Supermassive Games have made a bit of a name for themselves in the ‘Interactive movie‘ genre of games, picking up where others like Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls) have dropped off. Until Dawn was the breakthrough horror hit that is now almost 8 years old (that makes me feel old) and the Dark Pictures Anthology has carved out its own niche in the market.
The Quarry was officially announced only recently in March 2022, and following that has seen a social media build up in the form of TikTok and Instagram posts, but most impressively a full 6 episode podcast (Episode 6 not out just yet) that probably hasn’t seen anywhere near the attention it deserves: 6-part Limited Podcast Series | The Quarry (2k.com)
I’m in a WHAT genre game? Horror? Shit, I’m the attractive blonde girl. I probably won’t make it.
An experienced cast of TV and Movie talent was brought in to provide further legitimacy to the project. Is it enough to bring The Quarry to the level of true art? Or is this just a D-Grade effort that shouldn’t make it through the night to see the light of day?
The basic plot here is a relatively simple one. It is the last day of Summer Camp at Hackett’s Quarry and 9 camp counsellors wave goodbye to the departing children before realising that due to car troubles they can’t leave themselves until the following morning. Mr Hackett the camp owner seems particularly insistent that the counsellors stay inside the lodge and don’t go outside until morning. Being teenagers, the 9 Camp Counsellors decide that one last bonfire party is in order before they return home to their separate lives. What they don’t know is that The Quarry hides some terrible secrets, and it might not be a good idea to be out at night. Gratuitous violence ensues…
He’s not talking about the landscape… rawr
It is difficult to go into too much plot detail without spoiling things, so I will leave it for you to experience yourself. Depending on your choices it is possible that nobody makes it through the night alive, there are high stakes here. This is a good quality horror story, and would have made a perfectly fine movie without breaking any new ground for the genre.
It isn’t dark just yet, so nothing to worry about… for now.
Having played Supermassive’s previous title, Until Dawn, prepared me for what to expect in the gameplay department for The Quarry. If this type of game is new to you – be prepared that the is actually not that much of a ‘game’ to be found here in the traditional sense.
There are basically 3 different types of ‘gameplay’ here that frequently swap in and interrupt each other depending on where you are in the story. The game does to a great job of introducing these with some 80’s style animation:
- Watching cinematics and making occasional ‘A or B’ decisions such as ‘Run or Hide’
- Exploration sections where the character is bound to a particular area (though these are occasionally quite large). Here you will be searching for clues, collectables and the next trigger to progress the story
- Quick-Time Events – usually pushing one of the analogue sticks in a specific direction, mashing a button quickly or aiming and firing a gun. The QTEs are relatively forgiving here, so don’t worry if you don’t have trigger finger reflexes, you’ll still be fine as long as you pay attention.
Occasionally the player will be presented with an option to interrupt a conversation between other characters or perform a particular action with a countdown timer. Sometimes though, the right choice will be to simply do nothing and allow the action to unfold without changing things – but not every time of course, and that is what keeps things interesting.
There are 10 Chapters in The Quarry plus a Prologue to set things up. I clocked up a couple of playthroughs of The Quarry and I can definitively say that the massive branching decision tree can provide a vastly different experience. Indeed there are whole areas of the game that can be missed depending on decisions early in the game, and choices made in early chapters can lead to the unavoidable death of a character in a later chapter.
Personally, I didn’t really like Jacob… Cancel
Some people may feel that there isn’t enough here to constitute a ‘game’, but due to the tension of the situations that these characters are in and the ‘anything can happen’ nature of a horror title you won’t want to put the controller down… you know, just in case…
Just in case one of the main characters does die, there is an option to come into the game with three ‘lives’. Using one of these will re-wind time to the important decision or QTE and allow the player and character in question another opportunity to escape with their life intact. This was occasionally frustrating to use though as the important decision may have occurred 15 or 20 minutes earlier – and there is no way to skip or fast-forward the story sequences.
To keep things interesting, there are a few different categories of collectibles out there, including the Tarot cards that can be used in the between-chapter interludes to give you a peak into a ‘possible future’ that may allow you to make the right decision to save a life (or intentionally do the opposite if you don’t like a particular character). For the completionists out there, multiple playthroughs will be required to obtain all of the collectables as it is impossible to get these in a single path through the game.
Of course it is possible to get through to the end of the game with all 9 camp counsellors surviving the night, but it is equally possible to have them all die a gruesome death. Indeed, one of the touted features of The Quarry is a ‘Movie Mode‘ where all of the gameplay sequences and decisions are removed entirely. There are basic ‘Everybody Lives’ and ‘Everybody Dies’ options, but you can actually get quite creative here with the ‘Director Mode‘ and chose exactly how each character should react in particular situations. My personal favourite is the appropriately titled ‘Gorefest’ movie. Does that make me a sick person? Probably.
Where is that blood from young lady?
For a piece of art that is more ‘movie’ than ‘game’, it is imperative for the presentation to be strong to tie the product together. 2K and Supermassive Games clearly had this in mind when they brought together what is an absolutely stellar cast for a videogame. Almost all of the talent on display was well known to me from previous TV or movie appearances. David Arquette is probably the most recognisable for those already entrenched in the horror genre due to his work on the Scream series, while Ariel Winter is a Screen Actor’s Guild award winner along with the rest of the ensemble cast of Modern Family. Ted Raimi has horror pedigree and has frequently worked with his brother Sam Raimi (you may have heard of him) in projects such as the Evil Dead series and of course the original Spider-Man trilogy.
Hi Mr Arquette. I mean, Mr Hackett.
The voice acting is clearly one of the highlights of the game. Even when the story treads a little close to cliché or ‘groan’ territory, the skill of the cast really draws players into the experience; some of the best and funniest moments of the game are simple exchanges and banter between the campers and the Hackett family. This game is clearly R rated – not only due to the wonderful moments of gore but also from the almost excessive swearing. I imagine that the cast had a lot of fun in the vocal booth for this.
Would you guess that this is not a photo of an actual person?
Visually, The Quarry is also very impressive. The facial animations are some of the best I have seen this generation other than true AAA games like Horizon Forbidden West. With a couple of exceptions (Emma’s face never really looked ‘right’ to me) the cast’s faces look almost lifelike in every scene. I particularly enjoyed the pause screen that shows a close up of the current character’s face including any effects that have occurred with your chosen path in the story so far (e.g. sweat or blood splatter). Body movements don’t fare quite as well in the sections where the player is in control, though pre-rendered scenes do still look good and the ‘movie mode’ can allow you to avoid the occasional awkward marionette postures entirely.
Emma has a bit of the old ‘puffy cheeks’.
The environments of Hackett’s Quarry are excellently presented as well. The lighting is a particular highlight through most of the game, though there were a couple of times that this seemed a little unbalanced – or allowed the moon to have an effect through what should be a solid wall.
The sun is about to set… that is bad news.
Even though this is a relatively short experience, on returning to locations I had visited before it was easy to recognise landmarks in what could easily have been an otherwise generic ‘forest’ location. There is a great attention to detail in the campsite buildings that make it feel like a real location while also gently directing the player to the next clue or object of interest. The only exception to this is the very average looking water physics. I am aware how difficult these are to program at the best of times, and the amount of time that water is an important element in the game is relatively low so I was willing to let this slide.
Sound is extremely important in a horror title, and I was glad to hear full use of 5.1 channel surround sound to help build atmosphere and tension. Screams, gunshots and the tearing of limbs feel exactly as visceral as they should. The soundtrack is a great combination of soft orchestration to solidify the dark tone and mood of the game, and modern songs that give off that ‘end of summer camp’ vibe. Interestingly, there is a ‘streamer mode‘ that can be selected at the start of a playthrough that replaces some specific high-profile licences tunes to avoid any issues if the player is streaming on YouTube or Twitch (e.g. Ariana Grande’s Moonlight).
The Quarry is an interesting beast. The story is good without being exceptional and the first playthrough is an enjoyable experience due to the strong presentation led by top-quality voice acting talent. The 8-10 hours of adventuring feel like a interactive season of the latest horror show on Netflix. In my view any horror fan, particularly those that enjoyed Until Dawn, should give this a go.
I do need to call out that on subsequent plays its hard to shake the feeling that there isn’t that much of a ‘game’ here. Even something as simple as a ‘fast-forward’ button would have made the world of difference. Lacking that there isn’t enough to bring anyone other than completionists/trophy hunters back for more. It feels like a ‘one and done’ type of game, which is a shame in a way because the developers clearly love their craft and it looks like they had a blast making this game. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one from them because I have no doubt it will continue the upward trajectory that started with Until Dawn and has continued here.
So, why should you play it?
- Beautiful presentation with some of the best facial animations around
- You’ve always wanted to feel what it was like to be part of that horror story
- Games with too many buttons and difficult controls frustrate you
But, why shouldn’t you play it?
- Excessive swearing and gore really turn you off
- Replayability and ‘value for money’ are important to you
A review code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided by the 2K Australia for the purpose of this review.