The Quarry is Supermassive Games’ spiritual successor to Until Dawn, a new 10-hour horror game unrelated to its not-so-distant cousin, The Dark Pictures Anthology series. It intensely evokes classic teen horrors, close to the track that made Until Dawn so successful. Also, like Until Dawn, this path branches out in various different directions, twisting and turning all the way around until you come to one of the 186 unique finish shapes. From the three hours I spent with my first three acts, I was constantly reminded of what made Until Dawn fun and modern when it was first released. While The Quarry may not have gone haywire, it definitely got its hook inside me with its great cinematic presentation and general horror movie passion that it’s clearly so fond of.
The quarry wears its bearing on his blood-soaked sleeve; Summer camp setting on Friday the 13th, teens versus monster nature Cabin in the Woods, and Scream’s vague self-awareness. All of this happens as the chords of Deliverance’s banjo can be heard echoing from the trees. My hands-on time included flushes of blood, touching moments between characters, and a couple of jump scares to boot. She never threatened to take herself too seriously, and firmly remembered to put the laughter to the slaughter. Take one look at the cast and you’ll be able to see what Supermassive is up to here, with cult horror actors like Scream’s David Arquette and The Evil Dead’s Ted Raimi giving you a warm welcome at Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp.
After an unsettling and ultimately frightening introduction, the first chapter of The Quarry begins on the last day of camp. All the children went home and only the advisors and Mr. Hackett of Arquette remained. You can alternate between controlling nine different camp counselors as they spend the next two hours preparing for one last big blast party in the evening before heading home. What can go wrong? Well, inevitably, a lot. I won’t spoil the shocks here but rest assured that there is more than one threat to be wary of in The Quarry. I’ve seen glimpses of scary supernatural things, roaring monsters of some sort, and a creature I have no idea how to describe that showed up at the end of playtime. In addition, of course, the most dangerous game – a man. It’s hunting season after all…
It’s hard not to pay attention to the amazing cinematography when playing The Quarry, which is undoubtedly an artistic and graphic step into the game until dawn. It employs the ancient chiaroscuro art technique of the Renaissance, which uses high contrast areas of light and dark to allow unexpected surprises to explode from heavily shaded areas. You’ll see this in all kinds of horror cinema, from old classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to recent movies like It 2017. This technique is used to perfection in the foreground, when an all-creepy cop played by Remy emerges from the darkness to startle a couple bathing in their cozy car light.
This great artistic care isn’t just in lighting. An improved camera makes The Quarry look like the most cinematic Supermassive yet. The tight, stifling framing adds to the tension, which works in tandem with highly detailed facial animations captured in digital, the visual effects company behind Thanos MCU. It’s not just a real step up from Until Dawn, but honestly some of the most impressive animated faces I’ve seen in a game. They really bring the characters to life…before you choose to catch them dying quickly, that is. These deaths won’t mean much despite not first getting to know the nine playable threads. This is where the first two chapters of The Quarry spend a lot of their focus – crucially developing the connections between both camp advisors and the player.
There is a classic mix of teen horror models to be found within the collection. The overconfident Jacob, the open-minded romantic interest Emma, and the eccentric Dylan. Sometimes they err a little on the edge of cartoonishness, but in all honesty, that’s what Supermassive is after — a hilarious ode to horror delivered with a chuckle and yet tongue in cheek threatening to explode. There are strong shows all around too, with an impressive line-up of established stars and up-and-coming talent. Notable early figures include Detective Pikachu Justice Smith, Ariel Winter of Modern Family, and my pick from the group, Brenda Song as the realistic and charismatic group leader, Kaitlyn.
Getting all of these playable characters right is crucial in a game like this, but the joy is that even if you don’t get along with them, you can have the pleasure of serving their delicious death as you like. While not all of the choices I made during the opening performances resulted in any deaths, director Will Biles assured me that there was much, much more to see. Choice is really the name of the game though. Play it sensible and you can leave Hackett’s Quarry with your nine characters alive, but if you ask me, where’s the fun in that? A Nice Touch of Storytelling is an in-game podcast hosted by characters Emily and Murph at CollegeHumor’s. Depending on the specific ending you get, the episode that plays on the finale of The Quarry will vary accordingly.
For those familiar with Until Dawn, the gameplay experience doesn’t hide any surprises on its own. The exploration sections for collecting clues are punctuated by conversations and dialogue options that can subtly and openly change the story. In tense situations, quick time events sometimes emerge, but they are often less a test of reflexes than another option to make. Maybe you just want to let someone hit their head on a tree on purpose to see what happens? As always, the quarry will react accordingly.
It seems that there are really no wrong decisions to be made, only the ones that feel the most fun or useful to the story for you at that moment. So far, the best choices have been the ones that seemed inconsequential but would inevitably lead to someone’s death for hours on the road. For example, I chose to climb a ladder early because nothing of significance happened except being notified that the ladder was now about to fall off the wall. I apologize in advance to everyone I accidentally killed doing this.
In addition to improvements in storytelling based on choice and cinematic presentation, Supermassive is taking additional steps to make The Quarry experience as accessible as possible this time around. An example is that QTEs are now simple taps on the analog stick instead of pressing the flip button, so players who aren’t familiar with controllers won’t be scrambling to find the right button. Exhilarating 1950s-style animation lessons are available for each gameplay mechanic, which is aptly narrated by the world’s number one Rod Serling impersonator.
On the odd occasion when combat takes place, minimal accuracy is required when aiming the gun, with a large flashlight beam replacing a small reticle. For players who don’t want to dominate any combat encounters at all, there is an option to turn them off completely and let them play automatically. The same can be said for every aspect of the game, from quick action to exploration. All of these different gameplay mechanics can be turned on or off at the start of play to customize them exactly to your liking and ability.
In fact, if all you’re looking for is to turn off the console completely and watch the action, there’s also movie mode. This basically allows you to pre-determine the behavior of each of the nine characters at the beginning of the story before watching it all unfold. Will they be cautious or confident? Polite or blunt? The possibilities are numerous and we will go into these systems in more detail later this month as part of IGN First.
Three hours with The Quarry gave me exactly what I expected from Until Dawn’s spiritual successor, for better and worse. Mechanically, it hasn’t moved much in the seven years since Rami Malek first scared us. This is still very much an “interactive movie” and Supermassive makes no apologies for that. The decades-old love of horror movies is on display for all to see, and the basic and powerful gameplay of repetitive challenging decisions is perfect for the genre. You might only be pressing one big button every few minutes, but they each carry quite a bit of weight; It’s still hard to tell the repercussions, either immediately or six hours later. This slow building of tension and sudden release of excitement is what makes a great horror film, and a promising sign that The Quarry is heading in the right direction.
Simon Cardy will never visit a summer camp because it doesn’t seem to end well. Follow him on Twitter at Tweet embed.