Shaun Munro reviews The Quarry…
If Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn confirmed the market thirst for horror-themed interactive video games, the developer’s efforts since has largely failed to capitalise on that promise. The three Dark Pictures Anthology titles released to date have ranged from bad to acceptable, with their more self-serious tone and bite-sized format feeling like a sure step down – a straight-to-video spin-off, even – from Until Dawn’s loving homage to campy genre tropes.
But Supermassive is finally back with a worthy, full-fat spiritual successor; The Quarry is their meatiest, most substantial offering yet, and one which gets within a whisker of fully recapturing Until Dawn’s dew-eyed fondness for B-movie horror.
Handily, as is apparent from its first moments, The Quarry takes itself a lot less seriously than any of the Dark Pictures games, embracing its schlocky potential by way of the relentlessly silly, often hilarious banter between the ensemble of likeable-slash-amusingly douche-y characters, played by a host of on-the-rise actors and vaunted horror legends alike.
It is a game firmly in love with horror conventions and packed with myriad references to countless horror classics – most pervasively Evil Dead – and while its seven-hour playtime perhaps threatens to render these tropes exhausting, the throughline is tongue-in-cheek enough that it mostly works.
Players assume control of nine camp counsellors working at the summer camp Hackett’s Quarry, who during their last day on the job find themselves contending with blood-thirsty threats both human and supernatural. Whether any of them will survive the night is, of course, entirely up to you.
Gameplay-wise this is typical fare for Supermassive; interaction is limited to walking around dimly lit environments, clicking on points of interest, and triggering the next cinematic scene. This is all while dealing with occasional interactive elements like QTEs, and keeping an eye out for tarot cards which can be presented to a recurring tarot card reader (played by Twin Peaks legend Grace Zabriskie) who will provide hints at future dangers.
It’s an expectedly passive title for the most part, but to the same end if you’re not paying absolute attention it’s incredibly easy to miss QTEs; look down at your phone for even a few seconds and you might end up cursing yourself. That said, the game is relatively generous with not letting one missed input cause a character’s sudden remise; usually you’ll have a few chances to redeem yourself.
Those who own the game’s Deluxe Edition also get immediate access to the shrewd “death rewind” feature, gaining three extra lives throughout their run which allows them to literally rewind the game and save a dead character. It’s certainly a novel idea that makes play less frustrating, though locking it behind a completed playthrough unless you shell out for the Deluxe Edition is a bit cheeky.
Mechanically The Quarry evidently hasn’t advanced much at all beyond Supermassive’s prior games; moving around still feels like wading through treacle at almost all times. There’s also no run button, and the best you can hope for is walking at double-speed, but even that’s relatively slow. Overall the stifled movement speed feels like a rather transparent attempt to pad the game’s length. You’ll also often find yourself fighting the camera to simply get where you want to go. Neither of these issues are game-breakers, but both feel massively dated.
There is one notably merciful refinement by way of Until Dawn’s much-maligned Don’t Move mechanic, which previously relied upon the PS4’s hyper-sensitive gyroscope as would often fail the player even if the controller was placed on the floor. Now you simply need to hold the action button while hiding from an assailant and release it when your character is safe, which while comically trivial by comparison results in a lot less frustration.
One area where Supermassive’s games have always impressed, in varying degrees, is the visuals. And despite the persistent aesthetic murk of The Quarry’s environments, it is quite the looker indeed. It certainly demonstrates a major uptick in both fidelity and performance from Until Dawn, which infamously let its frame-rate dip well below 30fps as it pushed the PS4 to near-snapping point. Though it’s sure to disappoint some that this new game runs at a locked 30fps on PS5, it does at least maintain a smooth 30fps without any discernible hitching or judder.
Though the gorgeously glossy visuals are accented by some of the finest cinematic direction you’ll find in such a similarly inclined game – aided by wonderful volumetric lighting and neat camera lens flares – it’s the mesmerising human renders that really bring it all to life.
Faces have come a long way in recent years, and The Quarry boasts some of the most stunningly photoreal human beings ever featured in a video game. Brenda Song’s Kaitlyn in particular boasts a level of expressiveness and physical plausibility that makes the game feel truly next-gen – or, now, “new gen.” There are certainly moments where the mouth movements look a little exaggerated – as though an artist has tinkered with them during production – and the game engine sometimes puts an odd, distracting visual halo around characters’ heads, but for the most part this is a fantastic looking title.
The visual package is aided by a cracking aural suite, especially superb vocal performances from basically the entire cast, particularly the aforementioned Song and Zabriskie, as well as Miles Robbins, Ted Raimi, Lin Shaye, David Arquette, and Lance Henriksen. Ian Livingstone’s musical score meanwhile perfectly nails the campy backwoods vibe the whole shebang is clearly shooting for.
Despite all this style and atmosphere though, there’s little denying that The Quarry is pretty tame as horror goes; there’s very little here likely to scare card-carrying horror fans, as has been a problem with pretty much all of these games beyond Until Dawn.
The central threat generates some entertainingly intense chase sequences that might periodically raise the pulse a smidge, but there’s nothing that gets even remotely under the skin. Though the lack of lazy jump scares is admirable, it’s a shame that the visceral horror component continues to lack in Supermassive’s horror romps.
In terms of accessibility, there are a bevy of options available here to accommodate many different needs; you’re able to change and disable various input options and gameplay mechanics. Movie Mode additionally allows players to simply watch the entire story with zero in-game input (beyond choosing conditions like “all characters live/die” before you start). The game has also launched with local pass-the-controller multiplayer, though sadly the online co-op component isn’t available at launch, yet is reportedly being patched in within a few weeks.
All in all The Quarry is the most fun that any of Supermassive’s horror titles have been since Until Dawn; packed with hilarious dialogue and a more compelling story and characters, this feels like a major step back to what these games should be.
Though it’s not exactly easy to recommend shelling out the £50 day-one RRP given the fairly minimal amount of content on offer – save for those players obsessively dedicated to seeing every possible character death and hoovering up every last collectible, that is – Supermassive seems to have regained their groove where this type of game is concerned.
A significant return to form for Supermassive’s interactive cinematic horror games, The Quarry feels like a true spiritual successor to Until Dawn even with persistent camera and control issues.
+ It’s a loving homage to classic horror movies.
+ Gorgeous character renders.
+ Moody, atmospheric musical score.
+ Frequently funny script and entertaining characters.
+ It’s Supermassive’s best horror game since Until Dawn.
– Frustratingly unresponsive controls.
– The camera is a mess.
– It’s disappointingly low on scares.
Reviewed on PS5 (also available for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S).
A review code was provided by the publisher.