Review – Quantum Error
Ahh, Quantum Error. You piqued our curiosity back in 2020 at the PlayStation 5 reveal showcase. In the three years since, your devotion and passion never wavered. You kept the candle burning, you kept everyone up to date, you dropped the occasional (un)intentional console war fodder, you retweeted, and you hyped expectations up to a level that the God of Wars and Starfields don’t even do but, to be fair, don’t need to do. I respect the hustle that a four person (four brothers to be more exact) team showed to push and market this game that they put their souls into. Now does Quantum Error clear the bar that TeamKill Media set? Well, the answer is no, not even a little. I’m sorry, but if we are honest, we all knew it wouldn’t. What I wasn’t expecting is how it completely hit in a different way.
What Quantum Error is, and what Quantum Error is hyped to be, are two different beasts, and is the difference between enjoying what it is, and being let down by what it isn’t. What it isn’t is a AAA title, despite its AAA ambitions. It isn’t polished or optimized. It isn’t a system seller nor is it a competitor in any way to current powerhouse titles or even remakes. What it is, though, is the first independent attempt by four brothers at a genre with some heavy hitters. It’s a flawed title with many issues. It is already aged but its 80’s sci-fi charm and hopefully intended direction hits. Mostly, what Quantum Error feels like it is, is a remaster of a game that you loved twenty-five years ago, but have zero nostalgic connection to.
Quantum Error is a space sci-fi horror, first-person shooter. You can flip in and out of first/third person view anytime you wish, but being a huge fan of third person, even I found it most playable in first. A big twenty-five years after first contact with a cosmic entity, you play as Jacob Thomas, a soldier sent in to deal with a terrorist and hostage situation. This works as both a prologue and a tutorial for basic FPS mechanics and using the weapons wheel. Fast forward a decade later, and now a Fire Captain, you walk through a quick tutorial to teach you the fire fighter mechanics and item wheel.
Being a firefighter wasn’t just a unique whim on TeamKill Media’s part. No, they truly try and make it a game focus. It has some misses, and it needs some QoL improvements, but for the most part they do a good job of making you a firefighter first and a sci-fi hero second. You check doors for heat, pry them open, force doors open with the Jaws of Life, crawl on your stomach to avoid smoke exposure, put out fires to clear hallways, open areas to ventilate heat out of rooms, pull people to safety and even apply CPR to them. The ideas work, while implementation could use a lot of redesigns.
Your main tool will be the pry bar. You’ll use this to open pretty much everything, but having to go back to the item wheel every single time begins to get to you after hours of gameplay. Checking a door for heat is a nice touch, with a subtle vibration in the left hand is the clue that it is not safe to open the door. That would be fine if fire isn’t usually around you at these moments, which simply being near causes the entire controller to rumble. It lets you know when a room is safe, but not necessarily when it is dangerous to open. Having to manually unequip an item to continue with another action is infrequent but gets me every single time.
This brings us to maybe what Quantum Error’s biggest failings is: trying to be too much of too many little things. The game needs shooting, I get that, but does it need a pistol, shotgun, rifle, minigun, railgun, grenades, and a rocket launcher? Sticking to two weapons, maybe customizing them, would have gone a long way. Same goes with your firefighter tools. Having your pry bar, axe, scanner, radio, bare hands (which mostly means, unequip), saw, mask, and Jaws of Life pulls you out of the experience more than it pulls you in. Less can absolutely be more and Teamkill Media could have shot for far less reliance on aspects that are far less fun. I often stopped using tools that would have been useful because the constant swapping was annoying. The little moments would have shown much better if they didn’t try to put so much into them.
Enemy type has a decent variety, but often lack a growing impact. New weapon choices often just result in more powerful damage that can be reserved for bosses. Slow moving zombies, quick ones that charge, floating invisible tentacle beast, sword hand zombie? Axe for all of them. Military agents and long-range creatures? The pistol is fine. Bigger bloater types? Shotgun ‘em. Dealing with them so often and about where you would expect, removes the horror and makes Quantum Error rely more on a subpar FPS experience.
As a space horror game, well, it both fails and doesn’t. It isn’t particularly ever scary, but it does a fantastic job of capturing a classic 80’s sci-fi horror tone. It’s obtuse, creepy, slow moving, strange, but damn if I wasn’t there for it. Like rewatching that classic movie from yesteryear, late at night. The ones that didn’t age all that well, but still just keep you dialed in. My hope is this was intentional because the entire game screams a love for this period of camp and story, but my wish was that they learned more into this and less concern over weapon types. Embracing Alien, and less trying for Aliens II, would have gone a long way.
This classic approach to map design is also heavily prevalent and appreciated. Gone is any sort of map HUD or button. Instead, there are multiple map kiosks that you can access, but having the game actually pause while accessing the map would have been preferable. More than a couple times, a late-to-the-fight enemy would slowly saunter up as I am trying to pinpoint which direction that I want to head in. Even with access to the maps, there are still hidden areas you find off the beaten track and finding them is fun. Quantum Error tries to reward you for taking the time to learn secrets, but rewards can feel anti-climactic as it may just be a new weapon or suit shader or a duck most will never spend time finding all of.
Beyond re-skinning yourself, or your weapon, armory stations allow you to upgrade your weapons. Usually with the basic damage, ammunition, range modifiers that cost firmware tokens you find throughout levels. Jacob, himself, can be upgraded at Argus stations, by spending in-game currency that feel to be way too rare an item. These ARGUS stations are also where you can save your game progress manually. Most automatic saves are few and far between so doing leaving the game without an ARGUS station save is not recommended. Since you will probably want to explore on your own, you do not want to lose that progress, especially when for some random reason, a single hit would kill me. Not often but restarting a level’s progress once is enough to disgruntle anyone.
Not all classic approaches are correct approaches, and QoL and accessibility approaches are one such that should be as modern as possible. Quantum Error has your standard difficulty modes to explore, but no way to switch said difficulty in-game. Playing Quantum Error, getting to the boss, finding yourself unable to beat the boss? The answer is to start an entirely new game at the next difficulty down and hope that is enough. This isn’t the way.
Graphically, Quantum Error does enough good to highlight the bad. Heavy use of UE5 assets, extreme use of cinematic slow-motion to cover up animation limitations, cinematic focus of shoulders and up so we don’t see awkward body movement. Facial animations are nice but plastic looking, which isn’t helped by the animations and the voice work. Everything feels like it is played out by mannequins, but under water.
With fire being a major selling point of the game, I felt I was getting the same couple of fire assets used over and over, giving it more of an “object in the room” feel, than it being the room. Grabbing a fire hose would look incredibly janky, with the hose moving all over the place, and you put out an entire area of fire even if just aiming in one section of it. Water wouldn’t arc down; it would just shoot straight until it hit an object. But aiming it at enemies had no effect. They would keep walking towards me as if they weren’t being hit by a violent stream of pressurized H2O.
On the topic, that wouldn’t be the only times an item or character had no physical reaction to Jacob. Vents for crawl spaces were nonexistent. They existed, but they had no physical presence. I could walk right through them. And that isn’t limited to objects, a lot of objects, but also people. Jacob would walk right through NPC’s, vent covers, chairs, just to name a few. If it wasn’t coded as a wall or column, a staircase or rail, a door to limit access, or an object that could have items on or inside it, I could probably walk through it. Breaking or cutting an object result in giant crumbled puzzle pieces breaking apart. Wood door, wall, metal covering, snow and ice? Each break apart as if you are breaking apart a large piece of Styrofoam.
Sound is a tough one for me because on one hand, the VO work is horrific, and the soundtrack is synthesized. But then again, the VO work is horrific, and the soundtrack is synthesized!! Watch any sci-fi cult classic you remember, and the acting is horrific, and the soundtrack is synthesized. The music, the dialog, the VO, the delivery is so 80’s and I am here for it. If intentional, then golf clap. If not intentional, my mind can’t even wrap around that possibility.
Dated FPS mechanics, classic level and map design, horrific voice acting, synthesized music, visually good but poorly animated slow-motion cinematics; Quantum Error is either one of the worst games to drop in 2023, or it is one of the best games from 1999 receiving one of the best remasters to drop in 2023. Which is why it is all about perspective. TeamKill Media did a great job marketing Quantum Error the best they could, but it should never have been floated around as any sort of system seller or to pine for recognition from PlayStation. The bar got set too high but even I must admit that, after readjusting and seeing Quantum Error as an homage to both games and stories of a time past, this game hit a needed note with me.
Quantum Error still has the chance to become something, if the developers can take a step back and learn and grow. There is love and there is passion, you can feel it, it just outweighs the skill. So, I ask, what are you? Are you a generic asset flip or are you one of the better remasters, an homage if you will, of a never released game from the early 2000s I never had a chance to love?
Good character design, but sluggish and aged cinematic animations. Heavy use of UE5 assets cut and pasted ad nauseum.
Over complicating a little of too many genre types leads to never fully becoming great in anything. Less is sometimes more.
VO work is horrific, and the soundtrack is synthesized, which is both boon and bane.
It has its flaws, but it hits the right spot for a face-lifted stroll down classic gaming.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Quantum Error is available now on PS5.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Quantum Error was provided by the publisher.