Horror movie

The Quarry’s interactive horror film is marred by monstrous problems

No matter how much my brother loved night camp when we were growing up, I blatantly refused to go. Not only would I be away from my cozy bed, but staying in the desert away from technology always seemed like a bad idea. What if there were bears, or monsters, or even worse, if I wanted to play video games? Remote summer camps are a breeding ground for these types of scares, so it was inevitable that Supermassive Games horror fans would one day aim to torture some counselors. Seven years after their cult classic Until dawn—and developed alongside their Dark Pictures Anthology versions—The career aims to be a bloody good summer slasher that deftly blends Hollywood-level production with the interactivity of a video game. But just like his tortured advisers, he doesn’t make it through the night without some major injuries.

The roughly nine-hour adventure is mostly cutscenes with choices and quick events sprinkled throughout. The various branching paths and interactions supposedly lead to 186 unique endings; the slightest miscalculation at the start can lead to disastrous death down the line. The ultimate goal is to keep all nine playable advisors alive until morning, which is easier said than done. Boasting an all-star cast of Brenda Song, Justice Smith, Ariel Winter, Scream alum David Arquette, and at least a dozen others, The career almost movie-like, which Supermassive recognizes with Movie Mode, an alternate style of gameplay where players become spectators and watch the story play out scenarios where everyone lives, everyone dies, or for those thirsty for gore, everyone is brutally eviscerated in Gorefest. Enjoying the game this way has its limitations, however, as the lack of gameplay locks in particular character moments or story beats.

To the game’s credit, the narrative is by far the strongest part of the experience. The early game plays smart with audience expectations and contains a few decent scares before it smugly twists and turns into an overall engaging tale, though it does suffer from a few key issues. Much of the plot depends on key elements scattered across the world and the choices you make, so one wrong exploration or decision can prevent players from understanding the full mystery, neutralizing the whole experience. It also means the story hides the ultimate hidden “villain” until the last hour, making it feel nailed down and underdeveloped. It all adds up to mediocre pacing: a major exposition is pushed past the midpoint in an unnecessarily long and arduous flashback chapter as the climactic showdown ends in a flash. Also, the game ends abruptly after the final battle with no clear resolution for the advisors you’ve worked so hard to match – I mean, save.

Another harm to The career is that it doesn’t have the writing chops to match its cinematic counterparts – character interactions are often mildly goofy at best and psychically damaging at worst. Some actors do their best despite the material. Brenda Song’s badass Kaitlyn and Miles Robbins’ sarcastic Dylan (openly gay but a closest scientist) are particular favorites, but most performances are either mediocre, boring or woefully underused.

You could argue that the apparent lack of refinement matches the campy B-movie tone of ’70s slashers it seeks to emulate, but instead it often unintentionally detracts from it. At no time after the monsters began to attack were Jacob and Emma allowed to rehash their couple’s feud (several times), and a love triangle set in motion between Ryan, Dylan, and Kaitlyn unfolded. collapsed. It’s hard to care whether a character lives or dies when you just don’t care about them emotionally.

Keeping the advisors alive by making choices for them is where the game’s interactivity finally comes into play, and they’re just as flawed as the cinematic aspects. Many choices don’t have immediate consequences, meaning you’ll likely forget you made them, so most feel pointless but likely feed into the 186 endings. There’s a tracker for major decisions built into the menu, but they’re often dropped for no apparent reason. This is meant to encourage multiple playthroughs, but personally I’ve never felt compelled to do so. There were only a few options that unfairly led to a character’s death, but that didn’t stop them from feeling unnecessarily cruel when they occurred.

Since the experience is mostly passive, asking players to stay engaged enough for the odd quick event or timed decision is a daunting task, especially when there are often long pauses between these situations. In an attempt to keep your attention, you can often “freely” explore specific areas for clues, evidence, or items that will come in handy later, but you might accidentally end your exploration too soon by clicking the wrong one. element or walking in the wrong direction, which discourages discovery. For some reason, there’s no run button either – holding LB makes you “walk faster”, whatever that means, which is just plain distracting. Imagine being stalked by murderous creatures and taking a brisk walk through the woods, stopping at every nook and cranny so you don’t miss a tiny bit of lore. There are very specific moments where you’ll also be asked to hold your breath or fire a gun, but these are incredibly easy (never let go of the A button) or boring to control respectively.

And so we come to The careerbiggest problem: he doesn’t know what he wants to be. As a cinematic experience, it’s long, poorly written, and horribly framed. For some ungodly reason, the developers chose to often use fixed camera angles instead of a moving camera. Not only was the cinematography so painful it made me want to turn in my film degree, but the jump angles confused me, forcing me to spin around until I got my bearings. Tarot cards, the game’s collectibles that can be traded for pretty useless visions of the future, make horrible and jarring use of it. Sonically, everything is mostly professional, save for a few hilarious line-plays except for Needle Drops, where a song coincides with a specific action happening onscreen. In an effort to mimic the movies, the game focuses more on creating a soundtrack full of popular songs than a separate score – apologies to Nik Ammar, Lucy Underhill and Michael Orchard for their work on the OST – and the song choices are terribly mismatched. Someone just died guys, please don’t play a slow pop song. Do yourself a favor and get rid of licensed music by playing in Streamer mode.

It doesn’t get much better if you look The career like a video game, with its incredibly simple action and surprisingly terrible technical performance. Credit where it’s due, Supermassive has honed its motion capture software and abilities to make the characters look naturally like their actors, save for their teeth, the real horror of the game. Hackett’s Quarry campgrounds are beautiful, except for the water, and the monster drawings are really disgusting. But for the love of Peanut Butter Butter Pops, I’ve never come across a game that worked as badly as this: textures popped in and out constantly, text was ridiculously blurry and crunchy, hair sometimes gained sensitivity, animations often just didn’t happen. , and the lighting system cast quads instead of shadows. The only reprieves from the graphical nightmare came when the game crashed twice for no apparent reason. The technical difficulties would be almost perfectly fitting if the game wasn’t advertised as being optimized for the Xbox Series X/S. Since most of the reviews I’ve seen used the PC version, I’m not sure if this was just an issue I faced while playing on my Xbox Series S.

Although I have many more complaints – the inability to use slasher tropes effectively (e.g. Laura, the not-so-final girl), the sheer uselessness of certain characters to the overall plot/action, the ending dull and abrupt – I finally enjoyed my stay at The career. Sure, the characters were silly and it had the graphic quality of a toaster, but it was the perfect excuse to round up some friends and hang out. Sitting around my television with three friends, we were able to fully enjoy the flawed product. We savored the silliness of the characters, applauded the mundane writing, and even got to experience some real scares along the way, though I’m talking about the monsters or the graphics, I can’t say. We may not have enjoyed it the way Supermassive intended, but it made the experience even better. I’m grateful that summer camp is over, but I’ll hold a piece of Hackett’s Quarry in my heart for at least a week. It’s the camp slogan, after all: “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”

The career was developed by Supermassive Games and published by 2K Games. Our review is based on the Xbox Series X version. It is also available for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Mik Deitz is a freelance writer and former Paste intern. They inhale stories from video games, movies, TV, and books, and never finished God of War (2018). Shout or compliment them on Twitter @dietdeitz.