. Your broad-shouldered frame, heavily adorned by thick plates of half-rusted armor, plays host to a maximum loadout of three weapons. Players can choose between the usual fare: machine gun, shotgun, sniper rifle, the Viper (read: rocker launcher) and the Revenant -- a massive, spike-laden blaster that looks more like the decapitated head of Sauron than a functioning weapon. Sufficiently equipped, you'll guide Syd through the bombed-out, blood-soaked wreckage of a decimated urban center, the interior of a mysterious alien tower, and back out into the battle against the alien horde and the dreaded Diabolosis.
The story centers on a world in crisis, overrun with the creatures that swarm from a number of bio-organic towers, commonly known as Arks, that have manifested seemingly from nowhere. As human forces battle against the alien footsoldiers -- the Nosferatu and the Gillskin -- the Diabolosis hovers across the battlefield, contaminating both geography and biology while molding them to its will. Soldiers, once infected, will turn against their own, and various portions of the environment, once affected by the change, will either move or consume your available cover. While the notion of a constantly shifting battlefield is attractive indeed, there was little evidence that the new mechanic would have any tangible impact on either the player's strategy or the game's overall difficulty. But as the game progresses, there's certainly no shortage of opportunities to make this a key characteristic in the level design.
Fortunately -- or perhaps unfortunately, depending upon your point of view -- gamers should have no problem becoming immediately acquainted with Quantum Theory's control scheme. From the low-angle "roadie run," to the cover system, to the D-pad weapons selection, to the aiming and quick-dash evasion, there's virtually nothing here that won't come intuitively to the hands of anyone who's played an action title over the last few years. New, however, is the ability to execute team-based attacks with the help of Filena, the slender, sexy, sword-baring heroine who'll join Syd early in the game. A quick button press allows Syd to effortlessly toss Filena toward a nearby enemy, blade slicing into muscle and bone.
While the action in Quantum Theory is hardly unique, it isn't without some satisfaction that we detonated the mindlessly grunting Nosferatu into thick, bloody chunks, gratified, if nothing else, by the carnage of a well-timed headshot. But it's difficult to get past the visual, narrative and contextual similarities to Gears, and perhaps the only thing more distracting is the title's visual presentation. While it should be noted that this was only a preview build, there are a scant three weeks until the game hits store shelves and the graphics look relatively primitive -- like the last-gen execution of a next-gen game. While it's possible that some sharper textures and nuanced design might creep into the final product, there's ultimately little here to catch the eye.
At the end of the day, there doesn't seem to be much that'll distinguish Quantum Theory from any number of Gears clones currently on the market, but with regards to the basic, gutteral enjoyment of gracelessly placing bullets directly into the skulls of aliens, the title seems poised to deliver on that much, at least.