When it comes to video games, we’ve long been conditioned to think that more control is better. From mastering forehead-creasing inputs in Street Fighter to spending days perfecting platform precision in indie darling Celeste, you’d think that doubling down on the interactive element of interactive entertainment is the way games are meant to be enjoyed. Guildford’s Supermassive Games, however, has other ideas.
Making its name with the Rami Malek-starring horror Until Dawn, this 2015 PlayStation exclusive didn’t bother with inventory management or crafting medkits. Instead, it removed the gamiest elements from survival horror, putting the player directly into an interactive movie. Taking inspiration from Ian Livingstone’s classic choose-your-own-adventure books and ‘90s LucasArts fare, Until Dawn swapped intricate combat for slow exploration and fast-paced decision-making.
You know that moment in horror films where you’re helplessly screaming at the teens to run? Well, these games let you make that life and death decision. Now, almost a decade after Until Dawn, Supermassive is back with a spiritual successor: The Quarry.
Like the ‘80s horror flicks that inspired it, The Quarry starts off peacefully enough. Set in the sunny summer camp of Hackett’s Quarry, we join nine pre-college teens at the end of s’more roasting season. Just as these camp counselors are set to head off for the year, they find themselves stranded overnight at the campsite — and, predictably, they’re not alone.
From a terrified-looking camp warden (played by none other than Scream’s David Arquette) to supernatural podcasts foreshadowing bad things, we’d wager these teens aren’t going to have the best time. Still, you wouldn’t know it from the demo Inverse played. Filled with busting awful jokes, breaking into storage rooms, and teens making out by campfires, our demo was heavy on entertaining teen hijinx but light on scares.
Still, this is the story’s first act after all, and much like its forebears, The Quarry is also an experience built to be watched. As well as the aforementioned Scream legend, the nine teens play their respective cliches well, from Justice Smith’s (Detective Pikachu) sensitive nerd to Ariel Winter’s (Modern Family) artsy student, there’s enough charisma nestled amongst the cliches to keep things entertaining.
It’s a good thing too because this is an experience all about the characters. Like in other Supermassive Games, slowly moving around environments before mashing your way through Quick Time Events (QTEs) makes up the bulk of the gameplay here. Yet the decisions you make really add up. Should you poke fun at the secretly sensitive jock, Jacob? Is it wise to take the shotgun? Which path in the forest is the right one?
Thankfully, the early hours of The Quarry are surprisingly gentle. Presenting each new mechanic — holding your breath, different QTEs, etc. — via a 1950s Cuphead-esque tutorial cartoon, you’re taught how to respond to the world around you before things get really nasty.
It’s this allure that keeps you invested, and with Supermassive promising over 180 different endings, in theory, these lip-biting choices should offer a decent amount of replayability.
Still, there’s a quicker option for those wanting to see the game through in a hurry. The Quarry offers a “Movie Mode” that lets you sit back and soak it all in controller-free, as well as a “streamer-friendly” mode that swaps out the soundtrack’s licensed music for copyright-approved beats, wholeheartedly embracing its “interactive movie” billing.
From what we’ve played, The Quarry feels more like Life Is Strange than a sphincter-clenching slasher flick. Still, it’s hard to grumble when everything is this fun. Playing out in typically schlocky teen camp fashion, the slow-paced buffoonery gives you a chance to warm to, and detest, its quirky cast in equal measure. Licensed music and high production values help sell the setting and characters, keeping the teeny vibe going. Gameplay feels more restrictive than, say, Life is Strange: True Colors, but punchy pacing and authentically immature jokes keep the story flowing before your interest starts to wane.
Where the Bandai Namco published Dark Pictures anthology games felt a little rough and ready, here the 2K money hose seems to be spraying away with abandon.
Along with the impressive lighting tech that breathes life into your spooky surroundings, the facial capture is solid. However, the characters’ constantly moving eyes look incredibly creepy. After raiding the liquor store, a rowdy game of Truth or Dare sees a lot of the booze-addled campers making out, with one character’s constantly twitching open eyes transforming the revelry into something downright unsettling.
So far, The Quarry so far is a world away from the thrilling jump scares of Supermassive’s Man Of Medan.
Yet, where Until Dawn’s giddy blend of movie stars and slick point-and-click adventuring were a breath of fresh air in 2015, today that familiar formula feels increasingly well worn. While I came away from my time with The Quarry eager to carry on the story, the lack of gameplay innovation feels like a missed opportunity. Still, unlike Until Dawn’s single-player scares, co-op is at the focus here, following in the footsteps of The Dark Pictures Anthology with both a “pass the controller couch co-op mode” and online multiplayer. (We’re told it will be added via a patch a few weeks after launch.)
Ultimately, The Quarry is a filmic take on video game horror in the mold of what’s come before. Yet thanks to modern mocap tech and prettier lighting, it is Supermassive’s slickest and smoothest slice of interactive horror yet. File under iteration, rather than innovation, then. For those who have pined for a big-budget Until Dawn successor, this offers some suitably tropey fun. Those who weren’t previously enamored, however, probably won’t find much in The Quarry that’ll change their mind about this niche subgenre of gaming.