The Quarry might just be Supermassive’s best game since Until Dawn. Here’s our review of a superb interactive horror experience…
The things we do for love. Or for a mutually agreed summer fling turned one-way obsession. Or for deep-seated insecurities manifesting as possessive behaviour with potentially dire consequences. Well, the psychology of it may be open to interpretation, but the facts that pertain to the single catastrophic act responsible for your next 10–12 hours of mayhem in The Quarry are as follows: summer camp is over and the kids have all gone home. Our ensemble of late-teen counsellors is packing to follow suit when Jacob, seeking to rewrite the expiry date of his doomed romance with Emma, sabotages their only means of transportation (read: escape) when nobody’s looking. Seems like the gang is spending the night.
All this prompts a hastily departing Chris Hackett, owner of the decades-old institution, to demand they lock themselves inside the lodge and not stray out before he returns. His family has ruled over the surrounding woods for generations, so he should know. A stern warning from an absentee guardian isn’t going to carry much clout with a bunch of rowdy, horny teens though, is it? A kitchen will be raided for supplies, an office broken into for the hell of it, and a packet of fireworks unearthed to mark the occasion, even while the relatively prim Kaitlyn and introverted Ryan half-heartedly voice their concerns. So what if there are security cameras positioned along the tracks from one section of the camp to another? There are no bears in this neck of the woods so whatever stirs in the foliage is another animal, one that surely poses no threat.
There are two fundamental reasons why The Quarry is Supermassive’s best game since Until Dawn, and the first one should have been obvious in the elevator pitch. The studio’s familiar template for QTE-driven interactive horror doesn’t rely so much on scares (it can never hope to match Alien: Isolation or P.T.) as on building a connection to its cast of potential fatalities. It’s a set of sensibilities that perfectly matches the movie sub-genre the studio has – finally! – fallen back on: the teen slasher. The emotional outbursts, irrational decisions, and everyday drama that gradually outline those personalities are just as captivating as the crescendos of spectacular violence. Danger thus functions as pretext, the chance to see how the group’s volatile social dynamics will play out when faced with a life-or-death situation. Even something as basic as the number of (initially) playable characters serves as a clear indicator of the game’s priorities: seven is a wonderfully asymmetric figure, portending turbulence for the, otherwise neatly compartmentalised, emotional pairings of the group.
Quality of the dialogue is key in such an approach. Thankfully, this is an area where The Quarry shines, establishing characters that are instantly recognisable as tropes before proceeding to playfully subvert those expectations. Dylan comes off as a wise-cracking jerk but, deep down, is just a geek aspiring to be a quantum physicist; Kaitlyn’s façade of maturity dissolves as she sneakily engages in social engineering through a time-honoured truth-or-dare session; Ryan, meanwhile, acts the mysterious loner but quickly succumbs to peer pressure. Their naturally flowing banter fleshes out those exasperating brats while the Buffy-esque one-liners belie a familiar tangle of adolescent frustrations that make it almost impossible to dislike them even at their most petty, cowardly, or malicious.
The second reason why Supermassive succeeds where it kept failing relates to a more tangible metric: budget. Among the studio’s recent missteps, shared flaws include repetitive environments (such as the seemingly endless passageways in Man of Medan) and a dearth of playable characters (House of Ashes featured only five) that, inevitably, always limit the potential for interpersonal drama. The Quarry reinstates Until Dawn’s variety of locations and expanded cast and, moreover, boasts strong performances from a host of established names, including horror legends Grace Zabriskie, Ted Raimi, and David Arquette.
The care and detail that has gone into the game’s monstrous antagonist is similarly impossible to imagine without the extra resources. The half-human hybrid stalking the woods surpasses even major-movie renditions of that theme, ranking up there with genre classics like 1981’s The Howling. While the overflow of teenage wit keeps the tone relatively light for the first few chapters, once the creature unfurls its towering height, exaggerated further by a lanky, eerily disjointed frame, The Quarry reverts to full-horror mode on the strength of its awe-inspiring presence. Which makes it rather unfortunate that Supermassive’s otherwise commendable attempts to tweak the formula should upset the delicate balance between branching narrative and meaningful interactivity. Presumably to compensate for the (admittedly frustrating) unfair deaths of its previous games, QTEs in The Quarry are almost impossible to fail, significantly deflating the stakes during its climactic moments of active engagement. Catastrophe is more likely to occur as a result of a wrong decision than a missed prompt but, even then, the newly introduced rewind option allows you to replay the sequence, all but ensuring a happy resolution.
If those two poorly implemented features rob the experience of Until Dawn’s more visceral thrills, at the same time they suggest that Supermassive is still experimenting, looking for ways to improve the formula. Despite playing it a tad too safe, The Quarry remains its most exhilarating title since 2015 and, more importantly, suggests we can anticipate its future releases with more than – ahem – a little hope.
Excellent writing and cast chemistry make The Quarry the funniest game in ages, with laugh-out-loud zingers and brutal put-downs delivered at a breakneck pace early on. It sobers up for the final hours of carnage, but concludes on a high note with an end-credits sequence where two quarrelling podcasters hilariously debate the veracity of evidence you’ve discovered along the way.