Guildford-based developer Supermassive Games has officially perfected the art of the creepy isolated and smartphone signal-free lodge. Rays of moonlight shine perfectly through shuttered windows. Dust motes dance in the sparkling white beams of its summer camp surroundings, just waiting to be disturbed by the running and the screaming of camp counsellors fleeing from untold terrors. The Quarry has seen all of your favourite horror movies. As the game’s gang of terrified teens shine phone torches down creepy tunnels, and declare themselves in the midst of “a creature feature, not a ghost story” they’re not so much breaking the fourth wall, as physically handing you popcorn through the screen. Just be aware it might have red on it.
Entirely separate from the developer’s previous release Dark Pictures Anthology, this choice-based narrative gorefest is more of a follow-up to the PlayStation exclusive Until Dawn. In the survival horror, we switch between nine camp counsellors as they navigate a seemingly unending night of horrors after staying at Hackett’s Quarry – an eerily quiet summer camp in Upstate New York – for longer than planned. An all-star cast including Scream’s David Arquette, horror legend Lin Shaye, and Lance Henriksen all make perfectly mo-capped appearances amid the monstrosities, and they’re welcome reminders of the series’ scare clout. The overall experience makes for exceptionally entertaining teen cheese, even if it’s not quite as narratively concise (or nearly as scary) as Until Dawn.
The counsellors themselves are a selection of teens on a sliding scale of obnoxious, who talk like they’ve choked on a Buffy Encyclopaedia. Helpfully, this means they always have an often exceptionally amusing quip ready for when they’ve lost a vital organ (or two). So far, typical teen fodder for The Quarry’s monsters. And what of the monsters themselves? Well, in Buffy speak, I’ll be ‘vagueing that up for you.’
Your feelings towards the first act of the game will admittedly depend on your tolerance for the rabble of teenagers you’re attempting to save. Some great action early on – in fact, the preview slice I played last month – is followed by a baggy hour or two before the fun truly begins in the third act. Thankfully, the characters are significantly better company when the blood starts to flow.
And oh, how it flows, gurgles, explodes, and splatters. The Quarry gleefully punishes your split-second choices with swift and sudden death, but what’s so interesting this time around is just how you get there. Our choices have always made a difference in Supermassive’s games but there’s something particularly compelling at work in The Quarry. The Paths section of the menu keeps you up to date with the story so far, and you’ll find yourself in there often. Represented as brilliant, video nasty-style VHS tapes to flick through, these individual character paths branch in fascinating directions. Deft alternate pathways emerge thanks to split decisions, like shooting or not shooting. Certain dialogue options mean that early choices can truly affect who lives and dies.
This feels somewhat at odds with the frustrating deaths that can still occur due to micro-decisions, like not running or hiding at a certain time. A decision from six hours ago giving a particular character a chance of survival is a brilliantly smug feeling, if inevitably short-lived.
These intricacies really play into the desire for a replay; with many moving parts on the table clearly making a difference to how the story unfurls. Over my first nine and a half hour playthrough there were plenty of forks worth going back to, just to see what would happen.
One especially welcome addition is the life system. Anyone who remembers investigating a strange noise in Until Dawn – only to result in a heinous and regretful character death – will welcome what The Quarry calls Death Rewind. You have three chances over the entire game to undo your actions, allowing players to try to save their own victims. This can mean re-doing a split second reaction or, indeed, going back a number of scenes to fix what you set in motion. As of publication of this review, this can even include going back entire chapters, though Supermassive is currently in process of adding extra information to let you know exactly how much time travel is required.
As ever, the world building and style of the game is jaw-detachingly beautiful. This is a gorgeous interactive horror movie with an almost terrifying attention to horrified wide eyes and blood-streaked, but still gloriously glowy, counsellor skin. Exploring the camp and surrounding areas with a phone torch comes with genuine tension as the camera creeps around with cinematic skill. It’s a shame then that The Quarry doesn’t hit with quite as many scary cinematic set pieces as you might expect. There’s a memorable trip to a junkyard where the tension is cranked up beautifully with motion detecting flood lights, but the rest of the game is guilty of relying a little too heavily on its monsters. It’s a shame as the VHS-style wrapping and brilliantly dark sense of humour are so strong.
But there’s still plenty to enjoy. Movie Mode lets you sit back and watch as everyone lives or dies and there’s even an ultra-granular director’s cut version that’ll let you choose how each counsellor will react to a given situation. Watching is a little frustrating as there’s no fast-forward option to get to the good stuff, but the cutscenes are beautifully shot. There’s no need to constantly flick a left analogue stick, or to hammer A to try and live another day.
Another especially nice touch is the Evidence feature. As well as collecting Tarot cards for a mysterious scenery-chewing fortune teller, there’s plenty of evidence scattered throughout the world – spooky souvenirs that prove what really went down. Even snapping pictures comes in handy, though you’ll have to be brave to try. The end result is enjoyably meta.
Pure Friday night horror fuel, The Quarry is a little more uneven than Until Dawn, but settling down alone or with a local co-op partner is still a schlocky horror treat.
Despite a slow start, The Quarry delivers even more ways to feel terrible when your actions fail a tropey teen (or six). It’s not as scary as Until Dawn but there’s so much love for the horror genre and you’ll definitely want to dive in to see how it could all have played out. If only you weren’t as trigger happy…
- Path system is fascinating this time around
- Looks beautiful
- Nails the tongue-in-cheek tone of teen horror
- Narrative is slow to start
- Death can still come all too quickly, without knowing quite why
- Not as scary as it could be