In these tough times, it is easy to look back with a certain degree of fondness on the nineteen-eighties. What an idyllic time it was, especially in the US where (according to my cinematic education) every good-looking young person got to work as a councillor at a lakeside Summer Camp.
After a long hot season singing songs around a campfire, hiking in the woods, drinking alcohol and copping off with whoever took your fancy, the last night party always ended with nearly everyone being brutally murdered by someone or something that lived in the woods.
“What a time to be alive!”, I hear you cry! Well, never fear, You are not going to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage. Thanks to the work of developers Supermassive Games and publishers 2K, I can take you on a summer trip that you will never forget in the XboxEra review of ‘The Quarry’.
Played from a third-person perspective, the game is described as a ‘survival horror interactive drama’ and is spiritually a successor of 2015’s ‘Until Dawn’. After an ‘Evil Dead’ referencing title sequence, we are introduced to the first of nine playable Camp councillors who are traveling up to the camping ground a day before everybody else arrives. During this prologue, some standard slasher genre tropes are wheeled out for our viewing ‘guilty’ pleasure.
At night, during a moment of driver distraction, someone or something is hit damaging the young lovers’ car. The girl seeing something in the shadows wanders into the trees alone until she gets spooked or is chased back out again. An untrustworthy cop with an attitude appears out of nowhere, recovers the car and orders them not to visit the camp until daylight but (of course) they disobey his instructions. After spotting someone trapped in the storm cellar below the main lodge our plucky heroes overcome a padlock and clamber down into the dark depths to help.
Alas, like in all horror films this turns out not to be the brightest idea and within seconds a monster has been unwittingly unleashed. I will attempt to keep this review as spoiler-free as I possibly can but it is worth mentioning that fans of films that begin in this way will probably enjoy this gaming experience.
The laziest player on the planet can enjoy the whole thing in ‘Movie Mode’ if they so wish. This removes every interactive requirement and presents the story in a roughly ten-hour experience along the lines of a Netflix series. Those who want to actually ‘play’ the game will be tasked with keeping the nine playable characters alive (while taking turns playing between them) over one night.
How you treat or behave towards other people has a bearing on how they will react towards you from that moment forwards. Therefore, in a scenario where strength is definitely in numbers, it seems like a pretty good idea not to annoy anybody unnecessarily (At least not on your first play-through) After all, the gang that plays together will hopefully stay together.
While creating the feeling that you are watching a film and allowing you to relax in the quiet moments the game has subtle ways to keep you on your feet and stop your attention from drifting. If you usually look at your phone during gameplay that is ill-advised here, as an array of different interaction triggers can be presented to you.
This place is so quiet
Quick Time Events come at you in sudden chase scenes often in groups of two and three and items such as Tarot cards (which can be collected to grasp a brief flash of a possible future) can only be picked up for a fleeting moment or you will lose them forever. Instances of ‘Don’t Breathe’ can occur at any time requiring you to hold your breath until you consider the coast to be clear. Breathing in early and signalling your position may not only cause some slight disadvantage to a character but may also result in their demise. Yes really! Failing a mini-game can kill people!
I heartily recommend never putting your controller down next to you. The precious seconds required to pick it up could well count against you, especially if an opportunity to escape your predicament via an Olympic ‘button mashing’ event is about to slip from your grasp.
All of these mini-games are introduced at the start of the journey via witty tutorial films parodying the type of safety presentations that visitors are presented with when first arriving at camp. These are well-produced and funny to watch but on occasion do not quite explain the very things that they exist to teach you. QTEs were frankly a bit of a bitch at the start of the game and I considered it rather odd when I failed the first seven in a row. It was only when I realised that the mechanic was poorly explained in the tutorial that I started to do them correctly and never failed another one during the other nine and a half hours of my play-through.
Recklessness in water?
QTEs play such a fundamental part in how each person reacts in moments of danger that players need to master them as soon as possible. Only the Left Thumbstick is used and this has to be pushed in the direction of the arrow as soon as it appears on the screen. Do not do what I did and wait until the reducing circle meets the inner circle before moving the stick as this will result in failure. I am not the only person to struggle with QTEs early on so the tutorial certainly did not live up to its task.
‘Interrupts’ appear on screen at key moments offering suggestions such as ‘Shoot or ‘Hide’. These are not available for long to promote quick decisions but it is important to remember that these are only suggestions. Some are best ignored while others should be acted upon. It is a matter of thinking through your actions before carrying them out. For example, Shooting at a shadow in the darkness may not be a good idea if it could belong to one of your friends.
These smaller choices combined with ‘pathway’ choices (which have defined consequences) can alter the fate of each character in intricate ways creating the possibility of numerous different endings for each playthrough. The idea of the first playthrough is to try and keep everyone alive but even if you fail you are rewarded by the ability to use ‘Death Rewind’ in future attempts. This gives players the chance to change three decisions or actions that have led to character deaths over a night.
Where did you get those eyes?
This device is welcome but was not properly explained when it first popped up on the screen for me in mid-game. I wasted two lives saving one character before realising that the three lives did not only apply to them and were shared between all nine. This became even more gutting when I managed to get my favourite character killed very late in the game with no rewinds remaining.
The game includes a generous portion of exploration and evidence collection as well as story and action segments. Finding artifacts from the history of the camp will guide you towards solving what is happening around you while collecting evidence about the events of the evening will most certainly be required if the cops are ever going to believe your survivors’ story when the sun rises.
The acting by a cast of recognisable character actors is unsurprisingly somewhat better than in many films that I have watched on video and it really should be marvelled at just how seamlessly the cinematic cut-scenes transition into interactive gameplay and vice versa. This could be the best-looking game that I have ever played by far.
The detail that has been put into creating this spooky yet glorious environment should be applauded as it sucked me right into the surroundings with the characters that I was trying to keep safe. Tension ebbed and flowed as the mystery unfolded but the game did not purely rely on jump scares to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Peeping through keyholes in creepy old houses and wandering alone through deep dark woods I was able to feel the isolation and a sense of terror.
The game starts slowly but builds on folklore and atmospherics, gradually increasing the strangeness and bewilderment until a secret past is exposed and one last act is demanded from the player. The monsters are a not exactly pleasant surprise once they are revealed via a transformation device that John Landis would be proud of. However, this event never gets old after repeated occurrences and adds yet another layer of gruesomeness to what is already a bloodbath of a story. An exotic amputation sequence particularly sticks in the mind days after witnessing it.
For those who like their red stuff turned up to eleven, there is even a deluxe pack visual option to make things even gorier as well as a choice of three different cinematic filters that can be applied to the game to skew its appearance from its natural spectacularly realistic look. For my replay, I would have to choose the scratchy eighties slasher visuals, what else?
It is not all horror though, there is a section parodying a well-known slasher cliche where a couple goes swimming only to become separated from their clothes requiring them to explore their surroundings in nothing but their underwear. Amusingly, traditional sexism is slyly subverted here as the female character was soon able to find dry clothing whereas the male ‘beefcake’ character remained in his pants until the very end of his story. The dev team clearly has a sense of humour.
The game can be played solo, in couch coop and via online multiplayer. There are far more accessibility settings available than is standard and although these mostly relate to visual settings it is very welcome to see different Colour Blindness options on offer.
In conclusion, This game is the complete horror movie package in game form. Boasting a theme tune in the style of John Carpenter nothing seems to have been forgotten during the developers’ efforts to bring this project to life. The characters are not just two-dimensional cut-outs, the gore is no more gratuitous than fans would want it to be and even the mystery supporting the foundations of the plot all makes perfect sense. This has then been delivered with stunning visuals and peerless performance on the Xbox Series X.
This game is such a tribute to a beloved genre that it even contains rules that will help you to survive (if you bother to learn them.) It may not be the cheapest but it sure is an experience to enjoy. Having Jason’s ‘kill, kill, kill’ motif echoing around your head as you play it is not a prerequisite but it sure is fun.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4|PS5|
|Release Date||June 10th, 2022|
- Movement between gameplay and cut-scenes is virtually seamless.
- Delves knowingly into the 1980's 'slasher movie' genre.
- Exceptional motion capture and acting performances.
- Offers the opportunity to live through your own 10 hour box set.
- Walking can be a bit slow even when speed walking.
- The story takes a while to get going.
- The tutorials (although clever) do not always explain game mechanics clearly.