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The Quarry review: “A fun but poorly paced horror adventure”

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It takes a good four or more hours for The Quarry to really take off. By the end it’s a blast, and exactly what I hoped the game would be – lots of screaming, lots of blood, and a general cavalcade of close escapes, near misses, and very definite deaths. But with an overblown cast spread across numerous narrative threads, it spends a long time trying to achieve, and then maintain, any decent sense of momentum. For the longest time, whenever it feels like things are about to get going, the story jumps between characters and beats, resetting the pace and leaving tension as a fleeting feeling that rarely sets.

04.30 Image credit: Supermassive Games

Platform (s): PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One

Release date: June 10, 2022

Developer: Supermassive Games

Publisher: 2K Games

The basic setup is a classic horror movie fare: there’s a bunch of kids having one last night at a summer camp but [spooky voice] there’s something else in the woods [spooky voice ends] and, as the night wears on, the death count starts to rise. I’m going to avoid spoilers completely here, which might make things weirdly vague, but let’s just say there’s some sort of threat out there and that threat really wants to make things dead in as many pieces as possible.

The early parts largely set up how everything works as you meet the cast of teens you’ll be trying to save / kill. This feels like even more of an interactive movie than previous Supermassive games like Until Dawn or the Dark Pictures anthology, with long cinematic scenes where you largely steer between choices as you get to know your victims. That might be choosing what you say or do, with both dialogue and actions getting selected on the fly as things play out. The gameplay also involves exploration – mixing third-person wandering with prompt matching action where you copy on-screen buttons to dodge or attack and so on.

The Quarry

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(Image credit: Take Two)

The further you get in the more the gameplay takes over, but for most of the first half of my roughly eight and a half-hour playtime, I largely steered people through conversations. Which was okay because there’s a good cast here and I happily watched it all play out – establishing characters and backstories, while shadows out of view and shady-looking locals muttering cryptically built a sense of impending danger. There are a couple of really great stand-out performances, although I can’t really say who because it will definitely spoil things at the start if you know who ends up taking the center stage at the end. Countering that, though, there are a couple of high profile castings who barely appear, with either seconds of screen time or a scant handful of lines, which is a bit of a shame considering the talent involved.

A tangled web

When things do start properly – and by start, I mean screaming and death – they also sort of… don’t. If the first 2-3 hours are enjoyable world-building, and the last couple of hours are a fun and gory conclusion, the 2-3 hours in the middle just sort of treads water between all the moving parts that have yet to coalesce; jumping back and forth between things so much it barely advances anything despite almost everyone being covered from head to foot in blood. Once this blood has been spilled you’d expect things to start hacking along at a decent clip but there are so many people in play, spread so far and wide in different locations, that jumping between everything constantly kills the pace. Just as you get a taste of excitement it cuts away to someone else and spends a few minutes setting things up to remind you where they were or what they were doing.

The Quarry

(Image credit: Take Two)

There’s basically too many characters. The end of the game shows you nearly 20 people that can live and die depending on your choices. Not all of them are playbable, but it’s still a big roster – almost twice the size of Until Dawn. As a result the middle just spends too much time spinning plates, when everyone knows the fun part is watching them fall. The story has great potential but gets held back by that extensive cast all needing to be kept roughly on the same page. The internal logic of the story only holds up if the player knows no more than the in-game people, so no one person can get too far ahead. It’s telling that, as the ending really kicks off, several of my survivors were literally shut away in rooms or sealed locations and taken off the board, while others pretty much seemed to survive on a coin toss in the final minutes.

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