Horror and I, we have a very tenuous relationship. I love a good zombie movie, for example, but modern films like Midsommar or Malignant hold zero interest to me. Same with games: I’ve played Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn through once, but haven’t bothered with the Dark Pictures Anthology. So, what chance does The Quarry have with me?
Well, it piqued my interest with two things: its premise and its cast. The former seems to be aiming for the whole Sleepaway Camp/Texas Chainsaw vibe, with the latter adding flavour to the proceedings. Lance Henriksen, Ethan Suplee and David Arquette are some of the big draws, adding a sense of “We’re in for the ride too” about it.
So, it’s got an all-star cast, a cliched yet somewhat compelling story to it, what could go wrong? Ah, yes, the Supermassive trappings of awkward controls and Quick Time Events. Let’s see if those aren’t enough to derail The Quarry. Hold on to your butts…
Welcome to Camp Nightmare
Our twisted tale starts with a dark night, an eerie atmosphere, and our first two spot-the-actors characters: Laura, and Eric from Santa Clarita Diet. Well, Skyler Gisondo, but he only knows how to act one way, apparently. These two kids are new counselors at Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp, driving down a night early to beat the rush.
But, as is the way, they veer off the road, damaging the truck they’re in. Max (Gisondo’s character) plays mechanic whilst we control Laura. A brief investigation of the woods and a scare later, we’re back to the fixed car. Just in time for our next cameo: Ted Raimi!
That’s right, the actor brother of Evil Dead director Sam Raimi! Is it coincidence that he plays an off-kilter cop in a spooky wood, adding House of a 1000 Corpses vibes, or is it deliberate? Well, the game doesn’t outright say which, but as mentioned earlier, it seems to be running with every trope in the teen slasher vault and enjoying it.
I chose one option (that I won’t spoil) that led me to something gross happening, some quick-fire choices that may or may not have changed anything, and that was the prologue. Okay, so it got me. It has a much better opening than Until Dawn, that’s for sure.
Hellraisers, Too: Hell-Bound To Happen To Them
The game then starts proper with the last day of summer at the camp. The counselors, a grab-bag of horror movie stereotypes, are all gearing up to go. But, as is the nature of teenagers, one of the dipshits deliberately messes things up and they have to spend the night. Gosh, so standard, right?
Well, the double-pronged angle here is that Mr. Hackett (played by Scream’s David “Dewey” Arquette) really wants them gone. As in, “Frantic like he’s got an ulterior motive” wants them gone. Panic ensues on his part, with him adamantly telling the kids to stay in all night and adhere to that.
But naturally, this is a horror game/interactive movie and they’re a bunch of teenagers. Of course they don’t, and there’s where it all starts to go wrong. Established ghost stories and legends, things going bump… you name it, Supermassive are doing it.
The hardest part of reviewing something like this is not spoiling it. So instead, let’s look at what players can at least do or influence in The Quarry.
No Fate But What We Inadvertently Make
Narrative choice is Supermassive’s forte/gimmick (delete on level of enthusiasm), with The Quarry being no different. None of this singular, binary choice nonsense: the tiniest difference may work in your favour or come back to bite you in the ass. At first, it seems pretty simple, but the game remembers.
For example, tinkering with something near the start gives two arbitrary choices: break thing or keep thing. I chose to keep thing, thinking it would be reversible. Later, said thing is in water, and I chose to help someone in distress (really hard to not spoil here) and thing was lost forever. At first I swore, with my second thought being, “Well played, game”.
That’s one aspect of multiple choice, with the others being Quick Time Events and what I’d loosely call “optional moves”. The former are more for action sequences; dodging branches, holding your breath, that kind of thing. But it was the latter that piqued my interest.
One moment, let’s say, has a timed prompt to call out to someone looking for you. Pretty obvious, right, or is it going to lure something to you? I opted to call out, and it worked. Yet not long after, whilst running from something, another prompt appeared to climb up something. Now, if I were panicking, that seems like it would make sense.
But think about it: why, in the midst of a chase, would climbing a tree make sense? I didn’t, and my character got away. It’s a crafty angle that The Quarry has: just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
At Least Act Scared
But outside of the QTE’s and tense moments (which sound bland without me giving you story context) comes the exploration side of The Quarry. I wish I could say this is just as exciting, but it’s not. Not because the game isn’t great overall, but because characters are still awkward to control. It’s one of the few things that takes my enjoyment out of it, something Supermassive still hasn’t gotten right after a number of attempts.
Controlling a character feels sluggish, like they’re just taking their sweet time with everything. Even with the LB button (Xbox controller via PC) to walk faster, it still feels like a chore. The camera is over-the-shoulder, with the right stick moving both our vision and whichever teen’s head. It’s usual, as it will highlight interactive objects, but it just feels like it kills the majority of the pacing.
Granted, there are times when these walking sections have some alacrity to them, but it’s sparse. I understand that it can’t be QTE’s all the time, to break it up a bit, but there could be a bit more urgency in the movements.
Alas, that’s a petty grumble in an otherwise enticing game. You’ll be more interested in playing who’s who and seeing what you recognise each actor from.
The Uncanny Quarry
As I said earlier, I’m not a master of horror. But, I am nerdy enough to recognise certain characters from films/franchises. So for me, it’s quite nice playing the six degrees of separation when a new character comes onscreen. Thankfully, The Quarry is a veritable showcase of Supermassive’s improving technological advancement. That is to say, Lance Henriksen looks like Lance Henriksen, as does Gisondo. Arquette, by comparison, looks slightly off.
Yet whilst it’s quite fun to place the name to the character in-game, the same can’t be said for some of the personalities. Now, I understand that The Quarry is going for the slasher stereotype/trope angle, but does it have to be so on-the-nail? Some of these characters are just so damn insufferable that I, personally, couldn’t wait to kill them off.
Does that say something about me, and the type of people I get on with, or is it a deliberate choice to make players want to hate them yet see if they redeem themselves? I couldn’t say, but the dumb-yet-egotistical jock, the socialite bitch, or Tim Robbin’s annoying DJ son were getting on my nerves so early on. I won’t tell you who I let live or do because, again, spoilers, but I will tell you about some extra little caveats that add variety to the gameplay.
Wish You Could Do Things Differently?
You will have to pardon my one-track comparisons to Until Dawn in terms of similarities. As I said, it’s the only one that I’ve played, but from what I gather, so did a lot of people. So to most of you, if I said “future predicting totems”, it might make sense. For those that it didn’t, it was a system that foretold an upcoming potential character death, so that it could be avoided (if you felt like it). This time around, it’s tarot cards.
This time around, they don’t predict character death, and they’re optional. You collect them during chapters, but you don’t see the potential of their actions until the interim between chapters. A strange lady named Eliza, played by Grace Zabriskie (of Twin Peaks fame), is the Peter Stormare fourth wall breaker this time around, allowing you to look at collected cards. Or, if you haven’t found any, will chastise you for not looking hard enough.
As I say, these are optional, so players don’t have to watch them if they want to go in completely blind. The other gimmick that The Quarry introduces is a lives system. Think of it as a rewind: say you make the wrong choice and someone dies, the game will ask if you really wanted to balls that up, or have a do-over. In one instance, I thought the teen doing the cliched “Oh I’m climbing this [blank] to my death” was being ironic… and they got royally mauled. So yes, life was used, but they are finite. Too many wrongs choices and you’ll have to live with it… although they won’t.
Or, if there’s a particular petulant pain in the ass that you don’t want to survive, save a life and sacrifice theirs. That’s the freedom of choice in these games.
My Hairiest Adventure
So, is The Quarry enough to win over this apathetic horror… gamer? Yes, yes it is. It has, to reiterate, been very hard not to spoil any of the story outside of the main premise. Which I understand is a hard sell, having to fall back on the, “You’ll just have to trust me” gambit. But in this instance, you will.
The only real negative that I can think of is that, unless you’re a completionist, there isn’t a whole lot of replayability here. For those that want to take the challenge out, which also doubles up as The Quarry’s accessibility option, there’s Movie Mode. This, as it sounds, allows the game to play out with minimal input and no stressful QTE’s that some players might struggle with. It also allows to choose if everyone lives or dies, and how disgusting their deaths can be. Which is nice.
Outside of that, there’s a couch co-op mode: essentially, players take it in turns to pass the controller/keyboard to someone else for a section. Sounds novel, but to me it just seems like a weird way of saying, “Right, you do this bit” to a mate.
And of course, there’s the tarot card collection and the multiple endings, if you really want your money’s worth. The Quarry allegedly boasts some 150+ endings, and honestly, I believe it. However, whilst someone’s will undoubtedly be different to my first one, I can see a lot of these just being “variations on a theme” with minor changes. But hey, some people like achieving that.
Death by Stereotype!
If you’ve made it this, you’ve survived. Not only that, you’ve also not been told much of the plot to The Quarry, so you can’t blame me and say I’ve ruined it for you. Although it’s been hard to make it this far without giving it away, it doesn’t mean the game is that obvious that you can work it out from the stereotypical setting I’ve described.
To whit: play The Quarry.
If it can convince me, a jaded horror cynic, that there is still good in the genre to be explored, then I’m sure genuine horror fans will enjoy it. Besides that, the game itself does also look beautiful (uncanny valley face moments aside). My PC couldn’t run it on Ultra settings, but it came close and the end result was gorgeous.
The only drawback for fans of one-and-done gaming would be the price, granted it’s a lot to play for one extended horror movie. But for those that like to squeeze every penny out of a title, then its multiple endings and decisions will be enough to keep you going. I’ve done one playthrough, yet whilst I know I won’t immediately go back, it’s there if I ever want to see what I could have done differently.
Sure, some of the characters are annoying, others have redemptive arcs I didn’t see coming. There’s a couple of subversive plot points, whilst some are just cliched and obvious. Can you change those if you did or didn’t pick a certain action? Well, you’d best go and find out…
Wearing every cliché on its sleeve, The Quarry is having a whale of a time with its setting. Sometimes it’s satirising the slasher film, others it subverts them. With many endings and path-altering decisions to make, no two playthroughs are alike. Coupled with a heap of horror alumni, as well as up and comers, The Quarry is a veritable romp through jump scares, ghost stories and video nasties.
The Quarry is available from June 10th 2022, and playable on PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One and Series S|X, and PC (reviewed on).
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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