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The Quarry Hands-on Preview: Until Dawn’s Formula Is Unchanged But Still Works

A group of teenaged camp counselors play truth or dare–and the game almost immediately turns to dares that send one member of the group to kiss another. After all, it’s well known at this point that Abi likes Nick and that Emma and Jacob have a thing going. It’s the last night of camp and the counselors are stranded until the morning, making this the last opportunity to make any sparks fly.

So Kaitlyn gets the ball rolling, daring Emma to kiss Jacob. But then she throws in a caveat: Emma can choose to kiss Jacob or Nick. Emma opts for the drama, kissing Nick and sending Jacob into a jealous rage. He stalks off in one direction; Abi silently disappears into the darkness in another.

When Nick finds Abi in the woods a few minutes later, they share a moment and, maybe, even a kiss of their own. After a summer of pining over Nick, finally, things are working out for Abi. That’s when they hear the growling–and before they can run, something monstrous appears from the shadows, attacking Nick and chasing Abi deeper into the forest. Like nearly every teen horror movie, just as soon as relationships start to form and the kids start to get comfortable, the screaming begins.

For The Quarry, the latest story-driven horror title from Supermassive Games, the somewhat-predictable setup is partially an homage to ’80s horror and teen slasher films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and of course, Friday the 13th. It’s also partially a case of not fixing something that isn’t broken. In fact, a lot of The Quarry will be familiar to anyone who’s played Supermassive’s other games; the developer previously described it as a spiritual successor to 2015’s Until Dawn, and it has a similar vibe to the three games of the ongoing Dark Pictures anthology series. Supermassive has a pretty specific formula that works for its brand of cinematic adventure game, and it doesn’t deviate from it with The Quarry–meaning that if you like its other games, you should have a fun time with this one.

The Quarry sees you playing out the story of the counselors at the Hackett’s Quarry summer camp with your perspective shifting between the different characters from scene to scene. You make decisions for the characters during the scenes in which you control them, choosing between different dialogue lines or making calls like who to kiss when your inevitable dare moment comes up. The game tracks those choices and how they might change the flow of the plot or affect the relationships between characters, which you can view in various menus to see how the path you’re taking through the story is shaping up. Every so often, the game cuts away to a framing scene in which you, the player, are sitting with a strange woman in a wood hut, played by Grace Zabriskie (Twin Peaks). The woman is ostensibly telling you the story you’re playing, while also dropping clues in the form of a tarot card reading that can give you premonition-like snapshots of moments to come.

We played about an hour of The Quarry, seeing a little bit of two of its early chapters, which provided something of a cross-section look at how the game plays. Like Supermassive’s other titles, choice is a big element of the proceedings. Not every decision will create a massive shake-up to the story, but even making a few different dialogue choices in the small portion we played made notable differences in relationships or which scenes we saw play out. At one key moment, for instance, the motor-mouthed Jacob joins Emma for a night swim in the lake. After hearing a scream, Jacob realizes he’s dropped a key component to the counselors’ car in the lake, and you can choose to either investigate the scream (it’s Abi, racing through the woods after being attacked by something big, shadowy, and toothy), or leap back into the lake and go after the item he’s lost.

Roughly one second after Abi and Nick finally have a moment, things get spooky.

The choice presents you with one of two different scenes, and which one you pick seems like it’ll have big consequences. If Jacob jumps back into the water, he can potentially grab the component again, but he also quickly finds himself tangled in underwater barbed wire, and even discovers a hidden, bloated corpse that’s been tied to something heavy in the middle of the water. Go after Abi, however, and you miss this scene entirely, while also seemingly allowing the engine component to vanish forever. We don’t know exactly how that choice will play out, but you can probably guess that the counselors losing an important item for making their car work is going to come back to bite them later on.

Like Supermassive’s other games, The Quarry also has its share of action sequences in which you need to watch and react to what’s happening on screen, matching your button presses to prompts that appear as part of the action. Quick-time events have been a staple of Supermassive’s games since Until Dawn, so this isn’t a surprise, although the ones we saw in The Quarry feel simplified in comparison to some of the developer’s past games. QTEs are often maligned because they can be a pain to deal with, sometimes giving players too little time to react to prompts and causing failures. In The Quarry, QTEs seem to be made pretty easy to deal with, alleviating that frustration. As with past games, failing QTEs has consequences that can change how the narrative plays out, but it seems like Supermassive has casual players in mind as well as hardcore fans of its titles, making playing the game comfortable even for people who might not have a ton of experience handling a controller.

Where The Quarry breaks a bit with Supermassive’s usual approach is in having a slightly heavier emphasis on combat mechanics, specifically on shooting firearms. Usually, Supermassive’s games are all contextual–while there might be moments that could be called “combat,” like firing a gun or struggling with an enemy, they’re usually just additional QTEs. The Quarry suggests it’ll emphasize these moments a little more than usual, even including a quick combat video tutorial to teach you how to use firearms in the game.

The portion we played included a scene in which a couple of characters have a shooting contest with a shotgun, and then later included a moment in which we could shoot at a villainous character in a heated moment. How well you shoot–or whether you shoot at all–is as consequential as other gameplay interactions or decisions, and the shotgun has a wide spread, so it becomes pretty ineffective at long ranges (and might risk you hitting something or someone you don’t mean to if you fire at the wrong time). Still, even though there’s more focus on shooting than in past games, you probably shouldn’t expect combat in The Quarry to be something you engage in often. In the scene we saw, shooting was really just another decision-point opportunity, pushing you to act fast in order to do any damage with the shotgun when you have the opportunity to use it, or to consider whether you should resist pulling the trigger instead.

The camp counselors of Hackett’s Quarry have a long night ahead of them.

If you’ve played the other Supermassive games, all of this is pretty much to be expected. As mentioned, these elements have all proven to work well to create scary, cinematic experiences, and Supermassive always puts a big emphasis on player choice and player success and failure to craft its stories–so it’s possible to create some distinct pathways through its other games, depending on what you decide to do along the way. That seems like it’ll hold true for The Quarry as well, although our preview didn’t give quite enough of a look to really see how decisions will cascade or how relationships will affect the flow of the plot.

What was clear, however, is that The Quarry nails the feel of the movies on which it’s drawing the most inspiration. The game is populated with a lot of fun, well-drawn characters, with possibly the most star-studded and expansive cast yet for one of these games. Ariel Winter (Modern Family), Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu), Miles Robbins (Halloween [2018]), Evan Evagora (Star Trek: Picard), Halston Sage (X-Men: Dark Phoenix), and Brenda Song (The Social Network) make up the cast of counselors, and their performances in the preview made what could have been some relatively hackneyed teenage drama feel organic and relatable.

The entire game is also presented as if you’re you’re playing it on an old 1990s PC and watching scenes recorded on VHS tapes. When you make a key decision that will affect the plot, for instance, things slow down for a moment, the picture tracking skews as if the heads of your tape player are a bit dirty, and the pixelated words “Path Chosen” appear in the font that used to be emblematic of VHS players’ on-screen menus. Those small throwbacks to movies and media of the past are a nice, unobtrusive visual touch that do a lot to help sell that classic slasher feel.

The Quarry feels a lot like Until Dawn, in all the ways that make that game a lot of scary fun. You’ve got your teen character drama, your sticky burgeoning relationships, and your inevitable gruesome murders–all the elements that make teen horror stories like this work. We didn’t get a chance to see any of the features that could make The Quarry stand out from Supermassive’s other games, such as the movie mode that allows you to make general choices about the story ahead of time and then just watch them play out without interacting. But the familiar elements and tropes of the developer’s titles and the movies that inspire them are still as effective as they were in Until Dawn seven years ago, which makes The Quarry seem like it’ll be a fun, if slightly more casual, teen horror romp through dark woods filled with vicious creatures.

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