The Quarry review: A superb love letter to classic slasher cinema

REVIEW: Balancing bloodshed, slapstick silliness and genuine chills, 2015's Until Dawn was a classic of the last console era and spiritual sequel The Quarry improves on its predecessor in virtually every respect while retaining the original's goofy, gory charm. 

The story is vintage: a band of attractive, sexually frustrated and shockingly stupid teenagers have a final party to farewell summer camp but their evening takes a dark turn when sinister figures begin to stalk them from the woods.

Also developed by Supermassive games, The Quarry isn't a direct sequel to Until Dawn but the fundamentals are identical: players bounce between controlling the central cast and make choices both mundane and life or death, all of which shape how the story unfolds and determines who survives the night.

Gameplay is simplistic, boiling down to quick time events, binary choices and very limited shooter combat. The fun comes from watching the butterfly effect of your choices permeate the game more than any real test of skill. 

Do you explore the spooky basement or stay up in the sunlight? Swipe those fireworks from the camp shop or say no to stealing? Choose truth or dare? Some choices won't have an obvious impact until hours down the road and by then of course, it's too late. 

A love of movies is soaked into every second of The Quarry, with great camera work using forced perspective providing excellent frights during gameplay and cutscenes crafted to a cinematic standard above even the recent entries in Supermassive's Dark Pictures anthology.    

Where Until Dawn unfolded during a single evening in a snowy mountain lodge, keeping its aesthetic range narrow, The Quarry has sun-dappled forests, sprawling campsites and (of course) some spooky mines to explore, all sparkling with richer detail and hidden collectibles.

The game also feels tightly packed and better paced than previous entries, with an effectively spooky introduction and then never more than a few minutes without a choice to make or character to interact with. The cast includes slasher alumni like David Arquette and grizzled legends like Lance Hendrikson, along with a few faces more recognisable for younger players, like Ariel Winter and Ted Raimi. 

Improvements in motion capture technology since Until Dawn allow more nuance to each actor's performance and they all bring their B-movie best to a story which isn't exactly groundbreaking but manages some heartfelt moments amongst the easy jump scares.

However, since we haven't quite climbed out of the uncanny valley graphically, even running on a PS5 character models still occasionally resemble creepy meat puppets with too large teeth jutting from too thin faces. It definitely adds to the fear factor but probably not in a way the developers intended. 

My gameplay was mostly smooth but had the occasional stutter which didn't detract from my enjoyment much but may be noticeable enough for framerate pedants. 

There's also some less technical advances in the game when compared to earlier entries. While Supermassive's series is reverant to old-school slashers, some of the tropes in those movies -  particularly around sex and gender -  are questionable by modern standards. The Quarry does a good job of referencing these cliches without leaning on lazy stereotypes. 

The jocks are still meatheads but they aren't utterly one-note, a gay character is present without having his sexuality be the core of his character, the teens are horny but there isn't an undercurrent of punishing them for the transgression of sex before marriage. 

That's not to say the characters are rich with nuance, their dialogue contains maximum cheese and you'll probably hate more than one of them. But that's all part of the fun, a cartoonish cast  means it isn't so much heartbreaking when one of them dies as it is entertaining or even hilarious.   

Not being overly attached is a good thing too because some deaths feel frustratingly arbitrary, depending on innocuous choices made hours ago. This is mitigated by a life system where you can rewind the tape (literally) on any character death three times per playthrough. This might irk purists but can be switched off with the flick of a button. 

Since writing complete narrative arcs for every possible permutation of choices is impossible, branching narrative games always use a touch of smoke and mirrors to disguise where the plot pieces fit together and give players the illusion of more control than they really have. 

The Quarry is slick in this respect overall but there are definitely moments where players glimpse the sausage being made and dialogue is awkwardly inserted acknowledging previous choices. 

But if you do just want one cohesive story and can't be bothered following button prompts, the game allows you to pre-select an outcome (everyone lives, everyone dies etc) then watch the bloodbath or harrowing escape unfold as one long cutscene. 

Another welcome addition is couch co-op multiplayer mode, where each player controls different characters and can cooperate (or compete) to ensure your favorites live or your most hated characters die. It's a smart innovation, channeling the feeling of watching Final Destination with friends but with the extra element of agency video games uniquely provide. 

My only serious gripe with The Quarry is that while it refines the Until Dawn mechanically, it follows very closely in those footsteps narratively. Plot moments, character arcs and even some reveals are a touch too familiar and cross the line from reference and into repetition. 

But another serving of a flavour you enjoy isn't the worst thing in gaming and it fits the genre well. There's a dozen Friday the 13th movies at this point and you don't hear me complaining. 

Dim the lights, ready the popcorn and try to guess who dies first. 

4 stars.  

The Quarry is available on Playstation, Xbox and PC now. Newshub was provided a code for this review.