The Quarry is the latest cinema-esque video game by Supermassive Games. For those unacquainted (don’t worry, I’m not acquainted, either), these movie-like games are sort of an interactive film in which the player makes critical or benign decisions to affect the story’s outcome. Think of this like a “choices matter” adventure game in the old Telltale style, but with way more polish and better writing.
In fact, there’s so much polish that I felt like I was sitting in the director’s chair with a megaphone in front of my mouth barking orders at the cast. The game’s cast and the camera boast the quality and style of a feature-length film, except the length is closer to ten hours. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best-looking games I’ve played from a technical perspective. Most of the game takes place in the woods at a camp, so don’t expect awe-inspiring skyscrapers or verdant landscapes, but what’s here is astonishingly well done, including the characters.
People in 3D environments, even to this day, have a healthy helping of the uncanny valley; something’s usually just a bit “off” about people in video games, but these are some of the most convincing animations and facial features I’ve observed to date, with the exception of one character who has a distressingly large mouth for some reason. Of course, this is because actual actors played the roles and computers projected their images into the game using science or lasers or whatever.
And boy howdy, this acting is something else. I was enthralled by the delivery of lines, frustrations in body language, and fear apparent throughout the entire experience; seriously, A+ to everyone in the cast. Even the more stilted, awkward characters conveyed their personalities effectively with the appropriate subtlety a professional actor would be able to conjure.
That said, not everyone’s going to be into their personalities, but that’s part of the point. In true storytelling fashion, The Quarry flows with some excitement at the start, transitions to a “slow” period in which we get to know the key players, and then quickly moves into increasingly intense action until its satisfying crescendo.
Our protagonists are camp counselors who just saw some rascals off for the summer while they clean up and head on home themselves. Everyone appears to be late teens/early 20s–college age. As such, expect to find a clean assortment of personalities, from the moody loner to the obnoxious frat boy. Young blood heats up as relationships end and friends over the summer say their fond farewells. Except not everything goes as planned. Of course.
If you know anything about The Quarry, you know this is a story-driven horror title. Don’t worry; this isn’t a jump-scare fest, but those aren’t completely absent. Expect creepy images, eerie atmosphere, and gore. I got distinct 80s slasher flick vibes, which can’t be a mistake given the setting and genre. Except The Quarry is a cut above the cheesy horror movies of old. At times, I wondered if I was supposed to laugh—and there are jokes and quirky moments—but I overall felt like the game played it pretty straight, trying to create mystery and intrigue while also peppering in clues.
By the middle of the game, I was invested in every character. Sure, I enjoyed some more than others, but I wanted everyone to live through the night. In my particular playthrough, not everyone got an equal amount of screen time, so some characters felt more fleshed out than others. Still, I didn’t feel as if anyone was necessarily filler. In a 10-hour game with a cast this large, don’t expect to have the same connection you might in a 70-hour JRPG.
Consistently in this respect, motives and ethics blur as players wrestle with some difficult binary decisions, which the game frequently notes have changed the course of events. Are friends really your friends, and are your foes really your foes? Maybe the “bad guys” really are twirling their mustaches. Who knows! The Quarry even includes decisions that you can just decide not to do. Given the option to open up a crate, should you? Maybe letting the timer expire is the best option. Also, while quick-time events have a notorious reputation among gamers, don’t worry about their inclusion here; they’re extremely friendly and almost feel like options in some instances. I imagine their role is mostly for immersion, as The Quarry truly does feel like a choose-your-own-adventure movie.
You can even let the game play out as a movie. Not interested in searching for clues to put the pieces together in this horror-mystery? No problem! A movie mode literally exists for those who want to sit back with the popcorn instead of being hunched over the keyboard in anticipation of a choice or quick-time-event. I will absolutely be revisiting The Quarry because I am certain there’s more at play here than I encountered, and there are enough interesting crossroads in the path to make me want to see what happens if I open door B instead of A next time.
On the other hand, some of the choices are coin flips. At times, I had to decide to run or hide, and while I tried to logic out the merits of both, the truth is that I had no idea which was the better decision. If I were to take the game super seriously, this would be an annoying deterrent, but the fact is that this is a short horror video game with college kids running from monsters. “Pro gamers” may be frustrated, but if you’re here for the ride, then I expect these moments might not bother you all that much.
All of this said, is this a $60 experience? I loved it. I intend to come back to it. But I also got this game for free for review, and that matters. I might have felt burned at a $60 price point because it is pretty short if you only have one go at it, and movie tickets aren’t $60 here in the US (not yet, anyway). If someone isn’t as into the game as me, that’s going to feel like a high entry price. That said, this is a phenomenal-looking game with fantastic acting. If price is no object, then I definitely recommend The Quarry, as it’s worth the ten hours of your life, but for those who have to make discerning decisions with their wallets, maybe wait until this one’s on sale.