The Quarry is the latest title from the developer Supermassive Games and their newest game that blurs the lines between watching horror movies and being inside one. Before discussing The Quarry however, let’s look at the games that precede it. After years of working on DLC (additional downloadable content for fully released games), ports (making games playable on additional systems) or licensed games (adapting a known property such as Doctor Who into a game), Supermassive Games released Until Dawn in 2015.
Until Dawn takes about eight to ten hours to play, which is roughly the length of a short tv series. This game featured many actors who were known on the fringe, who you would see and say, “I recognize them from something.” It starred future Academy winner Rami Malek, Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, Nashville), Peter Stormare (Prison Break), Brett Dalton (Agents of Shield) and others. When I say they starred in this game, I mean much more than voice acting. The actors were fully recorded in motion capture suits acting out the scenes, then digitally created with realistic face acting.
Taking place at a ski lodge, Until Dawn wastes little time making sure you know it’s a horror game. You play through a prologue that teaches you how the mechanics work. Until Dawn is full of QTEs (quick-time events that require quickly pushing a specific button, or choosing not to). These QTEs will regularly pop up during cutscenes that are not interactive in most games. This means the player must always be engaged. There are also sections of walking around and interacting with the environment or other characters. However, no matter what choices you make in the prologue, two girls always end up dead at the bottom of a cliff.
After this section, Until Dawn can play out in a multitude of ways. Unlike most games, if the character you are playing as dies, the story continues without them. For me, this is an approach I absolutely love. It means that anyone’s first play through is truly unique (within the permutations of eight characters living or dying). Like the horror movie classics, characters can actually die and life goes on. It is possible for everyone to survive or everyone to die. This means that the actors had to record different versions of their scenes with various people alive or dead. Rarely are all eight characters in a room together (this is basically a horror movie after all), but there are usually two to four in a scene.
Sales figures for video games can be surprisingly difficult to find. Until Dawn generated a lot of buzz and positivity to the point that the President of SCE Worldwide Studios (now PlayStation Studios) Shuhei Yoshida called it a sleeper hit. I really enjoyed this game and was flabbergasted at how good the characters looked.
The Dark Pictures Anthology
Following Until Dawn, Supermassive Games would go on to release some PlayStation VR titles. However, 2019 saw the first chapter in The Dark Pictures Anthology. These would be shorter games in the style of Until Dawn, taking about four hours instead of eight. They would also include recognizable actors of varying fame.
The first story of The Dark Pictures Anthology was called Man of Medan. It begins with friends going on a diving trip with ties to a lost ship from World War II. Next, in 2020, was Little Hope, which follows a small college class on a field trip. The horror trope here is a bus crash leaving them in a spooky town. In 2021 we got House of Ashes, a story told during the Iraq War with soldiers searching for terrorists and falling into an ancient cave. I enjoyed all three of these games to varying degrees. The character models continued to look impressive, and the games felt like long movies instead of tv shows. Each of these games ended with a little teaser for the next one, which leaves me looking forward to this year’s release, The Devil In Me.
The Quarry (Spoiler Alert)
On June 10, 2022, Supermassive Games released The Quarry as a full priced, retail product. The game takes eight to ten hours, so it is more like a tv series and wants to be closer to Until Dawn. Like their previous games, there is a prologue to get players used to the controls, set up the story, and kill some people. Unfortunately, this is also where the game showcases its flaws.
Previously, characters looked and moved like real people. If you did not know you were looking at a video game, you might think you were watching a movie with characters looking as real as Final Fantasy: Spirits Within. In this game, character models have crashed into the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is the point at which hyper realistic looking human emulations actually push the audience away and makes them wonder what’s wrong with what they’re seeing.
The prologue contains a boyfriend (Max) and girlfriend (Laura) driving to be counsellors at a summer camp. Immediately you begin noticing issues. The characters don’t look each other in the eyes when talking. Additionally, their eyes frequently just look dead and lifeless. This continues into our main cast of characters, only worse. David Arquette (Scream) looks like he constantly has a big wad of chew in his mouth. Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu) has a mouth that rarely seems to open correctly. Halston Sage (Prodigal Son) looks both like she has too many teeth in her mouth and a massive underbite. Everyone seems off except for Brenda Song (Suite Life, The Social Network). She looks exactly as expected, maybe better than previous games would suggest. After playing four games, I’m left to wonder what happened. These uncanny models are more than enough to pull someone out of the game.
Despite these issues, I did complete the game. It is a slow burn. It takes a while to get going and some of the characters are really hard to connect with. However, the game shines brightest when characters die. I ended up losing two of my playable characters and burst out laughing each time. It was fantastic, schlocky, B-movie horror killing. The atmosphere eventually pulled me in, and I ended up liking the game. I would not recommend The Quarry for all horror fans, but consider watching a let’s play.
Ben is the creator and host of the Dragoon Effect, an audio-only lets play podcast.
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