Fight to save camp counselors from a deadly monster in this summer's best horror game
If you're looking for a summer scare — look no further than The Quarry, a glossy new video game that offers scares as satisfying as any horror movie. It's billed as a spiritual successor to Supermassive Games' 2015 hit, Until Dawn. That game won over audiences with captivating monster lore, a fun cast of characters, and intense moments of terror. After its release, the studio put out several horror titles under its Dark Pictures Anthology series, but none quite hit the high bar that Until Dawn set. However, The Quarry comes incredibly close.
The Quarry follows a group of camp counselors together as they try to survive an extra night at Hackett's Quarry. Ryan, Dylan, Emma, Abi, Nick, Kaitlyn, and Jacob are just getting ready to leave when their car breaks down (as is genre tradition).
Soon after, their manager, Chris Hackett, forcefully tells the counselors to stay inside the lodge until the next morning, when he'll return with help. But since this is a horror game, it doesn't take long for the counselors to disobey and try to make the most of their last night at Hackett's Quarry. That decision has terrifying consequences.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
As the night goes on, a mysterious monster bedevils and chases the hapless campers. The group first mistakes it for a bear, but it's much deadlier and faster. As the player, your goal is to keep them alive until the sun comes up, and maybe even defeat the monster and discover its origins along the way.
Characters live or die based on your choices and your ability to react in time to button prompts. Consider this: a shortcut could get you closer to saving a character in trouble, but you might also encounter more of these quick-time events along the way, giving you more chances to mess up and meet an early demise. You're never sure whether or not you've made the "right" choice until it's too late. Should you shoot your shotgun at the rustling bush? What if it's one of your friends there, hiding? What if it's the monster instead?
You've also got to hold your breath. No, really. If the monster stalks near, the game forces you to press a button until it goes away. If you ease off the pressure, your character will exhale — and that breath may be their last. It's just another way The Quarry does a great job at guilting you, making you feel that if a character dies, it's your fault. Conversely, if you manage to slip out of a sticky situation, the relief is exquisite.
Campy and well-paced
The game's excellent presentation also enhances its appeal. The developers took care to render actors such as Brenda Song (Kaitlyn), David Arquette (Chris Hackett), and Ted Raimi (Travis) with uncanny detail. The whole cast delivers memorable performances — it really feels like a charming B-movie.
While The Quarry feels shorter than Until Dawn, the game's pacing is immaculate — none of its 10 chapters overstay their welcome. Story twists toward the latter half of the game kept me invested in learning more about Hackett's Quarry. That's because the monster isn't just scary — it's also got an intriguing backstory. Throughout the game, you'll find clues and evidence surrounding the history of the place. I was so fascinated by the lore that I scoured every area looking for evidence.
Customizable and replayable
The collector's itch doesn't stop there. You can also gather hidden tarot cards to see snippets of possible futures, including how certain characters could die. That knowledge may help you avoid a grisly fate, but without context, it can also mislead you.
Depending on who manages to stay alive, each of the counselors gets relatively equal screen time and moments to shine. While they start out as mere work friends, you can steer them toward a real sense of camaraderie as they realize they need to work together to survive the night. If there's anything I had to nitpick, it's that The Quarry's finale doesn't pack the same punch that Until Dawn's did. Regardless, the game's narrative and pacing are remarkably consistent.
The Quarry also has settings that make the game more approachable and accessible. You can customize subtitle, text size, and colorblind options. You can set all breath-holding segments, quick-time events, and combat encounters to automatically succeed whenever they come up. You can also increase the amount of time you have to make difficult decisions to ease your anxiety. The game even sports a "death rewind" feature to allow you to redo a choice that killed off a beloved character.
After completing the game, Chapter Select opens up, giving you the chance to go back and pick up any collectibles and achievements you missed the first time around. However, it's missing a scene skip or fast-forward feature. I had to grit my teeth and sit through scenes when I just wanted to hurry up and get to a certain section of the game.
Despite these minor gripes, I had a fantastic time with The Quarry. Its engaging story and lore captured my attention all the way up to the end. While horror protagonists specialize in annoying behavior, none of The Quarry's really bothered me — I was shocked to find that I didn't hate any of them! For those who wanted a proper successor to Until Dawn, The Quarry is about as good as it gets — the best horror game I've played all year.
James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this story. contributed to this story
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.