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The Quarry

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: June 10, 2022

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PC Review - 'The Quarry'

by Andreas Salmen on June 8, 2022 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

The Quarry is an all-new teen-horror narrative game where your every choice, big or small, shapes your story and determines who lives to tell the tale.

Buy The Quarry

Supermassive Games is the current expert of the narrative horror genre. What began with Until Dawn, its biggest release almost seven years ago, has been steadily expanded upon with the ongoing but separate Dark Pictures Anthology. The Quarry is another unrelated project, but it has been framed as a spiritual successor to Until Dawn, so it comes with high expectations. The Quarry further streamlines the established concept rather than going down a new path, and in doing so, it runs the risk of growing stale. I was certainly entertained, but the lack of innovation and a story that didn't quite sink its hooks in me made The Quarry a solid but slightly underwhelming follow-up to Until Dawn.

If you've played a recent Supermassive Games title, you know what to expect from The Quarry. Players take control of a group of people who are thrown into supernatural situations and need to navigate their way out. That means that any character in the game can live or die based on their actions and decisions, so there are a lot of branching narratives. In this case, the protagonists are teenage camp counselors who are stuck alone at summer camp for an additional night after their vehicle has broken down. What initially shapes up as the last big party of the summer quickly turns into a fight for survival against bloodthirsty monsters and hunting hillbillies.

Story and characters are a huge part of what makes and breaks story-driven games, and The Quarry delivers partially on that front. The characters are diverse in behavior, drive, and personality, so that created interesting dynamics. There's the stereotypical jock, influencer, loner, and the shy girl, all of whom feel like fully developed characters. Certain members of the cast get far more screen time, while others are more expendable, but they all have their time to shine. That is primarily due to how well the dialog is written and performed by the voice cast. An occasional line feels out of place, but more often than not, the dialog feels natural. Since we're talking about teenagers who are spending one last night with their summer flings, it's fair to say that drama and tension are inevitable — and that's not taking into account the mortal danger outside of the camp.

There's not much to criticize about The Quarry's moment-to-moment storytelling and execution, but the overarching narrative gives away the central mysteries far too easily. For me, the highlight of offerings by Supermassive Games is the final twist that often topples any theory you had about what was occurring. This time, I had most of the story untangled well before the credits rolled, and I was mostly on the money. It can somewhat devalue the choices you make for the characters when you're quite certain you know what's going on, and that deflates the experience. The story is well told but ineffective to build up the suspense to the final reveal. I also found The Quarry to be more explicit in its violence but not scarier than previous titles. There are jump-scares, but they are less frequent and better telegraphed. This may be a pro or a con, based on how the player feels about overly loud sound cues, but it is a departure from how Supermassive had structured and presented prior games.

The departure makes sense, since the story pays homage to teen slashers and other horror movies from the '80s and '90s, so the focus is a fight for survival against overwhelming odds (and some bloody departures), rather than spooky horror houses. It's a double-edged sword. It's a great love letter to the slasher genre with plenty of references to movies and previous games, but it runs out of steam too quickly to make some decisions feel meaningful. It didn't come together that well in the end, and part of that was due to inconsistent presentation.

The Quarry looks breathtaking at times. The highly detailed mo-cap performances from a cast — including memorable faces like Skyler Gisondo, Ted Raimi and Ariel Winter — can make you briefly forget that you're playing a video game. The quality of the voice acting and facial animations is incredibly high, and paired with the cinematic presentation and camera angles, it feels like a movie, but it can't hold that quality through an eight-hour branching narrative. Minor twitches in the facial movements or weirdly positioned eyes are little reminders that you're playing a game, but they aren't massively distracting. Most noticeable is the animation of the monsters, which look wholly out of place among the facial animation wizardry. Any scene with monsters look incredibly messy and rough from an animation standpoint, and their overall designs are rather uninspired. That's likely the biggest complaint I have, next to its subpar pacing. I didn't enjoy the antagonists as much as I hoped, which is in stark contrast to how well everything else is executed.

The Quarry is Supermassive's most flexible experience in terms of how it plays out and how you play. Quick Time Events (QTEs) are still present but have been diversified and simplified. In action sequences, you're usually asked to perform directional thumbstick movements; when hiding, you need to hold your breath by holding a button until you can safely flee; and in some moments, you can decide to interrupt an ongoing situation. Each can be further simplified or turned off if you don't feel like doing them, so they'll automatically succeed.

This bleeds over into the additional Movie mode, where you can watch the game play out like a movie without any input. Either start one of the pre-made movies (either everyone dies or survives) or set certain attributes for each character as to how they should react in certain situations, and watch the movie play out accordingly. What feels unnecessary is that one pre-order bonus is a separate mode called Gorefest that shows the goriest version of the story. It would've been nice to have a few more movie options here and not lock a few behind DLC. It is a nice way to see decisions and branches play out. There's also a couch co-op mode where you can pass the controller to a friend, but ultimately, it's a similar experience to the single-player portion. More interesting is the online co-op, which is usually the strongest part of any Supermassive Game, but it has been slightly delayed and won't be patched in until July 8.

This brings us to the biggest question: the choices and paths we can take in The Quarry. After playing for 20+ hours and going through three mostly distinct conclusions, there are a lot of things that can change in the story, but it still follows a relatively rigid path. I couldn't bring myself to start the fourth playthrough. The third time was already pushing it because the dialog and scenes don't change substantially. I may have outright missed or misjudged certain decisions because it's not entirely clear when you're making one. Some decisions pull the age-old trick of not giving you a choice and forcing something on you, and some QTEs are meaningless while others can kill you. There's a brief section where you have free aim of a gun, and that can result in a surprising number of choices around who or what to shoot.

It's the usual setup for these types of experiences, but it feels like a mostly pre-determined path that lets you "off" the characters you don't enjoy as much. One new addition in that context is the death rewind feature, which essentially gives you three extra lives. In the event of character death, you can rewind to the fateful decision. This is mostly useful for deaths resulting from spontaneous decisions or failing QTEs. On the downside, when characters die because of a decision made earlier in the story, the rewind can potentially set you back quite a while without explicitly telling you. This is something Supermassive has already acknowledged that it will improve in a future update, but for now, be careful when you choose to rewind.

Apart from its branching narrative, the game features premonitions in form of tarot cards. They can provide glimpses into a possible future that you may want to achieve or avoid, but you can only interpret one of them per level through the mysterious narrator. Beyond tarot cards, you also collect evidence, and based on what you collect, there will be a verdict at the end about whether your story is believable. It's an incentive to collect everything you can, but you can miss some pieces of evidence based on prior choices.

On a technical level, The Quarry lures you in immediately. Thick and beautiful forest foliage surround some impeccably framed and animated characters, so it's easy to immerse yourself in the experience. Some character animations are visibly stiffer than others, but the overall quality is high. The quality extends to the soundtrack and soundscape to create a strong sense of atmosphere.

It only drops the ball when a few rare bugs creep in. On the PC, we encountered two separate crashes that required an entire system reboot, and some cut scenes wouldn't load certain objects. On one rare occasion, the sound and animations were several seconds out of sync. The high visual fidelity comes at a bit of a performance cost. The Quarry can be all over the place in terms of frame rate, especially during scene transitions where frames regularly break down. On our test system (3080, 5600x), we could comfortably hit 60+fps in 1440p all maxed out, but hitting 4K required making heavy sacrifices to stay consistently above 60fps. Even then, transitions often introduce stuttering, sending the frame rate down into the sub-30s. Even on lower quality settings, The Quarry still looks quite good, so there is room to generate some overhead with the correct settings.

Overall, it's a competent package for a narrative choice experience. There's a reasonable selection of modes to experience during the eight-hour-long story. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but makes a concerted effort to streamline the experience and improve accessibility. It's easy to pick up, play, and enjoy alone or with friends, and when it works, it's great fun to guide your camp counselors through a night of bloody horror.

The Quarry isn't quite what I had hoped it would be, but it's in the ballpark. Performance, animation, and dialog are usually perfectly executed, but some elements don't meet this high bar, and as a result, the experience can feel slightly disjointed. I didn't like the execution of some of the main baddies, both in a story context and on a technical level, and the story was sometimes too straightforward. Choices have interesting impacts, but the overall story beats remain largely the same — with the exception that a few protagonists are missing. What remains is a largely entertaining choice-based horror narrative that doesn't stray too far from Supermassive's tried-and-true formula.

Score: 8.0/10

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