Disclaimer: We reviewed The Quarry on PC (Steam), as we were unable to obtain an Xbox review code ahead of time. Therefore, this review currently contains no details on the performance of the Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S versions.
We're hoping to be able to update this review with Xbox impressions over the next few days.
Fans of Supermassive Games' superlative 2015 interactive horror, Until Dawn, have had quite the wait for the UK-based developer to get back to exactly the kind of shenanigans which made that game one of our all-time favourite horror experiences. Yes, we've had The Dark Pictures Anthology in the meantime, with House of Ashes - for our money at least - the only real standout from that collection, but a fully-fledged return to the sort of clever homage to teen horror staples that made Until Dawn so much gory fun has failed to materialise. Until now.
As it turns out, Supermassive's latest outing, The Quarry, is very much a spiritual successor to the shocking events on Blackwood Mountain, bringing with it a similar cast of perfectly pitched, and delightfully annoying, teenage characters, a flair for all things cinematic and a flexible cause and effect system that sees your conversational choices, spur-of-the-moment actions and QTE successes/failures direct the fate of the game's nine-strong cast of playable characters.
Right from the get-go here the schlock horror movie influences and references are easy to pick up on, with a heady mix of Friday the 13th, Scream, Cabin in the Woods and even a little bit of Deliverance thrown in for good measure. All of these various influences are then undercut by a wry sense of humour that keeps the whole thing feeling fresh and entertaining during stretches where shocks take a backseat to character development.
If you've played any of Supermassive's games before, you'll already be au fait with the general gist of how things work mechanically, a good deal of the experience playing out as a mix of very highly polished cinematic sequences - we're genuinely talking movie level graphics here, people - and sections where you'll get to take full control of a character and explore environments looking for clues, collectibles and other secrets and paths that may either help you out in some small way, get you absolutely murderized, or lead to the story branching off in some other direction.
After an intense pre-credits sequence that introduces us to the game's QTE mechanics (quickly jab the direction indicated on your left stick to succeed), we're shuttled along to the titular Quarry itself, AKA Hackett's Quarry Summer Camp, where a bunch of camp councillors are preparing to close up shop for the season. Of course, successfully packing up their gear and getting out of Dodge as planned is absolutely not what's going to happen here and instead, after some knuckleheaded decisions on the part of the group jock and a game of Truth or Dare that turns sour - resulting in the group splitting up and wandering off - the excrement truly hits the whirly thing.
We're not going to spoil a second of what occurs hereafter in this review, doing so would suck so much of the life and fun out of what follows over the next nine hours of horror hijinks, but what we will say is that Supermassive Games has succeeded in getting very, very close to hitting Until Dawn highs here, dropping a wonderfully well-acted and well-written cast of characters into a situation that has far more going on than it may at first seem. Indeed, for the majority of the running time there are several threat sources to take onboard and worry about, ranging from the psychological to the supernatural, alongside some straight-up crazy hillbilly awfulness.
It's no small feat to successfully stretch horror tension out for the duration of even a ninety minute movie - as proven by the absolutely dire offerings being ejected out of movie studios over the past few years - and so you've really got to applaud the devs here that they manage to keep things properly tense right up until the closing two hours or so when things get a little more straightforward and action-oriented. With multiple potential sources of evil to work with The Quarry manages to give away some of its secrets, making a handful of juicy reveals along the way, whilst still holding just enough back that there's always more in the tank to both be afraid of and work towards discovering.
All of this clever narrative work is then backed up by a stellar cast that absolutely nail their respective roles. Justice Smith and Halston Sage, playing troubled loner Ryan and super-annoying influencer Emma, are perhaps our standout picks from the bunch, but everyone else here, from Zach Tinker as that boneheaded jock, Jacob, to Brenda Song as no-nonsense Kaitlyn and Ted Raimi as a creepy-ass cop, manage to fully own their roles, resulting in an interactive narrative experience where we genuinely didn't mind spending time with any of the characters in their individual story strands. Yes, it can be a little plodding at points, especially early doors as we get to know everyone's role within the camp's social hierarchy, but there's enough humour, genuine tension and interesting relationship dynamics to ensure you'll always be eager to see what's about to happen next.
Back to the mechanical aspects of The Quarry and, alongside the expected QTE sequences where you'll need to be ready and alert to react to sudden dangers, you've also got conversational choices to make which affect how relationships develop, split-second decisions that offer you the chance to follow one of two onscreen prompts or sit back and do nothing and "don't breathe" encounters where you'll need to hold your breath to stay hidden. There are also some light combat aspects where you'll be given the chance to blast a shotgun into an oncoming threat or refrain from shooting entirely and see how things then play out. Taking all of these moving parts into account it's not hard to see where the "186 unique endings" figure touted in the build-up to release comes from, and replaying sections to experiment we were impressed with how making small changes to conversational responses, failing a QTE or making a different decision under duress changed the dialogue, encounters and paths we were led down. Yes, it doesn't always work convincingly, we noticed a few points when characters went ahead and did something that didn't entirely make sense regardless of our choices, but these moments are few and far between.
Should you make the wrong decision at some point along the way and have your favourite character(s) killed in the process, the game also quite generously gives you three lives to play with, offering you the opportunity to rewind back to your fatal mistake and then replay from that point in the hopes of a better outcome. (Note: It turns out this feature is only actually available from the get-go in the deluxe version of the game, you'll need to complete one playthrough to unlock it otherwise!) In this regard we were ever-so-slightly annoyed that there's no way to skip dialogue or scenes that you've already played through - you'll just have to watch it all over again - but it's nice to have the option to correct course from time to time regardless. In our playthrough we managed to navigate The Quarry's ordeal whilst remaining relatively unscathed and with quite a few of our councillors still standing, but there's full flexibility here to end up with everyone either dead or alive depending on how you roll with your decisions, so there's certainly plenty of replayability on offer in returning to change how things pan out.
Speaking of replayability, there are also a bunch of different collectibles to gather up as you progress, the most important of which are Tarot cards that you can present to the rather creepy Eliza (played by Twin Peaks' Grace Zabriskie) between missions in order to catch small glimpses of events that could potentially happen further down the road. Further to this, you've got couch co-op to indulge in which allows you to add a bunch of players, assign characters to each one and then pass your controller around so everyone gets a chance to affect the fates of their chosen camp councillor. You can also jump into the game's movie mode and watch from a selection of predetermined outcomes, or even use the director mode to preassign each character's general temperament and then sit back and watch how the cards fall.
Technically, on PC at least, The Quarry is a stunning thing to behold too, with graphics that pretty much reach movie quality realism for the most part (besides a few bizarre looking mouths and a bit of uncanny valley in the eyes from time to time) and we didn't experience anything in the way of bugs or other issues during our playthrough. On a more negative note in terms of actual gameplay, when you assume control of characters it feels like things haven't really moved on at all since Until Dawn and shuffling around environments or interacting with elements can feel a little clunky and unpolished, which is a shame given how slick the rest of the presentation is. You'll also find that certain pre-set camera angles make it difficult to see where you're actually going and we had trouble on a few occasions doing things like simply getting out of a door due to the fact the camera was obscuring our view.
These small issues and niggles aside, however, The Quarry is absolutely a return to form for Supermassive Games. Until Dawn fans will be in their element here and everyone else should strap in for a roller-coaster ride that melds top-notch acting, writing, graphics and some wonderful music choices with a very obvious love for the horror genre, resulting in an interactive experience that may not quite knock Until Dawn off its perch, but it comes bloody close.
The Quarry sees Supermassive Games back on top form with a spiritual successor to the superlative Until Dawn that comes mighty close to knocking that classic off its lofty perch. There's a fantastic cast of well-observed characters to get to know here, a narrative that packs in several threats and plenty of twists, turns and light-hearted moments to sit alongside its shocks and juicy revelations. With jaw-dropping visuals, a cracking soundtrack and plenty in the way of replayability in order to see every outcome on offer, this is an interactive horror experience that's well worth jumping into.