The Quarry

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Supermassive Games
Year: 2022
Platform: Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series

Rating: 8

As one camp counselor drags her boyfriend into a storm shelter in the middle of the night to investigate some movement she saw, he half-nervously and half-sarcastically says, “Have you seen Evil Dead?” While there is no fourth wall breaking in The Quarry, the characters are definitely aware they are experiencing a horror movie. The forthcoming honest depiction of how nine teenagers might cope with near constant terror is one of the reasons this is one of the best scary games I’ve played.

Hackett’s Quarry is a summer camp literally built on top of an old quarry. After the above-mentioned prologue, the story begins as the children from this two-month long camp are headed home. The counselors are also getting ready to depart when the resident beefcake sabotages the van in a desperate attempt to get one more night with his summer fling. While he’s successful, the camp leader panics about the kids’ continued presence. He orders them to stay in the lodge all night, then tears off in his own truck. Confused and without phone or internet, but also eager to party without adult supervision, the counselors immediately ignore his advice and start preparing for the festivities.

While these are familiar horror movie beats, The Quarry mostly succeeds at not being cliché. One huge point in its favor is that bodies don’t immediately start dropping like flies. As you take turns controlling each counselor multiple times throughout the game, it’s up to you and your decisions on who lives and who dies. At no point do deaths feel random. On my first playthrough, I accidentally killed off three of the nine counselors. And in retrospect, I made three dumb decisions. To be fair, two of them were while under pressure.

Many decisions in the game are inconsequential and merely make slight changes to dialogue trees or cutscenes. Yet it’s generally not immediately obvious which decisions will have long-term effects. So most decisions feel like they matter, giving the game consistent tension. And since many decisions do matter (sometimes several chapters ahead), the inconsequential ones never feel cheap. It’s also possible at times to make a mistake, but then recover to save your character’s life. One cool feature is that the menu keeps track of plot branches you take and fills them in as the consequences occur later, almost as if a documentarian is retroactively judging your every move.

The most impactful decisions tend to revolve around direct confrontation with the bad guys. The few times a gun is relevant, you are often given about three to four seconds to aim and then decide whether or not to pull the trigger. You will be chased often, and you will have about the same amount of time to decide on running versus hiding. Usually, either decision will potentially work. If you hide, you will have to hold your breath, which is perhaps too simple to do. If you run, you will be given several quick-time events to pass in order to stay balanced and avoid danger. These are also fairly simple, though several times I did make a mistake.

Lest I give the impression that the game is mostly danger and quick-time events, there is a ton of story and character development. Over the course of the evening you will get to know each counselor fairly well and none of them feel like a caricature. Some are more extroverted than others. Some are nicer than others. But they all feel like real people with realistic motivations. Most importantly, they’re all reasonably intelligent and don’t do anything unreasonable in response to the terror. Due to the nature of the game, there are times that characters seem to be underreacting to preceding events, but I’ll take that rather than have the ubiquitous hyperventilating common to the genre.

There is downtime as well for conversation and for exploring. You can find evidence to try and help exonerate each other when the police inevitably come the next day. You can learn more about the camp’s history to help piece together the mystery. And you can find tarot cards.

Between each chapter, you will be greeted by an old lady who is a medium and is overly concerned with how you, the player, are making decisions. The reason for her involvement will eventually become clear; in the meantime, she will read your tarot cards if you have any and give you an opportunity to look into her crystal ball and see into the future for a couple of seconds at one possible key moment (depending on decisions you make). This is generally pointless, as even if you can deduce what you’re seeing and apply it later, there’s no guarantee that what you saw in the crystal ball is an action that will save you. It’s mostly there to add atmosphere and help develop the character of the clairvoyant.

All of the above would be immaterial if the acting were not up to par. Rest assured, it’s pretty damn good. David Arquette highlights the cast as the camp leader. Ted Raimi plays the local sheriff and delivers a nuanced, creepy performance. And the nine teenagers give believable performances, leaving me caring about all of their fates, even the ones I would never be friends with in real life. The motion capture is simply amazing. Every character looks like their respective actor, with the exception that the twenty-somethings who play the teenagers are all made to look eighteen. Outside of the very rare graphical glitch, it felt like watching a real movie with me directing the action. My favorite performances were by Brenda Song (Dollface), Miles Robbins (The X-Files), Siobhan Williams (Deadly Class) and Ariel Winter (Modern Family).

The deep-woods setting is rendered beautifully, and other than a few hiccups with how the lake water moves, I felt transported to an authentic summer camp. The soundtrack is a lot of fun, beginning with Moonlight by Ariana Grande. Many of the songs are thematic to previous events and add to the delightful campiness. Background music is also effectively used; I don’t remember any obnoxious scary cues or excessive instrumentation to set the mood. And I was delighted by six cartoonish tutorials that pop up during your first play to help you with the game’s unique features; each one is comical and narrated in the style of Rod Serling.

I found the experience to be basically perfect until the ending. After spending nine hours caring about these kids, there is no freaking epilogue. While the credits roll, you are presented with a summary of who lived and died, and then you will hear a paranormal podcast that gossips about what may or may not have happened at Hackett’s Quarry. A simple newspaper headline gives the briefest of descriptions of what happened after the sun came up the next morning, and we’re left wondering how the previous night’s trauma impacted these kids’ lives and their relationships. Now, with almost 200 possible endings, I wouldn’t expect every permutation to have its own epilogue. But when I replayed the game and saved all nine kids, my ending was exactly the same. The podcast can vary depending on several factors, but the game provides little reward to replaying from the beginning.

There are special cutscenes that only occur if some very specific actions are taken, but it requires another nine hours of gameplay to see them (unless you want to replay from a certain chapter where you’ve already made the decisions you want to start from). When YouTube is one click away, that ain’t happening. It was such a missed opportunity as there is a movie mode that allows you to just sit back and watch the game after you select traits for each actor (e.g. aggressive, cautious, etc.). Had they also added a feature to select specific game states, I would have gladly played a lot longer to find all the cutscenes. But given the length and repetitiveness of some scenes (no fast forward option!), I was never going to do that.

Another feature after you’ve finished once is “death rewind,” where you’re given three opportunities on any one playthrough to immediately rewind the game after a character dies. If you take the option, you will be taken back to the crucial decision, even if you have to go back a chapter or more. While I appreciated this option, I don’t see why the limit is three or again why you couldn’t just select your own game state. In this day and age where gamers have a zillion options, disincentivizing them from seeing everything there is to see is a questionable design choice. You can also decide to play with friends on-line or with a buddy on the couch and the game will prompt when to hand over the reins.

If you liked the Evil Dead movies or The Cabin in the Woods, you’ll likely have a blast with The Quarry. It’s the perfect parts campy, funny, dramatic, and scary, and it’s impossible to stay bored for long. SupermassiveGames appears to be getting better at their craft as the years go by, and I’m excited to see what they do with their next massive adventure.

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