The Quarry is Supermassive Games’ spiritual successor to Until Dawn, a brand new 10-hour horror game unrelated to its not-so-distant cousin, The Dark Pictures Anthology series. Reminiscent of classic teen horror, it stays true to the path that made Until Dawn so successful. Also, like until dawn, this path branches in different directions and winds along the way until you reach one of its 186 unique ending variations. From the three hours I spent reading the first three acts, I was constantly reminded of what made Until Dawn so enjoyable and fresh when it was first released. While The Quarry might not break all that much new territory, it definitely pulled me in with its great cinematic presentation and general affection for the horror films it’s so clearly in love with.
The quarry wears its influences on its blood-soaked sleeve; the summer camp setting of Friday the 13th, the teen vs. monster nature of Cabin in the Woods, and the tongue-in-cheek confidence of Scream. All of this happens while Deliverance’s banjo strings echo off the trees. My hands-on time included bursts of blood, heartfelt moments between characters, and a few jump-scares to boot. However, it never threatened to take itself too seriously, and firmly remembered killing the laughter. Take a peek at the casting and you’ll see what Supermassive is up to here, with cult horror actors like David Arquette from Scream and Ted Raimi from The Evil Dead giving you a not-so-warm welcome to Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp.
After a disturbing and ultimately gruesome prologue, Act 1 of The Quarry begins on the very last day of camp. The kids have all gone home and only the counselors and Mr. Hackett from Arquette are still there. They switch between controlling nine different camp counselors as they spend the next few hours preparing for one last big blowout party that evening before heading home. What can go wrong? Well, inevitably a lot. I won’t spoil the shocks here, but rest assured there’s more than one threat to be wary of in The Quarry. I’ve seen spooky, supernatural things, snarling beasts, and a creature I don’t know how to describe appeared right at the end of my playtime. Plus, of course, the most dangerous game – man. It’s hunting time after all…
It’s hard not to notice the stunning cinematography when playing The Quarry, which is without a doubt a graphical and artistic improvement over Until Dawn. It employs the age-old chiaroscuro technique of Renaissance art, using high-contrast light and dark areas to allow for unexpected surprises that burst forth from heavily shaded areas. You’ve seen this in all types of horror cinema, from old classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to modern films like 2017’s It. The technique is used to perfection in the prologue, when a totally creepy cop, played by Raimi, emerges from the darkness to startle a couple bathed in the soothing light of their car.
However, this impressive technical care is not only found in the lighting. Improved camerawork makes The Quarry feel like Supermassive’s most cinematic game. Tight, claustrophobic frames heighten the tension, which works hand-in-hand with the highly detailed facial animations shot at Digital Domain, the visual effects company behind the MCU’s Thanos. Not only is it a real step up from Until Dawn, but it has some of the most amazing animated faces I’ve ever seen in a game. They really bring the characters to life… before deciding to quickly inflict their deaths. However, these sinkings wouldn’t mean nearly as much without first learning about the nine playable leads. That’s what the first two chapters of The Quarry focus a lot on – developing bonds between each camp counselor and, crucially, the player.
The quarry screenshots
Within the group is a classic mix of teen horror archetypes. Jacob, the high-spirited jock, Emma, the extroverted romantic interest, and Dylan, the edgy oddball. They stray a little on the edge of caricature at times, but honestly, that’s what Supermassive aspires to – a hilarious ode to horror delivered with a chuckle and a tongue so far in the cheek it’s about to burst. There are also consistently strong performances with an impressive ensemble cast of established stars and up-and-coming talent. Early standouts include Detective Pikachu’s Justice Smith, Modern Family’s Ariel Winter, and my choice, Brenda Song as the charismatic and witty de facto group leader, Kaitlyn.
In a game like this, getting all those playable characters right is crucial, but the beauty is that you can enjoy serving them as delicious a death as you like, even if you can’t get along with them. While none of the decisions I made during the opening act resulted in fatalities, I was assured by director Will Byles that there are many, many to see. However, the choice is really the name of the game. If you play it right, you could keep Hackett’s Quarry alive with all nine of your characters, but if you ask me, where’s the fun in that? A nice storytelling element is an in-game podcast hosted by characters played by CollegeHumor’s Emily and Murph. Depending on the specific ending you get, the episode set over The Quarry’s epilogue will vary accordingly.
For those familiar with Until Dawn, the gaming experience doesn’t hide any surprises of its own. Clue-gathering sections of exploration are punctuated by conversations and dialogue choices that can alter the story both subtly and overtly. In tense situations, quick time events sometimes crop up, but these are often less a test of reactions and more of another choice to be made. Maybe you just want to have someone bang their head against a tree on purpose to see what happens? As always, The Quarry will respond accordingly.
It seems that there really aren’t any wrong choices to make, just the ones that feel most comfortable or beneficial to the story for you at that moment. So far, the best decisions have been decisions that seemed inconsequential, but hours later will inevitably result in someone’s death. For example, I chose to climb down a ladder early so nothing major happens other than being notified that the ladder is about to fall off the wall now. I apologize in advance to anyone I accidentally killed as a result.
Aside from its improvements in decision-based storytelling and cinematic presentation, Supermassive is taking additional steps to make The Quarry the most accessible experience possible this time around. One example of this is that QTEs are now simple movements of the analog stick instead of button presses on the face, eliminating the need for players unfamiliar with controllers to search for the right button. Delightful 1950s themed animated tutorials are available for each game mechanic, aptly narrated by the world’s leading Rod Serling impersonator.
On rare occasions when combat is going on, minimal accuracy is required when aiming a weapon, as a large flashlight beam replaces a small crosshair. For players who don’t want to take control of combat encounters at all, there is an option to turn them off entirely and have them play automatically. The same goes for every aspect of the game, from quick-time events to exploration. All of these different gameplay mechanics can be toggled on or off at the start of your playthrough to customize them specifically to your preferences and skills.
The Quarry Characters
If you just want to put down the controller completely and watch the action, there’s even Movie mode. This allows you to essentially predetermine 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 distant? The possibilities are numerous and we’ll be exploring these systems in more detail later this month at IGN First.
Three hours with The Quarry gave me exactly what I wanted from a spiritual successor to Until Dawn, for better or for worse. Mechanically, not a bunch has moved in the seven years since Rami Malek first freaked us all out. This is still an “interactive movie” and Supermassive makes no apologies for that. Decades-old love for horror movies is on display for all, and the basic yet effective gameplay, with frequent difficult choices, is perfect for the genre. They might only need to hit a significant button every few minutes, but each of them carries a tremendous amount of weight; It’s still difficult to gauge what impact this will have, either now or in six hours. It’s that slow build of suspense and sudden release of excitement that makes a great horror film, and a promising sign that The Quarry is going in the right direction.
Simon Cardy will never attend summer camp as it never seems to end well. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.
https://www.ign.com/articles/the-quarry-exclusive-hands-on-preview-ign-first The Quarry: Exclusive hands-on preview – IGN First