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The Quarry is a Must-Play for Horror Fans

Seven years after the success of “Until Dawn,” the fine folks at Supermassive Games and 2K Games have released a spiritual sequel, another cinematic experience that shifts and rewrites itself based on your decisions. The team behind “The Quarry” have crafted a hybrid horror adventure, a game that's built on a foundation of ‘80s horror but doesn’t unfold like a traditional slasher pic. With an ensemble that would get this top billing at genre fests like Fantasia or Fantastic Fest, “The Quarry” is a clever thrill ride with a few gameplay mechanics that hold it back from greatness. Oddly enough, it’s almost better when you’re not playing it, just letting the ominous setting, effective sound design, and truly great performances unfold. It can be frustrating in its mechanics but "The Quarry" is certainly never dull, and it’s going to really land for genre fans looking for a unique experience this summer.

“The Quarry” unfolds at a summer camp (of course) in a place called Hackett’s Quarry. In the prologue, two camp counselors named Laura (an excellent Siobhan Williams) and Max (Skyler Gisondo) are heading up to the remote location a night early. They swerve off the road to avoid an accident, crashing their car in the woods, where they run into a local officer named Travis (Ted Raimi), who encourages them not to go to the Quarry tonight. Of course, they ignore this warning, and are attacked when they arrive at the camp.

Jump to two months later and the introduction of the seven other playable characters. Like “Until Dawn,” there’s a specific path of choices and life-saving actions that can keep all nine characters alive until the end, although I found that element tougher to predict in this game than the last one. For the record, I lost three poor souls, although I was really trying to play the game more organically than over-thinking decisions after a certain point.

Anyway, the seven counselors who are now on the last day of camp at Hackett’s Quarry are Abi (Ariel Winter), Dylan (Miles Robbins), Emma (Halston Sage), Jacob (Zach Tinker), Kaitlyn (Brenda Song), Nick (Evan Evagora), and Ryan (Justice Smith). Of course, there are potential romantic relationships in the group that will shape the narrative—Abi has a crush on Nick, Jacob annoyingly pines for Emma, and there’s something between Ryan and Dylan. The young cast is uniformly strong, especially Smith and Williams, but the real draw for genre fans will be the supporting crew, which not only includes Raimi but David Arquette, Lance Henriksen, Grace Zabriskie, and Lin Shaye. It’s a fantastic assembly of familiar faces.

On the night they’re supposed to leave the Quarry, big dummy Jacob sabotages their only vehicle so he can spend one more night with Emma. Before you know it, something is hunting them, although “The Quarry” is more creature feature than slasher pic. There’s something in the woods and it may be more dangerous than the men who appear to be hunting the counselors, played by Henriksen and Ethan Suplee. The mythology of the game unfolds mostly through cinematic cutscenes, but there are also clues and evidence that can be found throughout the setting, giving the player hints as to what’s truly going on and how to survive the night. Players can also find Tarot cards, which offer visions of the potential future.

Most of the gameplay of “The Quarry” falls into three categories. The most prevalent, and the game’s biggest problem, could be called exploration. The player jumps between the nine playable characters, and each chapter includes large sections of a third-person camera exploration of the area. It’s a drag. The characters all move incredibly slowly—how a horror game doesn’t have a run button is beyond me—and it often sucks the momentum out of the experience. At about the halfway point, I stopped exploring for evidence and Tarot cards in hopes of injecting more realism into the game.

The other two categories work much better. You’re often presented with two dialogue options. For example, you could be aggressive or compliant with Raimi’s cop, and those choices will impact how characters interact with you, sometimes completely altering the narrative. These “choice” sections can also be active—like “Run” or “Hide.” There are also QTEs (QuickTime Events), wherein the player has to hit the control stick at the right time or button mash enough to stay alive. These are effective in making it feel like you’re in control of the character’s life.

The story of “The Quarry” unfolds over roughly 8-9 hours—again, I trimmed some exploration, so it could be 10 for other people—and the developers realize that’s not a lot for a full-priced game, and so they introduce some nifty twists. There’s a multiplayer mode wherein gamers can take turns locally, controlling different characters, and an online mode wherein players can vote on different decisions. There’s also a Movie Mode, which allows gamers to input traits into the characters and then just watch the action play out.

“The Quarry” is imperfect as a game but still a must-play for horror movie fans. Every aspect that I found frustrating was balanced by the twisted joy of the storytelling and the legitimately fun performances—Zabriskie and Raimi are clearly having a blast. There’s also a clever interplay between the ‘80s slasher movie aesthetic and modern elements like podcasting and even a bit of commentary on toxic masculinity. And it’s fun to pick out the influences on the game from “Sleepaway Camp” to “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and “The Hills Have Eyes.”

It's admirable that “The Quarry” isn’t just another slasher game like “Until Dawn,” and I hope that the creators don’t take another seven years to make a follow-up. I also hope they find a better way to incorporate the exploration aspects of the next game with the overall narrative. The mythology building and storytelling here are smart enough that I would absolutely watch a boiled-down 100-minute version of it with the same cast. When’s the last time you played a game where the story was the strongest part?

2K Games provided a PS5 review copy of this game.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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