Game review: The Quarry (PC)
Supermassive Games channel 1980s teen horror movies with their latest suspense-filled cinematic adventure, The Quarry.
Over the last few years, Supermassive Games have made a name for themselves by producing narrative-based macabre horror games. Their successful TV show-like series The Dark Pictures Anthology awaits the release of the final instalment of its first season. The Quarry, however, draws more from the developer's 2015 PlayStation game, Until Dawn, the new game having a similar-aged ensemble cast and the same 80s slasher-movie style.
The Quarry feels most like Wes Craven's Scream, in that whilst contemporary, it is a homage to the horror movie tropes and cliches of the 1980s that this writer grew up with. However, instead of just screaming at the TV screen it is down to the player to keep the somewhat foolish characters out of harm's way.
It's the end of the summer camp at Hackett's Quarry and the summer camp counselors have waved goodbye to the last of the kids. With their mini-bus ride home broken down, despite the camp owner's misgivings, the counsellors decide to stay on for one more night. What could possibly go wrong?
The game does a great job of dumping the player right into the unnerving gameplay. The Quarry starts with a prelude that has two camp counselors arriving early, the night before the camp. After running off the road to avoid something in their path the two are warned by a creepy cop to book themselves into a nearby motel rather than proceed to the campground. Even though the cop is quite insistent, the counsellors proceed to Hackett's Quarry, where they find the place (almost) deserted. The prelude does a good job of both foreshadowing future events and giving players a run-down of the game mechanics.
Just as with Until Dawn, the developer goes to great lengths, to allow the player to get to know each character. This is another reason why the prelude serves the game well to provide some scares before it gets down to setting up the plot of the main story.
The Quarry does dwell heavily on melodrama. It's not as much as the teen-angst-fuelled Life is Strange Games, but a lot more than the horror movies of old that it seeks to ape. As a result, the pacing is a bit patchy. It doesn't help that the developers seek to allow the player to “have a turn” with each character, further bouncing the plot around.
The game draws upon familiar teen-horror character traits. You have Emma (Halston Sage) the slightly bitchy popular girl type, Jacob (Jake Tinkler) the jock, the feisty Kaitlyn (Brenda Song), the reserved Ryan (Justice Smith), Dylan (Miles Robbins) the joker, the bookish Abigail (Ariel Winter) and the awkward Nick (Evan Evagora). Then there's the hapless Max (Skyler Gisondo) and Laura (Siobhan Williams) who introduce us to the horrors of Hackett's Quarry. The cast is rounded off by David Arquette, as Chris Hackett, Ted Rami, Ethan Suplee, Lance Henriksen, and Grace Zabriskie.
With plenty of familiar faces and the older cast members bringing their genre credentials, the voice and motion capture performances are impeccable. The cast brings the characters to life in a way that is a credit to both the actors and the developers placing them in the digital realm.
The game is also not without its plot holes, one of which really bugged me. Without spoiling the plot, I can't go into detail about this. On the whole, though, the game's story is good with a few twists and turns thrown in to keep players on their toes, especially at the beginning. Once the cards are on the table things do start to become a bit predictable, just as they do with pretty much every 80s horror movie.
The game is filled with familiar situations to those of 80s horror movies, some subtle and some not so subtle. The chainsaw with “groovy” written on the side, a tip of the hat to The Evil Dead, also serves as a bit of grim foreshadowing for those in the know.
As horror games go, The Quarry doesn't downplay the gore. On top of jump scares, it is a game full of blood and guts that may put off the squeamish.
Throughout the game, players swap between control of each of the main cast. The game can be played single-player or couch co-op with each player passing the controller to control their characters in the game.
Players are expected to explore the meticulously detailed environments for clues and collectibles that help explain what exactly is going on in Hackett's Quarry. Internal locations have a fixed or constrained camera that can have you fighting with the controls, but outside, the camera is free for players to move about- with the developers placing a few extra frights in the game for those that like adjusting the view.
Players must also make choices for the character that they currently control. This could be just dialogue choices and reactions or major life or death decisions. The dialogue and reaction choices pause to give players time to make a decision, whilst prompts for action in more frantic circumstances have a timer. Not all the suggested actions are necessarily the best outcome. Sometimes just letting the timer run out yields the best outcomes.
Rapid button pressing quick-time events are used to allow characters the opportunity to avoid hazards. It's not too hard, just a flick of the left stick (if using a controller) or mashing the indicated button. I found this often utilized when I selected a shortcut over a safer, but longer route or to get a character out of a poor decision.
There are also situations where characters may need to hold their breath whilst hiding, with players releasing the button when they feel it is safe for the characters to run away. It's not as good as the heartbeat mechanic of The Dark Pictures Anthology, but is suspenseful, nevertheless.
As well as “evidence” items the environments have tarot cards for players to discover. In a similar way to The Dark Pictures Anthology games, and the enigmatic Curator, The Quarry also breaks the fourth wall. The game is regularly interrupted with a visit to the dwelling of an elderly lady who, in exchange for one of her missing tarot cards, will give players, if they so wish, a glimpse into a potential future.
The Quarry is, for the most part, a very polished game. I did encounter a few lingering pauses, almost as if the game was working out what happens next due to my previous actions. There were also a few lip-synch issues and shutters. Hopefully, these will get sorted out in patches, but they certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment of the game.
With so many choices and branching paths, the game does offer some replay value, although the central plot will only be fresh for your first playthrough. Playing the game again with others may give the game more legs, but I'm not sure it's something that you'll want to return to straight away after the credits roll. Certainly, as I have with Until Dawn, it's a game I'll play again a few years down the track.
As well as local multiplayer, the game can be played in movie mode with options to have everyone live or everyone die. There's also a custom mode (which may only be available after playing the game normally) that allows player to adjust the individual character traits. Players can then just sit back and watch the game like a movie.
I enjoyed my time with The Quarry. The story is good, but perhaps not as tight as that of The Dark Pictures Anthology. The game spends a little too long setting up the characters instead of getting into the action, but once things start to go south, the game will have you on the edge of your seat. Overall, The Quarry is easy to recommend. It has a decent story that should appeal to horror movie fans and players into narrative adventure games like Life is Strange, as well as Supermassive Games' other titles.