The Quarry hands-on preview: It’s a new era

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The Quarry represents a return-to-form for Supermassive Games — going back to the well of Until Dawn and giving us another interactive teen horror flick.

While The Dark Pictures Anthology has been fun, it never had the same spark of the studio’s original masterpiece. The short snippets didn’t give you much time to get to know the characters, and the episodic structure didn’t lend itself to providing dire consequences for your actions.

So, does the return to a full-length horror romp give us Supermassive at its best? And has the team brought anything new to the table, to keep things fresh? Let’s find out in my completely spoiler-free first impressions.

Fright Night

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Welcome to Hackett’s Quarry: the classic summer break camping location that is both an idyllic getaway and a place with an ever-rising sense of unease. This place is brilliantly realized thanks to three key ingredients: top notch visual finesse, a lovingly crafted beat-for-beat soundtrack and incredible acting.

Let’s take those in reverse order. This is a star-studded cast with the likes of David Arquette (“Scream” franchise), Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”), Justice Smith (“Jurassic World”), Brenda Song (“Dollface”), Lance Henriksen (“Aliens”), Lin Shaye (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), and more.

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Each actor puts on a clinic with some great performances that draw you into their classic teen horror world — hitting each character trait from a generic douchebag jock with some slight emotional depth to the Trapper Keeper-owning introvert. This pairs with a selection of songs peppered throughout that match the mood of each scene with expert precision.

Let’s talk about the graphics; each location is dripping with atmosphere, from the golden sunset painting everything with an orange hue and casting long shadows to dark, claustrophobic forests with an eerie mist, made all the more scary by the fully-fledged foley sound effects.

As for the characters, the upgraded motion capture really showcases the actor’s emotions, giving you their full performances. And of course, this is a horror game, so there are monsters, which are horrifically realized, pretty damn gruesome and a dramatic step up from Until Dawn’s antagonists. 

I know what you’re going to do this summer

(Image credit: 2K Games)

So, we’ve talked about the style. Now, let’s talk about as much of the substance as I can, because not all is as it seems.

I’ll be honest. I went into this, expecting to report back on how this is just Until Dawn all over again, which wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing, but just a little lazy. Well, I’m happy to admit I was wrong.

The core formula is still here, but it has been expanded upon in a few impactful ways to make all your character interactions feel more intentful and “human.” For example, in Until Dawn, you had a small selection of dialogue options and a series of binary choices to navigate the unfolding narrative. 

(Image credit: 2K Games)

In The Quarry, however, I was given choices to speak or not speak, to interrupt other characters, and while the big decisions seem binary on the surface, there are several more paths you could take that you may not recognize in the heat of the moment. 

Plus, Supermassive has tightened up several other gameplay areas. Directly controlling each character and moving around feels a lot more fluid and moving the camera with the right stick is less cumbersome. Each section is also covered with well-placed clues and tarot cards, which are this game’s version of Until Dawn’s totems.

Combat feels a lot less robotic, too, as smoother, faster aiming gives you a better sense of control and it doesn’t feel like the game is working against you to shoot your target. Quick-time events return, too, alongside button-mashing moments that can be customized in accessibility settings, so you don’t have to bash rapidly.

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Shout-out to the breathing mechanic. This replaces Until Dawn’s “keep your controller steady” moments, which were interesting but rather annoying. Now, you just have to press and hold a button to hold your breath when the monster is nearby. Not only is this simpler for those who want that great couch gaming/movie watching hybrid experience, but there is a tactical element to it as well, thanks to the limited time you can hold your breath. What if you press and hold the button too early and you release your breath too soon?

And what if you just want to watch everything play out? Maybe you’re not in the mood to make choices — that’s where Movie mode comes in. Sure, you can just pick whether everyone lives or dies, but you can fine tune the experience by actually changing individual personality stats of each character. It’s a feature I’m really looking forward to trying out.

(Image credit: 2K Games)

This all adds to the ever-increasing tension as you progress. Relationships develop in a way that you can empathize with, environmental exploration is enjoyable rather than a chore, and combat situations have more varied, unexpected outcomes. All this is combined with a storytelling style that doesn’t rely heavily on jumpscares and slowly builds a really tense atmosphere, where you fear the consequence of every decision you make.

Just seeing “Path Chosen” appear on screen isn’t merely a moment of curiosity, it’s a moment of dread as the gameplay helps you feel connected to these most generic of teen horror protagonists. The Quarry perfectly hits that fine balance between intrigue and fear — between wanting to know just how many ways a certain situation can play out and wanting to keep the characters safe.

Outlook

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Supermassive Games could have just made Until Dawn again with a new coat of paint and called it a day, and I would have still liked it. That’s how committed I’ve been to the choice-based linear story-driven format with a helpful serving of The Butterfly Effect to ramp up the tension.

But from my early impressions, it’s clear the team has gone big here, both in scope and ambition, to deliver another teen horror experience that is set to engross and terrify. 

(Image credit: 2K Games)

The stellar acting talent, slick visual style and equally emotive soundtrack provide a tense atmosphere, as the story beats grip you throughout. Keeping you hooked, the new gameplay additions I tried were all substantial upgrades. But these tell only half the story, as the new ways to play that weren’t included in this early look point towards a more challenging and diverse game, which is all the more accessible, too.

It’s still the same, more hands-off movie-like experience and if you didn’t like that formula before, this won’t change your mind. But unless 2K’s hiding a bad game behind the snippet we played, this one’s going to be a fun, multi-path horror romp.



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