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The Quarry feels like an old-school horror movie brought right up to date | Hands-on preview

by on May 26, 2022
 

The success that Supermassive Games has enjoyed over the years is in no small part down to their ability to channel different types of horror into their games. With the branching narrative design, the mechanics are familiar at this point, so it’s the setting and (for want of a better word given the subject matter) the execution of the horror tropes that dictate how immersive their stories are. With The Quarry, we see a return, perhaps, to where it all began. We have a teen horror flick set in the middle of nowhere with something to fear in the darkness. It’s clear we’re unashamedly in the same Venn diagram space of Until Dawn here. And whether The Quarry can stand toe to toe with that revered title remains to be seen, but the early signs are pretty positive.

The Quarry | A Supermassive Collaboration

This is the first stand-alone game of this type Supermassive has made since embarking on their Dark Pictures Anthology. This time around they are working with 2K to bring us the experience. And straightaway the game feels grander as a result. The cast of controllable characters has increased from the usual five up to nine. And there are a further six other characters revealed that make up the story too. The result is a game that feels larger, a story that has the potential to be more fleshed out and interesting. The key will be how well the handling of a story with so many choices and characters is done. And whether it can remain engaging and sensible with all the variables that it throws up.

In our hands-on preview, I played about an hour of the game. It showcased part of the story between the end of chapter two and the beginning of chapter three. So, early enough in the story for it to make sense as a starting point, but far enough into the narrative for things to begin getting spicy and there be some uncertainty about what has gone before. In terms of that uncertainty, there’s a clear omission of two characters – Laura and Max – who have presumably ventured off somewhere together and we’ll see them again after the events of the preview hour.

What you do get to experience though is a pretty good slice of the action. In it, we get glimpses of a lot of the mechanics, as well as the similarities and differences from previous Supermassive games. Obviously, choices are back and their impact on character relations is shown on screen when altered. QTEs also make a return to test your reflexes in tense moments. It also seems like tutorials for various mechanics will drop as the story progresses. In the preview for example a segment of the story unlocked the combat tutorial and we learned how to shoot weapons that could be useful later on.

The old and the new

But as I played it became very clear Supermassive and 2K are doubling down on the teen horror style, and particularly adopting an 80s vibe too. Whilst The Quarry is set in the present day, a lot of the on-screen prompts have a pixelated old-school aesthetic. And the Paths (the same as Bearings from The Dark Pictures) are in the form of VHS tapes that you wind forward and back as more of the story choice is established. Adding to the overall ambience is a backing tracklist of songs that blend with natural ambience and tense sounds much like you would expect in a horror film. It helps immerse you in familiar horror situations. It’s unsurprising that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th are cited as influences as it does feel like a theatrical production at times.

It appears The Curator has been replaced between chapters this time by a mystic known as Eliza. Like her Dark Pictures counterpart, she’ll offer advice and will also read any of the Tarot card collectibles you find on your journey. She can also use these to show you optional visions of events that might happen in the future of your story – a mainstay in Supermassive games to date. It’s a nice way of tweaking the formula whilst keeping things familiar.

Be afraid? Be very afraid!

But how does The Quarry do the most important bit? Does it actually land the horror? Well, there were snippets in the preview that suggest enough intrigue and genuine danger to keep you enjoyably shocked. There is definitely a feral monster hunting our characters and there are NPCs whose intentions are unclear at this stage, so trust is at a premium. And it’s not just about surviving but uncovering the truth about Hackett’s Quarry that will affect the ending you get.

The voice acting seems genuinely solid so far, as do most of the character’s facial and body animations. There are a couple of misplaced cheesy grins or awkward expressions but for the most part, the characters look and feel believable as does the action on screen.

So, The Quarry seems to be shaping up to be one of the grandest Supermassive titles yet. It’s clearly full of ambition, a clear style, and enough differentiation to engage fans. As always though the key will be in whether the story and experience as a whole can stick the landing when it launches next month.

The Quarry is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X on June 10th. 

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