It’s not just prestige TV series that want to be considered “like a 10 hour movie”. For years, video games have sought to become more cinematic by relying as much on storytelling as on interactivity. This often doesn’t work – if the story isn’t there, long cutscenes (also called cutscenes, not coincidentally) interrupting actual gameplay can be more tedious than immersive. Some purists will even say that the medium undermines itself by trying to imitate another. Movies are meant to be watched, video games are meant to be played, and the two will never meet.
There are of course exceptions, “The Quarry” being the most recent game – and in some ways one of the most remarkable – to blur the line between passive and active entertainment. Developed by Supermassive Games and released for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S by 2K Games, it’s essentially a choose-your-own slasher movie where the player has near-control lives, who dies and how the whole story unfolds. The game is the spiritual successor to 2015’s “Until Dawn,” also made by Supermassive, which worked similarly but wasn’t as sophisticated in its branching paths.
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These paths begin with a prologue. You watch Laura (Siobhan Williams) and Max (Skyler Gisondo) drive through the night for several minutes before doing anything, by which time you’ll have learned some key information: The two are on their way to Hackett’s Quarry, a camp summer in upstate New York, where they will spend the next few months as camp counselors. If you’ve seen literally any horror movie, you’ll already have an idea of where this is set. Here’s what makes this game different, though: you watch “The Quarry” as often as you play it, with extended cutscenes contextualizing those crucial moments in which you make decisions that reverberate long after those choices have been made. The development team is said to have written over 1,000 pages and 186 possible endings, all of which are entirely up to player choice.
At least onscreen, those choices are made by a cast anchored by horror stalwarts: David Arquette, Lin Shaye, Lance Henriksen, Ted Raimi, and Grace Zabriskie, to name a few, who have all provided motion capture performance in addition to their voice acting. To say that the character of David Arquette really, really looks like David Arquette would be an understatement, which is precisely the point – relying on familiar faces may even be the game’s most explicit attempt to feel like an interactive movie. Some choices are time-sensitive, giving you only seconds to decide whether to continue fleeing danger or find a hiding place and hold your breath until it is safe to exhale.
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While it might seem counterintuitive, there’s no complete overlap between those who love horror movies and those who love horror games. The reason goes beyond some in the old camp who simply don’t play any video games, as the survival-horror genre tends to be very stressful. You don’t get to put your hand over your eyes and brace yourself for the next jump scare while playing a “Resident Evil” game – you really have to take control of the situation and progress through it yourself. the story. When a dreamy teenager dies at the hands of Freddy Krueger, the lights go out forever; When one of the inmates running the asylum in “Outlast” kills you, you must return to the last checkpoint and try again. There’s also the question of length: “The Witch” ends in 93 minutes, but “Alien: Isolation” will stress you out for 20 hours.
If you fall into this camp, “The Quarry” might still be for you. It has a movie mode that lets you choose certain presets – every character survives, for example, or even every character dies – and just watch the chaos you’ve wreaked without ever having to pick up the controller. You might want to do this anyway, as the haptic feedback from PlayStation’s DualSense controller adds to the immersion: the way it rumbles in your hands or flashes different colors lets you know you’re in trouble. If you’re not content to watch your masterpiece alone, there’s even an online mode where up to seven friends can attend and vote on every choice you make – not just you, brilliant author that you are. , be bound by their contribution. .
Still, “The Quarry” isn’t actively scary most of the time. This isn’t necessarily a review, as the game is often so technically immersive that you’re likely to be too impressed with its visuals to dread anything on the other side of the gate that you can. whether or not to open. “The Quarry” looks amazing in a way that few games before it have, especially when any of the three optional filters – indie horror, 80s horror, and classic horror – are applied. The first adds film grain, the second makes everything look like it was shot on video, and the last is just black and white. While film grain is usually the way to go, the VHS aesthetic works best here, serving up the throwback vibe of the story while adding an extra layer of unreality to the proceedings.
By the time it’s over, however, it can be hard not to feel like the causality has been overdone. If you thought that a small choice early on – taking the scenic route to the lodge rather than the direct path, for example – would produce a butterfly effect that locked in a character’s fate hours later, you might be disappointed. Whether or not an individual survives the night usually comes down to a single action that takes place immediately before their potential death, such as deciding to open a door on the roof of a cabin rather than continuing to explore its relatively safe interior. . Even so, “The Quarry” still manages to feel life or death even when it’s not – it’s only in the credits that you realize you were often in less danger than you thought.
This too is a mark of horror. We love horror movies because they get our pulse racing and make us look away from the screen even though we’re perfectly safe on the other side. “The Quarry” understands this as well as any actual horror film and uses its extensive knowledge of the genre to compelling effect. And unlike the movies it’s modeled on, it lets you instantly start over for a completely different experience – it makes you not just a participant but a director, and what a fan of everything from ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ to ‘The Shining’ is. didn’t want to be just that?
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