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The Quarry review - sumptuous slasher horror digs its own grave


Supermassive's latest is one of the team's very best - but for one smart, yet disastrously implemented mechanic.

Hello! Please note: Our inaugural playthrough was (unwittingly) via the deluxe version of The Quarry. Because of this, our review makes mention of the Death Rewind feature which unlocks immediately for deluxe version players, but isn't available to those playing the standard version until you've completed a full playthrough - something we were not informed of until after the publication of this review.

Given the issue has yet to be "fixed", The Quarry invites replayability, and it may have a significant impact on some players' progression, we've decided not to amend the original review below. Apologies for any confusion.

The Quarry is everything we've come to expect from Supermassive's deliciously bloody brand of horror. There are supernatural stalkings, life-and-death decisions to make, quick-time events, and plentiful gory deaths, and it's all wrapped up in jaw-dropping graphic fidelity that is so realistic, sometimes you'll forget it's a game. Its characters - traditionally so irritating, it's hard to find the will to keep them alive - are surprisingly likeable here, even if half of them spend most of the game drenched in blood and looking like a post-prom Carrie. The world you explore - an all-American summer camp that could've been ripped from an '80s slasher - is every bit what you would expect. Throw in a fabulous script and natural voice performances, and The Quarry just might have been Supermassive's greatest game to date.

If you've spent any time with any of Supermassive's previous adventures, The Quarry's formula is unlikely to surprise you as it deviates little from its established template. That will please some and disappoint others, I suspect - that template is an ageing one, after all - but with a life-long love of cheesy teen slasher horror, it still works for me.

You follow a group of young adults, your story cycling between each of their perspectives, making choices - where to go, what to say, what to pick up; the usual stuff - and hoping they live to regret them. You'll soon discover that they're not alone in the woods, and so begins the tricky task of keeping everyone alive long enough to see the Sun come up.

Here's a gameplay overview of The Quarry.Watch on YouTube

Of all Supermassive's spooky stories, I enjoyed this one most. It's not the scariest - I may play a lot of horror but I still scream a lot, and I don't think I jumped or squeaked once playing this, I'm afraid - but the story was engaging and just different enough that I wasn't entirely sure where it was going. Beyond a long, tedious spell in a police station jail that outstayed its welcome, it's usually well-paced, too, giving you ample time to get over the action-packed sequences without dulling its shine, albeit with a handful of unfortunate cuts that promptly deflate the tension that had been carefully building for the last ten minutes or so.

And it looks phenomenal. I know, I know - looks aren't everything, especially when it comes to video games - but this is exceptionally beautiful. I don't think there are many games out there that can rival its ability to capture the smooth peaks and craggy valleys of The Quarry's human skin, never mind the micro-expressions it renders with such exquisite detail. I took over 300 screenshots in one playthrough, obsessed by its cinematography, depth of field focus, and stunning use of light and shadow.

Perhaps most interestingly, The Quarry - ostensibly separate from the Dark Anthology series, but sharing much of its DNA - includes a new feature called Death Rewind, which gives you three opportunities to intervene when a character dies and jump back to make different choices to help them survive. It's a fantastic - if potentially polarising - feature. Let's face it; part of Until Dawn's appeal is that once a character's dead, they're dead, and we all learned the hard way what happens if you're briefly distracted by your phone and miss a critical QTE.

In The Quarry, however, you can jump in and make different choices to save a cherished character. Sometimes you'll go back just a couple of minutes or so, and other times, you might lose a half hour. And one time? One time, right at the end, it'll snatch your entire progress away.

Imagine that. Imagine having spent ten hours making your choices, navigating the pathways, hitting the QTEs, and managing to (almost) keep your entire cast alive where you're so close to the end you can smell it, but - because of a seemingly inconsequential decision you made eight hours ago - you find yourself yanked from Chapter 10 and stuffed back into Chapter 1 again. No, it's not a fleeting visit. No, there's no way to skip anything to get you back there. To get to Chapter 10 you have to replay the entire game again; every cut-scene, every chase, every decision, every minute.

Oh, the fury. The rampant indignation. The final descent in crushing disappointment. I'd been pretty much enjoying every moment this game had given me thus far. The only reason I even had Rewinds left at the end of the game was because I'd been so thoroughly absorbed in the action - so intent on unravelling the mystery - I was paying close attention and wasn't missing QTEs. I knew that there was a chance that the Rewind could knock me back a bit - a prior one had thrown me back a half-hour or so - but I didn't once consider that I could be knocked back to the beginning of the bloody game.

We've since been told that the team is "working actively to fix" this specific instance of the issue and "prevent it happening" once the game releases, possibly by even turning off the Death Rewind option for this particular sequence or at least giving you a proper head's up. But this would be added via a "post-launch update," however, with no hard time scale for it and no confirmation of the exact plan for the fix. More importantly, it's too late for me - it's completely soured what had been, up until that point, a gloriously gory adventure.

There are a few persistent technical issues, too. On a couple of occasions I experienced audio desync issues so the sound was a second or two ahead of the action on-screen, and though it ran pretty well on PC with all settings maxed, my QTE prompts were often for keyboard when I was using a controller; not fair, folks.

The Quarry would have been one of my favourite games of the year... as it stands, though, it's hard to feel anything but disappointment.

That said, the QTEs were rarely taxing - I was only ever prompted to move my left stick and mash A a few times; there were no QTEs involving any other button - and though the BioShock-esque tutorial videos were a charming way of conveying new systems and controls, they weren't always clear; it took a couple of (failed) attempts for me to acclimate to the Hold Breath mechanic, and shooting - anyone, with any weapon, at any time - feels slow and clumsy. Thankfully, there's an effective set of accessibility tools that should help anyone who struggles with these kinds of mechanics, and you can elect longer input times or even ensure they're automatically completed if need be.

The Quarry is genuinely gorgeous. Wait is that... John Terry?!

And like its siblings, The Quarry suffers from trying to balance its (admittedly fantastic) cinematic camera angles with your desire to explore. For all the hyper-realism of the cast's facial expressions, lip-sync, and dialogue, nothing reminds you that you're in a game more than bumbling around a dark lodge, bumping into walls and making unforced turns because the camera angle unexpectedly changed on you. It's always been my biggest hang up in the Dark Anthology titles, and it hasn't been quelled in Supermassive's latest adventure, I'm afraid.

If it hadn't have been for that thoroughly unjust Rewind right at the end of my playthrough, The Quarry - with its stunning visuals, wonderful voice work, fabulous score, and intriguing plot line - would have been one of my favourite games of the year thus far, and one of the best horror romps for some time. As it stands, though, it's hard to feel anything but disappointment for a game that took all my time and effort and just discarded them without warning. It's one thing to kill off a character; it's another to kill off a player's enthusiasm.