What happens when you take a bunch of teenagers, strand them alone in the middle of the woods, and leave them with naught but a foreboding warning that's just begging to be ignored? "Nothing good," is the answer, but that's exactly why we're here. This is the devilishly appealing setup for The Quarry, Supermassive Games' spiritual successor to Until Dawn. After dabbling in shorter stories with The Dark Pictures Anthology series, The Quarry sees the studio return to its roots with a new 10-hour horror game that sticks closely to the well-received formula that made Until Dawn such a rousing success.
After a mysterious and unsettling prologue, The Quarry's first act begins on the last day of summer camp. With all of the kids sent home, only the counselors and the camp's owner remain. He's anxious for everyone to leave as quickly as possible, which immediately throws up a few red flags, but when their minivan fails to start, the counselors are forced to spend another night together. Being teenagers, they come up with the grand idea to throw one last party before heading home in the morning. No harm, no foul, right? Obviously, things don't quite go to plan--and not just because booze is hard to come by--so you'll spend the evening switching between control of all nine counselors as they attempt to survive the night against numerous unforeseen threats.
Delving into any more detail would infringe on spoiler territory, and part of The Quarry's charm comes from uncovering its enticing mysteries. There are some fairly obvious hints early on that should give you a good idea of what you'll be up against, but things aren't always as they seem, and the revelations keep unfolding right up until its final moments.
One thing that is for certain is Supermassive's reverence for horror movies. The Quarry wears its influences on its sleeve, with various elements of its design evoking some of the genre's best. The summer camp setting is clearly inspired by the likes of Friday the 13th and the cult classic Sleepaway Camp--though the less said about the latter, the better. Its self-awareness is reminiscent of the Scream franchise, and there are also allusions to the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, among others. Even the casting reflects this affection, with supporting roles for several recognizable horror mainstays such as David Arquette, Lin Shaye, Lance Henriksen, and Ted Raimi. By exuding this unmistakable passion, there's an air of confidence around The Quarry that reassures you that you're in the right hands for a quintessential teen horror experience, and this is most definitely the case.
Its cinematography is often stunning, effectively capturing fog creeping through a forest or the reflection of the moon on the lake's surface. It constantly toys with the contrast between light and dark, too, allowing for surprises to emerge from the shadows when you least expect it. The camerawork is also much improved, creating suspense through oppressive close-ups and moments where the camera will hang back, framing its characters as though an unseen stalker is behind the lens.
The cast of playable counselors runs the gamut of familiar genre archetypes. There's Jacob the boisterous jock, Dylan the wisecracking oddball, and Abigail the socially awkward artist, just to name a few. They can sometimes encroach on caricature territory, but much like Until Dawn, The Quarry manages to subvert expectations once it digs beyond the surface level. The ensemble cast is also excellent, with plenty of strong performances bringing each counselor to life. The impressive technology plays a significant role in this, presenting some of the most realistic-looking animated faces in gaming. The fear in a character's eyes is palpable, and you'll also notice when they're being flirtatious through subtle changes in expression. It allows the actors to convey different emotions without having to say a word.
When it is talkative, dialogue is snappy and feels very natural in that quick-witted normal-people-don't actually-talk-like-this Hollywood style of conversing, which is befitting of such a cinematic game. It's genuinely funny, too, making sure to fit in moments of levity even in the direst circumstances and never threatening to take itself too seriously. It also dedicates plenty of time to developing the bonds between each of its characters and letting you get to know them. The first two hours or so are light on scares, as you're given a chance to see how these characters act around each other before shit hits the fan. Not everyone will appreciate this slow approach, and it does run into a few other pacing issues later on, with scenes dragging their feet to the point where it feels like some of the fat could've been trimmed. But in a game where anyone can die, it's imperative that you care about what happens to those living on a knife's edge.
Of course, if you're not vibing with a character, you can always take pleasure in ensuring their eventual demise. The Quarry is built on choice and consequences. All throughout the game you're forced to make decisions that will shape what happens to each character, whether you're picking between two dialogue options, choosing which path to take, or ruminating on pulling a shotgun's trigger. Play your cards right and you could see everyone survive the night, or fail so catastrophically that no one is left alive come sunrise. Sometimes these choices might seem inconsequential until a few hours down the line--like opting to take or leave some fireworks--while at other times they can directly seal a character's fate.
Quick-time events punctuate moments of action to keep you involved, but they feel more like additional choices than a test of your reflexes. You simply need to flick the left analog stick in the right direction to succeed, with the face buttons reserved for the occasional button mashing and moments where you need to hold your breath. Some of the tension is subdued when compared to Until Dawn, since it's unlikely you'll ever fail one of these QTEs, but it does place a bigger onus on your decisions as opposed to your reactions.
Death is also not final in The Quarry. If a character dies, you have the option to spend one of three lives to rewind time and hopefully alter their fate. By imposing a limit on how many times you can do this, it doesn't eliminate the threat of death; you just have another decision to make. Do you spend a life now to potentially save this character, or pocket it for later in case someone you like more meets a bloody end? The only downside to this mechanic is that sometimes the fatal choice might've occurred 20 minutes ago, which means having to replay a lengthy chunk of the game again.
When you're not making spur-of-the-moment decisions and avoiding death via QTEs, you're given the chance to explore some wonderfully realized locations as you unearth more of the game's secrets through numerous collectibles. The Quarry occasionally adopts the fixed camera angles that were prevalent in Until Dawn during these moments, but for the most part you're given full camera control as it nestles above a character's shoulder. This makes searching for various clues and evidence a tad easier, but the camera still sits in tight, which, when combined with the cinematic letterboxing, creates an inherent sense of claustrophobia. Exploring each area also gives you the opportunity to unveil different tarot cards that offer a brief glimpse into the future. This has been a feature in Supermassive's other games, but they're still too vague and obfuscated to feel particularly useful or enlightening. You're also locked into a slow walking speed during these segments, so veering off the beaten path only to find nothing can be frustrating.
If you do want to go back and see how things could've played out differently, there's a Movie Mode that lets you sit back and watch events unfold. You can opt to watch a playthrough where everyone either lives or dies, or use the director mode to predetermine the behavior of all nine counselors and see what kind of effect that has on each scene.
Supermassive doesn't shy away from the fact that The Quarry is essentially an interactive movie. The mechanics haven't evolved since Until Dawn was released seven years ago, and that's perfectly fine. The basic system of choice and consequence is still highly effective at building suspense and lending a massive amount of weight to each decision you make. Its characters are personable, well written, and superbly performed, ensuring that you care about what happens to them, and the story takes plenty of exciting twists and turns that make you eager to find out what's going to happen next. You may only make a contribution every few minutes, but that doesn't stop The Quarry from being a fantastic horror game and Supermassive's best venture to date.