Shaun Munro reviews The Quarry…
If supermassive games Until dawn confirmed the market’s thirst for interactive horror-themed video games, the developer’s efforts since then have largely failed to capitalize on that promise. The three Dark Pictures Anthology the titles released so far range from bad to acceptable, with their more serious tone and bite-sized format feeling like a safe step – a straight-to-video spin-off, even – from Until dawn’is a loving homage to campy genre tropes.
But Supermassive is finally back with a worthy spiritual successor full of fat; The career is their meatiest and most substantial offering to date, and one that’s a hair’s breadth away from fully resuming Until dawn’the dewy-eyed penchant for B-movie horror.
Skillfully, as is apparent from his first moments, The career takes himself much less seriously than anyone Dark pictures games, embracing its schlocky potential by way of relentlessly silly and often hilarious banter between the cast of likable and fun characters, played by a host of up-and-coming actors and acclaimed horror legends.
It’s a game firmly in love with horror conventions and filled with myriad references to countless horror classics – the most ubiquitous evil Dead — and while its seven-hour playtime perhaps threatens to make those tropes feel exhausting, the guideline is ironic enough that it works most of the time.
Players assume control of nine camp counselors working at Hackett’s Quarry summer camp, who, on their last day on the job, find themselves battling bloodthirsty threats both human and supernatural. Whether one of them survives the night is of course entirely up to you.
In terms of gameplay, that’s typical Supermassive fare; interaction is limited to walking around in dimly lit environments, clicking on points of interest, and triggering the next cinematic scene. All this while dealing with occasional interactive elements like QTEs, and keeping an eye out for tarot cards that may be presented to a recurring tarot card reader (played by twin peaks legend Grace Zabriskie) which will provide clues to future dangers.
It’s a passive title for the most part, but for the same purpose, if you’re not paying absolute attention to it, it’s incredibly easy to miss QTEs; stare at your phone for a few seconds and you might end up cursing yourself. That said, the game is relatively generous in not letting a missed entry cause a character to suddenly surrender; usually you will have some chance to redeem yourself.
Those who own the Deluxe Edition of the game also get immediate access to the nifty “death rewind” feature, gaining three extra lives throughout their run, allowing them to literally rewind the game and save a dead character. It’s definitely a novel idea that makes the game less frustrating, although locking it behind a game over unless you shell out for the Deluxe Edition is a bit cheeky.
Mechanically The career obviously didn’t advance much beyond previous Supermassive games; moving around still feels like wading through molasses almost all the time. There’s no run button either, and the best you can hope for is walking at double speed, but even that is relatively slow. Overall, the muffled movement speed feels like a rather seamless attempt to extend the length of the game. You’ll also often find yourself fighting the camera just to get where you want to go. Neither of these issues is decisive, but both feel massively date.
There is a particularly merciful refinement by means of Until dawn’The much-maligned Don’t Move mechanic, which previously relied on the PS4’s over-sensitive gyroscope, as the player often missed even though the controller was placed on the floor. Now you just need to hold down the action button while hiding from an attacker and release it when your character is safe, which, while comical in comparison, results in far less frustration.
Visuals are one area where Supermassive’s games have always impressed, to varying degrees. And despite the lingering aesthetic darkness of The career’s environments, it’s quite the looker indeed. It certainly demonstrates a major increase in the fidelity and performance of Until dawn, which infamously let its frame rate drop well below 30fps as it pushed the PS4 to a near breaking point. While it’s sure to disappoint some that this new game runs at a locked 30fps on PS5, it maintains at least a smooth 30fps without any noticeable hitches or jerks.
While the beautifully brilliant visuals are accentuated by some of the best cinematic direction you’ll find in such a tilted game – aided by wonderful volumetric lighting and neat camera lens reflections – it’s the mesmerizing human renderings that really bring this game to life. everything.
Faces have come a long way in recent years, and The career boasts some of the most photorealistic human beings ever featured in a video game. Brenda Song’s Kaitlyn in particular possesses a level of expressiveness and physical plausibility that makes the game feel truly next-gen – or, now, “next-gen”. There are definitely times when the mouth movements look a little over the top – like an artist tinkered with them during production – and the game engine sometimes puts a weird and distracting visual halo around characters’ heads, but for most of it is a fantastic looking title.
The visual package is aided by a stunning sonic suite, especially superb vocal performances from virtually the entire cast, especially the aforementioned Song and Zabriskie, as well as Miles Robbins, Ted Raimi, Lin Shaye, David Arquette and Lance Henriksen. Ian Livingstone’s musical score perfectly nails the campy backwoods vibe that the whole shebang is clearly aiming for.
Despite all that style and atmosphere, there’s no denying that The career is quite tame as a horror; there’s very little here that’s likely to scare off card-carrying horror fans, as has been an issue with pretty much all of these games beyond Until dawn.
The central threat generates intense and entertaining chase sequences that might periodically raise the pulse a bit, but there’s nothing even remotely getting under the skin. While the lack of lazy jump scares is admirable, it’s a shame that the visceral horror component continues to be lacking in Supermassive’s horror antics.
In terms of accessibility, there are a host of options available here to suit many different needs; you can change and disable various input options and gameplay mechanics. Movie mode further allows players to just watch the whole story without any in-game input (beyond choosing conditions such as “all characters live/die” before starting). The game also launched with local multiplayer with pass-controller, although unfortunately the online co-op component was not available at launch, but it would have been fixed in a few weeks.
In all The career is Supermassive’s funniest horror title since Until dawn; filled with hilarious dialogue and a more compelling story and characters, it feels like a big step down from what those games should be.
While it’s not exactly easy to recommend shelling out the £50 RRP on day one given the fairly minimal amount of content on offer – except for players who are obsessively dedicated to seeing every character death possible and sucking up every last collectible, that is – Supermassive seems to have found their footing in this type of game.
A significant return to form for Supermassive’s interactive cinematic horror games, The career feels like a true spiritual successor to Until dawn even with persistent camera and control issues.
+ It’s a loving homage to classic horror movies.
+ Beautiful character renderings.
+ Moody, atmospheric musical score.
+ Often funny storyline and entertaining characters.
+ This is Supermassive’s best horror game since Until dawn.
– Frustrating unresponsive controls.
– The camera is a mess.
– It is disappointing to scare people.
Tested on PS5 (also available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S).
A revision code was provided by the publisher.
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more video game ramblings, or email me here.