Whether it likes it or not, Supermassive Games will always have its titles compared to Until Dawn. The British developer has been trying to top the 2015 hit for seven years now, and after a disappointing PlayStation VR project in The Inpatient and the inconsistent Dark Pictures Anthology, its next attempt is The Quarry. Completely detached from previous work and with a new publisher in the bag, it looked like the team had all the right ingredients for a proper return to form. However, it might be time to accept Until Dawn as just a happy accident.
The Quarry is neither good nor particularly bad — it comfortably occupies the space reviewers hate where a game is just fine. Ignore some impressive character models and the title has little to shout about. Ignore some incredibly frustrating camera work and there's not too much else to screw your nose up at. Perhaps its worst sin, then, is that after a very slow start, the game never truly picks up the pace. It plods along, revealing its secrets all too slowly.
Those who've played any one of Supermassive Games' past efforts, though, will find some of those mysteries to be common knowledge. Traditional gameplay takes a back seat as your dialogue choices and decisions dramatically affect the story, leading to different endings, relationships, and dictating who gets to survive the night.
If anything, interaction here is actually even less involved than usual as quick-time events are based on very simple directional thumbstick pushes and spamming the X button. A weapon can be aimed and fired here and there, but then the minigame tasking you with holding your breath has removed its gyro-based requirements. Besides these relatively simple inputs, you'll be scanning the environment for ways of progressing the story as well as hunting down clues, pieces of evidence, and Tarot Cards.
The narrative is what you're playing for, however, and it's an eight-hour adventure that definitely takes its time setting the scene. Seven teens want their time at summer camp to go out with a bang on the final night, so with the Hackett's Quarry owner forced to leave as the sun starts to go down, the only natural course of action is to throw a drunken party. What actually follows is a night of terror and possible death, but it takes a few too many hours to get there.
A lot of time is spent setting the scene and introducing the relationships between the characters. We have Emma and Jacob, who agreed their summer fling wouldn't get serious. Nick and Abigail secretly have the hots for one another but are too nervous to admit it, Ryan is the awkward loner, Kaitlyn is everyone's friend, and then Dylan puts on a cool act to hide his insecurities.
It's a fairly fun cast, but so much time is spent introducing them and carrying out menial tasks that you could already be starting to tire by the time everything goes tits up. We're talking hours of setup that can feel like a real slog to get through. And despite the story being interesting enough once it starts to reveal itself in the later chapters, our ending wasn't in the least bit satisfying. Maybe there are better conclusions out there, but The Quarry has the potential to both start and end poorly.
These extremes carry over into other aspects of the game — most notably the camera work. When control is taken away from you, The Quarry sets up some fantastically shot scenes, incorporating atmospheric and moody lighting as well as the time of day to cast shadows and light up the character's faces for close-ups.
In contrast, the camera can then become an annoyance when you're actually playing the game. Particularly during scenes set in smaller rooms and tight corridors, the camera sits far too close to the teen you're playing as, making it much harder to see where you're going and thus explore the location. With missable collectibles in every chapter, it can be all too easy to skip one if you weren't able to pan the camera around the room enough.
The visuals hit and miss just as much. When The Quarry puts in the effort, it looks really good. Supermassive Games has always been known for impressive character models, and the exact same can be said for its latest project; some spectacular-looking faces accurately convey emotion with their expressions. The aforementioned lighting helps here too: there are some visually gorgeous scenes in amongst the more intense sequences that are genuinely jaw-dropping.
Again, however, it's these sorts of spectacles that make the times the game doesn't look so hot all the more apparent. It seems to really struggle with fire; the flames from fire pits don't always load in correctly, making them resemble something out of the 16-bit era. Then there's a small bit of texture pop-in too.
It all comes together to create such an uneven game. There is a good amount of fun to be had in The Quarry — especially if you're playing with friends — but you're never too far away from something going wrong. Whether that be the camera getting in the way, a visual glitch ruining the immersion, or the story snagging and losing your interest. Without too much in the way of gameplay and interaction, the worst thing about these sorts of games is when they're just kind of boring. The Quarry unfortunately is.
For everything The Quarry does right, it has just as many glaring issues or niggling problems to bring it right back down to Earth. Supermassive Games has been trying to better Until Dawn for seven years now, and at this point, it looks like it's never, ever going to happen. The Quarry is just a bit dull, and that's the exact opposite of what these types of titles strive to be.