Yesterday I complained at the lack of interesting horror games (or really, horror games of any variety) on the triple-A scene, and then Supermassive Games went and mugged me off by revealing its most intriguing and horror-infused title yet: The Quarry. In fairness, I made special mention of Supermassive Games being one of the few studios to keep the horror flag flying for games while cinema pushes its boundaries, but it still seems like my prayers have been answered almost immediately. I doubt I’ll play many major horror games this year (mostly because very few studios even make them), but already The Quarry looks to be one of 2022’s most intriguing titles.
I’ve been playing Ghostwire: Tokyo too, and while I can’t say much in this grey area between the preview embargo being up and the review embargo having not yet lifted, it has been a pleasant surprise. However, as an open-world affair, it’s not as tightly concentrated as, say, Alien: Isolation or even The Medium when it comes to its horror offerings. It feels as if Ghostwire and The Quarry will be going head to head for the best horror game of the year, and with the genre having a huge resurgence in cinema, just having two titles duke it out in the gaming sphere feels like a letdown. Worse, two in one year feels like we’re being spoiled, having been starved for the past decade.
Related: The Best Weapon In Alien: Isolation Is The Alien ItselfBack to The Quarry though. My major complaint with horror video games is that horror movies have moved onto ‘elevated horror’, where there’s a story behind the story, where the blood is just a tool for metaphorical storytelling. Supermassive Games has spotted this trend and jumped on it, using House of Ashes to make a commentary on the US actions during the Iraq War, and the demons we all unleash when confronted with conflict. It’s a little tropey and clunky in places, but it takes on a hugely layered issue and does itself justice. I was unconvinced by the marketing pitch of ‘play as Ashley Tisdale in the Iraq War, plus devil dragons’, but by the end of the game I was sold on it. The fact it had one of the best pass and play systems I’ve seen in modern gaming was a huge help too.
Oddly, The Quarry seems to be the opposite. It's about a bunch of teenage counsellors being attacked at a camp. It feels like an obvious homage to Friday the 13th, and I specifically pointed out Friday as an example of 20th century horror films that just want to be horror films and don’t have anything much to say. I prefer the new elevated version of the genre, and yet The Quarry feels hugely compelling. Then there’s the cast. Ashley Tisdale does a solid job in House of Ashes, especially considering the remarkable downturn her career has suffered post-Disney, but she always felt like the odd one out, at least in the marketing. It was stunt casting, or as video game veterans sometimes call it when Hollywood stars are drafted in as studio’s bank on extra press coverage, star fucking. The Quarry is a star orgy.
The loaded cast includes decades of experience in the form of Lance Henriksen, Lin Shaye, David Arquette, and Ted Raimi, all of whom (Raimi especially) have made their name in the horror genre. There’s also reliable career actors like Ethan Suplee, Grace Zabriskie, and Brenda Song, upcoming stars whose careers may take off soon (or could still fizzle) such as Ariel Winter, Miles Robbins, and Justice Smith, plus the likes of Halston Sage, Siobhan Williams, Zach Tinker who are probably set for comfortable if uneventful careers as B-list bubbling under talent. It’s stacked with actors, stacked to the rafters.
This moves it past the realm of ‘kinda weird Ashley Tisdale is in this’ to feeling like the developers just cast the teenagers by scrolling through 20 different Netflix Originals on Letterboxd and calling up the seventh billed name in all of them to see if they wanted to be in a video game, then for the adults went down a list of horror veterans and cast everyone who said yes. It seems so perfectly designed for someone like Joey King that I find myself surprised she’s not included. It’s chaotic in the best way and yes I will be playing with my friends and demanding that I get to play as Ariel Winter and Brenda Song. If Song isn’t playable I will settle for Sage and will grumble about it for the entire game.
Supermassive Games has always pushed new styles of horror-storytelling in video games, and it will be fascinating to see how that works in a Friday the 13th setting. Friday might have popularised a few tropes in its day (tension off screen, shots from the killer’s POV, closing jumpscare, etc.) but its day was the ‘70s. Horror is a whole new beast now, and Supermassive doing Friday feels like the best combination of old meets new the video game horror scene could hope for.
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