You know something’s not right when you can’t even tell what a game is trying to be. This is just the case with TeamKill Media’s newest project: Quantum Error. Announced back in 2020, the game is finally releasing just in time for spooky season. But what type of game is it? It attempts to take on so many different genres that it ultimately fails to excel at any of them while also not shining as a thing of its own. Part cinematic experience, part firefighter simulator, part first person shooter, part Doom, part Dead Space, this game attempts to be it all while being wrapped in a completely nonsensical story. The first hour of the game is literally 50% cutscenes. Come on… This is a game, not a movie!
You take on the role of Captain Jacob Thomas, working in San Francisco, California as a regular firefighter. The year is 2109, and a quantum research company known as Monad has had their facility attacked by an unknown entity. You and your team have been dispatched by the fire chief to go and rescue those in need of help. A seemingly regular job soon turns into a nightmare as you discover the secrets of the facility and what it holds underneath. The narrative is about what you would expect of a game like this: over the top science fiction that makes very little sense. Katanas, cosmic creatures, and pregnant ladies! The game frequently pans between the past and future to drive character development on Jacob, but does so poorly and instead makes the narrative difficult to follow.
It kind of makes sense that this is sort of a firefighter simulator given the occupation of the protagonist. You’ll be performing all the duties of the profession, including putting out fires with an extinguisher, running into burning buildings with a gas mask, cracking open doors with a crowbar, and dragging bodies to safety. There’s actually quite an intense list of tools at your disposal, all of which serve a different purpose. For example, the hacksaw is used to saw open metal panels that can be used to let hot steam vent out of a pipe whereas the clipper is used to pry and keep doors open. You’ll even be tasked to perform CPR on survivors from time to time.
When you’re not too busy trying to be a firefighter, the game has you participating in fire fights with a variety of guns. Unfortunately, defeating enemies drops nothing: no money, no ammo, no guns. Enemy variety is decent, ranging from human soldiers to demented cosmic creatures. Lovecraftian inspired boss battles are indeed quite epic, especially when you get to float through space in a jetpack. They even put in a Mr. X equivalent for certain segments. Every piece of equipment must be found or given to you through story progression. They can be upgraded and modified as well. Ammo is found in various crates and boxes, along with healing items. You have your standard pistol along with an assault rifle and shotgun. Later in the game, you get your hands on some bigger toys too, including a minigun and rocket launcher. For some reason, the game loves to give you ammo for guns that you don’t even have yet.
Before you acquire any ranged weapon though, you have to rely on your firefighting tools to melee enemies to death. Or you can just punch them with your bare fists, be my guest! Every tool and gun can be cycled through with a weapon wheel. It’s sad to say that every weapon in the game has very little impact when fired or swung. It’s hard to describe because, yes, you do hear the sound of the weapon going off and the enemy being shot, but there’s undoubtedly a lack of smooth transitioning. Hitting an enemy with bullets is extremely stiff as they don’t react at all to being shot. Aiming on a controller is harder than on a keyboard and mouse, but the game’s included aim assist feature does absolutely nothing and might as well not be there.
You can, in fact, change from first person perspective to third person perspective on the fly by pressing the touch pad of the DualSense controller. I appreciate having the choice, and wish that more games would offer such options. However, I wouldn’t advise third person mode here because it’s not very well implemented. The main character’s animations are janky and sometimes stiff, and certain actions such as climbing a ladder or crawling through a crevice force you back in the first person view anyways. Changing your POV should differ how you approach level design as well, but the game’s lacking on that front too. Levels feel unnecessarily dark and empty, and there’s very little sound design to back them up other than footsteps and ambient noise.
Perhaps the worst gameplay mechanic of this game is the forced stealth sections. Before the game gets all science fiction and DOOM-ey, it has you sit through some painstakingly long segments of stealth. Like any stealth mechanic, you have to crouch and walk super slowly and keep your flashlight off too. Mind you, the locales in this game are incredibly dark, which is why there’s a flashlight to begin with. Turning it off pretty much renders you blind as you can’t see anything around you. Enemies get alerted way too fast, know you’re there even before you turn the corner, and sometimes spawn out of nowhere to shoot you. The lack of an objective marker and easy-to-access map easily makes this one of the most frustrating parts of the game.
With all that being said, the developers did keep their promise, somewhat, of delivering a next-gen experience, as the game makes excellent use of the PS5’s DualSense controller in a variety of different gameplay elements. For starters, the controller’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback are utilized when firing different guns and using different fire fighting instruments. It’s not to the extent where every single tool feels different, but the gesture is appreciated. Furthermore, radio intercoms come through the controller’s speakers and when you deliver CPR, you must do so by physically blowing into your controller’s microphone. This is the first I’ve seen a game require the player to bring the controller up to their face to blow into it.
I think the majority of people who are informed of this title’s existence are probably curious about the visuals and overall performance of the game. TeamKill Media sure didn’t shy away from putting extra marketing buzz around their usage of Unreal Engine 5 for the game’s development. Quantum Error is only going to be on the PlayStation 5, as the developers canceled the development of the PS4 version due to it requiring “too much downgrading and changing of assets”. Aside from the excellent usage of the DualSense controller, I honestly see no reason why this title can’t run on the PS4 as well.
For the most part, Quantum Error runs well on the PS5, with quick load times and mostly stable frame rates. Sometimes button presses won’t register immediately, if at all. A button prompt might show up in game for you to press triangle, but doing so results in no reaction. There’s no graphics or performance mode, so you’re stuck with one default mode, which is fine for me. Note that the game renders at 2K 60FPS and not 4K, so keep that in mind. The game also lacks a manual save until several hours in at a specific location, and automatic checkpoints aren’t super frequent. I had to restart at a checkpoint multiple times due to objects clipping inside the wall or no button prompts working, resulting in the game softlocking my progress.
The biggest letdown and what contributes the most to the game’s overall jankiness is how awful the animations look. Yes, the still visuals look nice if you’re not moving and staring at a static image of the game, but once you actually start playing it, you’ll notice right away how jagged and choppy everything is. Every animation is rigid, clunky, and disjointed, whether that be characters talking, moving, or performing some action. It doesn’t help when the body you are dragging to safety is ragdolling out of control while you’re risking your life for them!
The lip syncing of dialogue is also completely off, and the game doesn’t offer any subtitles. It’s an absolute crime that a $59.99 “indie” game doesn’t offer even the most basic of accessibility options. Given that this game tries to be so many different genres at once, you’ll be bombarded with tons of tutorial screens during the first few hours, all of which just disappear permanently after the first time. This means if you forgot how something works, better start button mashing and guessing! The impossibly small text in these pop up tutorial boxes and the frequent grammatical and spelling errors, like “a instant” and “diplayed” only make a terrible matter even worse.
Despite not having a universally basic accessibility feature, the game does offer a suite of different difficulty levels that unfortunately cannot be changed mid-game. This ranges from the Fire Explorer (super easy) mode to Fire Chief (extreme) mode. Quantum Error also offers in-game cheats that can enable infinite health, stamina, oxygen, and ammo. The game doesn’t make it explicitly clear how to unlock these as attempting to toggle them in the settings menu does nothing. What surprised me is the inclusion of a New Game Plus mode because I find it difficult just to sit through the entire game once, let alone another time.
At the end of the day, I ask myself these questions about Quantum Error given the many genres it is trying to tackle. As a shooter game, is it fun? No. As a horror game, is it scary? Nope. As a firefighter simulator, is it cool? Sometimes I guess. Would I recommend this title as a full priced 60 dollar game? Never. TeamKill Media has done a commendable job being only a team of 4 to come up with something this massive and ambitious. However, this is another sad case of biting off more than you could chew. This might be up your alley if you’re into janky, B-movie messes.