The Quarry screams ultra-confident teen horror. Often quite literally… In fact, a number of times in 50 minutes or so in this playable slice of action near the start of this upcoming horror game. Reassuringly, going hands-on is like tumbling into a perfect Friday night horror movie. Oh look, you’re surrounded by gently objectionable but attractive teens who may or may not survive the night and you’re going to get absurdly attached to them anyway. Oh, and of course they don’t have any signal on their smartphones…
Supermassive Games knows the narrative drill by now but rather than that making The Quarry feel like a tired sequel after the delights of Until Dawn and the three games of The Dark Pictures Anthology, those just feel like gory QTE-packed warm-ups.
In a nod to more horror movies than you can count, our nine disposable teens are spending one final night at Hackett’s Summer Camp before splitting up and returning to their normal lives. The counsellors were meant to leave during the day but, much to the despair of David Arquette’s cop, Chris, a ‘faulty’ truck means no-one is going anywhere. Hence a cosy game of truth or dare around a campfire with a crate of Savini Beer (I know you know) and some heightened relationship drama that sends the teens off in different directions on a moonlit night in the wilderness. What could possibly go wrong?
Given the importance of story to these games, I’ll be as light as possible on detail but everything you love about this brand of narrative horror experience is here. This time all stylised in a horror movie love letter VHS-style font, you’ve got conversation choices to make – yes, literally truth or dare on one occasion – and characters will duly react and remember your choices. But as well as binary choices, and even the chance to say nothing at all, there’s now the option to interrupt dialogue too if you don’t like how a conversation is playing out. It’s another layer of interactivity that adds an extra dangerous element to every conversation as you have the ability to add even more branching paths. I choose to interrupt an intense grilling of shy Abigail and it feels like a lovely extra level of detail to be able to control the dialogue further and save a character from extreme awks. Either that or the consequences are even more to worry about as you pass the controller back and forth on the sofa in local co-op.
But of course, we also have the chance to control these characters in a now almost terrifyingly well realised world. Supermassive has always been exceptionally high on detail but The Quarry is beautiful. Fog drifts slowly through the forest as poor Abigail walks alone along a rough path, the reflections glisten on the water as two of our counsellors dive in for an impromptu but – dare we say it – ill-advised skinny dip, and once again those pause screens have an ultra-detailed photo-realistic close up of our current character, worried eyes and all.
The camera too boasts a knowing slick confidence, perfectly directing our fear at all times. Whether it’s slowly focussing on the perfectly innocent but annihilated red flesh of a destroyed watermelon or menacingly lurking behind our characters, The Quarry’s camera understands the game is directing us, not the other way around. Sometimes it’ll hang back, giving us a good view of a character’s surroundings as we wander, but other times it’ll creep just too close as if we transform into an unseen stalker. Cinematic angles cut in and out, constantly reminding us that Supermassive is the true horror puppeteer, even when we think we’ve got control of a situation.
And it doesn’t take long for the true horror to kick in with a monstrous chase sequence – yes, there’s a monster and no, I’m not telling you what it is. QTEs are of course back with flicks of the left analogue stick to make jumps from rock to rock, or mashing a button to keep your grip when you’ve made a positively inexplicable decision to try and climb a tree to escape. Seeing ‘Path Chosen’ flicker up on screen as you choose to send your character in one way or the other feels like a kick in the stomach as you desperately wonder if you’ve just sent that character to their doom. There’s also the definitely not stressful at all hold your breath mechanic as you’re being stalked. Just try inhaling normally while you play… It’s pleasingly heart-stopping stuff.
The Quarry nails a perfectly wry horror tone too. A wide-eyed and once again, dangerously photo-realistic character called Eliza sits in front of shelves of literal skulls to read your tarot card collectibles. Replacing Until Dawn’s totems these cards give you a glimpse of a future that may or may not happen depending on your choices but the delightfully OTT grimness of it all is absurdly satisfying. There’s an understanding here that The Quarry can embrace the joyous tropes of horror but still manage to actually be scary. And for sheer laughs, the tutorial videos are fully narrated Fallout-style animations in the menu screen, complete with murdered critters.
I’m staying spoiler free as it’s not long before the game is out but the fact that the initial monster reveal is early in the game means that there are definitely plenty of surprises to come. I didn’t even mention the menacing blood-covered locals… Until Dawn was very much a game of two halves and I expect The Quarry to take a similar direction. This was only a glimpse but so far this looks like a knowingly smart horror with its finger on the terrified pulse. I can’t wait to see what happens when we see more of David Arquette and horror legend Lin Shaye step into the fray. You won’t be right back…