Confession: I only played The Quarry twice at night. Most of the time I play the game during the day. Sure, I’ve tried playing it at night, but from time to time the scary factor gets a little too high for my fearful cat sensitivity, so I just turn it off and wait until I can play the game during the day.
This is a testament to the understated brilliance of The Quarry, the latest title from Supermassive Games. Already in 2015 Supermassive delivered a unique horror video game experience with “Until Dawn” and seven years later “The Quarry” should be a somewhat spiritual successor. It’s equal parts movie experience and video game, a uniquely challenging balance to maintain throughout the game.
We call “The Quarry” in “runtime” terms because it’s heading so much towards the movie side of things. Yes, this is a video game, but no, it’s not the kind that gives you a sense of tremendous agency. You are “responsible” for the lives of the nine camp advisers you eventually control, but you only make select choices and decisions for them, via dialogue options, light exploration, and a unique way of “interrupting” the actions they’re already in to change the course of history.
They guide them all through a night at Hackett’s Quarry in upstate New York, a neighborhood that seems okay during the day, less so at night. And very early on, the game makes it clear that you’re being watched by some kind of presence; Just a few minutes later, you can feel the chills. Not that the direction of the story is entirely predictable; Supermassive understands the horror movie genre and coolly misleads you by playing in different sandboxes that will throw your mind off balance. It’s satisfying and well directed, and most of the actors, played by a star-studded cast (including David Arquette, Brenda Song and Ariel Winter), are great.
We’ve seen titles with these characteristics before: Beyond: Two Souls, Heavy Rain, and the aforementioned Until Dawn among them. “The Quarry” feels unlike anything that has come before. With The Quarry, Supermassive seems to have put an intense focus on creating a focused narrative, and that shines through from beginning to end. The story has a confidence not dissimilar to the latest Scream movie that knows you’ve seen plenty of horrors in horror movies and games like this. So it must give you something else.
To that end, many of the characters you control appear to be familiar with scary movies, even mentioning them in dialogue. Heck, David Arquette’s in here, cast as chief adviser. Supermassive knows how to throw you off balance, make you guess and enjoy the journey.
However, very often you will feel like a passenger on the journey, since the game is much closer to the movie than to the video game. In this game there is less exploration and fewer chances to explore an area carelessly. Those were strengths of “Until Dawn,” but “The Quarry” pulls them back and lets you focus more on the journey you want you on. At many points you can walk for minutes without even having to press a button, essentially sitting back and watching The Quarry play out. It’s not bad, but if you’re coming from, say, The Evil Within or Resident Evil, it takes a little getting used to.
However, if you view this as a movie where you play a tiny but crucial role, then it’s fun. Through this lens, The Quarry is an exciting ride that understands its genre and source material very well. Supermassive seems to want you to watch this as a movie too, right down to the game’s movie mode, which completely eliminates decision-making and lets you “watch” the entire game from start to finish. I highly recommend playing through the entire game and then watching this just to see how Supermassive performed its title.
In the end, “The Quarry” turns out to be a spectacular video game declaration of love for horror films and the horror gaming genre. And it’s a reminder that when it comes to video games, you don’t have to control everything to create a fun, entertaining atmosphere.
Just don’t play it in the dark.