Like many of developer Supermassive’s previous games, The Quarry is clearly made both by and for people who love horror movies. From the start, it slowly builds tension and atmosphere, getting you invested by constantly asking you to make small decisions that will guide its teenage cast of potential murder victims. By the time the blood started flying, every choice felt like one more step in a rolling disaster, and that made it nearly impossible to put down. When I went back to replay it again, however, it was impossible to ignore just how non-interactive much of The Quarry actually is. As a spiritual sequel to Until Dawn, it’s a better movie, but a worse game.
You follow the story of nine camp counselors who get stuck in the woods for one more night at the end of the summer, with nothing to do but throw one last party before they go back to their lives. There’s something stalking them from the treeline (because of course there is) and your choices determine which, if any, of the counselors will be able to survive the night. This setup layers three fairly textbook horror plots on top of each other as you progress, but you can tell that Supermassive Games had a lot of fun figuring out how to connect them together. When you play, you may think you’re in one type of horror movie, but you’re often in another.
The title location of The Quarry is a summer camp in upstate New York, Hackett’s Quarry, that’s slowly falling apart. It’s initially designed to look like the most postcard-worthy version of itself, backlit by warm sunlight and spread out across approximately a billion acres of natural splendor. It’s a Hollywood version of the perfect summer experience, with colorful cinematography that makes the whole camp look like somebody’s cherished memory. Then the sun goes down, the woods get dangerously quiet, the rot gets more obvious, and the nightmare starts.
You play as each of the nine camp counselors, controlling one at a time at various points in the roughly 10-hour campaign. You can influence how its events play out through exploration scenes, conversation choices, quick time events, stealth, simple combat, and Mass Effect-style interruptions where you have a short window in which to make a sudden move. There are a lot of accessibility options built into The Quarry that let you adjust the difficulty of all of these actions, or even switch some of them to always automatically succeed. There’s also a Movie Mode that lets the story play out without any interactivity at all, headed towards one of a few different preset conclusions. While you’ll see most of what there is to see in Movie Mode, you will miss a couple of major events, many optional ones, and a lot of story context that can only come from playing manually.
While I was never personally interested in using Movie Mode, I can appreciate that it exists. Even without it, you don’t have to have solid twitch reflexes to get through The Quarry in the way you did with parts of Until Dawn. In fact, there are several scenes where failing something like a quick time event doesn’t necessarily have a bad outcome, which makes them more like snap decisions rather than mechanical challenges.
The primary issue with The Quarry is that it’s less of a game and more of a lightly interactive movie for most of its running time. You can go for surprisingly long stretches without having to make a meaningful choice or take direct control of a character. All you’re asked to do is watch.
In general, my favorite part of Until Dawn, as well as the games in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology, was that it was at least as much of a mystery as it was a horror movie. During the adventure game-style exploration sequences, you had the chance to try and find crucial details about what was happening by discovering clues, reading files, solving puzzles, and occasionally falling into what was, with the benefit of hindsight, a really obvious trap. There isn’t anywhere near as much of that in The Quarry. You do have the chance to unravel some of the weird history behind the camp and the area around it, but it feels like an afterthought that left me disappointed.
Another issue is that you can’t skip past cutscenes or dialogue that you’ve already seen on repeat playthroughs. In Until Dawn, that was a mild headache; in The Quarry, which is longer and considerably less interactive, it’s frustrating. I’d like to replay The Quarry more than I have. There’s a lot of fun in going back through it and deliberately making different decisions, or even failing on purpose just to see what happens. I was still finding surprises on my third run, and it’s a testament to how absorbing this setting and story can actually be that I was willing to make that third run in the first place.
It would be a more entertaining process with a few important quality-of-life features that are missing. A better scene selector would be nice, as well as a run button, a fast-forward option, or better-labeled points of no return. As it is, any attempt to replay The Quarry involves actual hours of dead time, where all you can do is sit and watch it play itself out again.
The Movie Within the Movie
The Quarry is deliberately meant to have a lighter tone than Supermassive’s other horror games, in a way that its director compared to Scream, which is backed up by the casting of David Arquette as Hackett’s Quarry’s way-too-into-this-whole-thing head counselor. It’s very self-aware right from the start, with a cast of characters who have all seen at least one horror movie before and are acting accordingly.
At the same time, The Quarry’s storyline feels like Supermassive’s learned a lot from its past projects and is putting that experience to work. It feels more confident, with a more solid, coherent plot structure. There are still plenty of twists, but they’re carefully calculated, and a few actually managed to take me by surprise.
The cast of motion-captured actors are a particular highlight. A couple of them do still get relatively little to do, and I’d hoped to see more of Lance Hendriksen’s creepy backwoods hunter, but most of the characters are genuinely likable and you’re given plenty of time to get to know them. Ariel Winter, Siobhan Williams, and Justice Smith as Abigail, Laura, and Ryan, respectively, are all particular standouts, and Brenda Song as Kaitlyn somehow manages to end up as the biggest badass in the cast.
The characters in The Quarry don’t actually act as if they’re in a horror movie, however. Many of them are operating on a level of ironic detachment that occasionally verges on self-parody, especially if you’re on a run where the body count is still fairly low. I’ve run into multiple sequences where my current characters were still talking earnestly about their petty relationship drama despite being covered in someone else’s blood.
No scene is dramatic enough that it can’t be derailed by a half-joke, and no amount of recent personal horror is enough to keep someone from landing the perfect sick burn. It doesn’t come off as awareness of their medium as much as outright traumatic dissociation. In horror terms, if Supermassive Games was aiming for Scream, it overshot and ended up with The Cabin in the Woods.
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Author: Tom Marks