Ah, summer camp — it’s a great chance for young people to meet new friends, make lasting memories, and get out of their comfort zone. If you have the bad luck to be living in the horror genre, it’s also a place where you’re likely to get ax-murdered or mauled by a feral beast.
Supermassive Games’ The Quarry is set at one such modern-day summer camp, nestled in the isolated Hackett’s Quarry. After a fantastic summer, seven teen counselors are getting ready to pack up and head home. Their van breaks down, though, and they have to stay an extra night. Their last-minute celebratory bash turns into a blood-soaked horror movie, and it’s up to you to affect who lives, who dies, and how traumatized the survivors are. The Quarry has a memorable cast, each of whom commit to the cheesy bit, portrayed by the likes of David Arquette, Ted Raimi, Miles Robbins, Evan Evagora, Ariel Winter, Brenda Song, Halston Sage, and more.
The Quarry is essentially a series of cutscenes in which players get to choose between branching options from several characters’ points of view. Supermassive allows the player enough agency to affect the story, but not enough to break it entirely. For instance: One counselor, Jacob, decides to sabotage the old van out of Hackett’s Quarry so he can have one more night in which he can woo Emma, an aloof influencer who only wants a summer fling. As the player, I don’t get to stop Jacob, but I get to choose whether he takes the rotary arm or cuts the fuel line. These decisions build off of one another, spinning the story down a dizzying web of paths.
These binary choices are punctuated by quick-time sequences in which a character needs to duck under a branch, dodge the swipe of claws, or grab a valuable item. Some high-tension fights or chase scenes employ several of these events in a row, and they can make for edge-of-your-seat sequences as you try to save the counselor in the crosshairs. There are also ample ways to simplify these challenges, including an auto-pass option. There’s even a movie mode with “everyone lives,” “everyone dies,” and “gorefest” cuts, for those who just want to watch the brutal action unfold.
The Quarry slows down to allow exploration sequences, and these are the low points of the game; the camera suddenly swings to a different perspective, reversing W and S on my keyboard, making my character do a 180 back to the previous shot. Characters also feel slow and bulky during these scenes, despite being spry and nimble during quick-time events. The game clearly wants me to pore over each room I enter to find hidden secrets and puzzles, but it’s so awkward to do the rounds that the process breaks my immersion. As if to compensate, clues are highlighted with a bright beam of light, which is a helpful but vivid reminder that this is, in fact, a video game.
The environments and props are gorgeously rendered, but my frustration over the controls negates that gravitas; I’d rather have options that auto-steered me on a guided tour through the sequence than ones that skip the quick-time events. It’s an odd step back for Supermassive, which has improved on third-person exploration in each iteration of its previous series, the Dark Pictures Anthology.
The Quarry is distinct from the Dark Pictures games; it’s instead meant to succeed Supermassive’s first big hit, Until Dawn. The cast is larger — and less individually developed — than those of the anthology, instead focusing on fun horror archetypes. Jacob is a sensitive himbo who’s crushing on Emma, an influencer straight out of Riverdale. Shy but handsome Nick and bookworm Abi are mutually crushing, while DJ Dylan, jokester and sharpshooter Kaitlyn, and responsible head counselor Ryan are in a flirtatious love triangle.
Supermassive doesn’t plumb the depths of these characters, because they’re not the main attraction of the story. In order to keep the plot moving forward and fire off each clue from its Chekhovian arsenal, The Quarry’s characters are scraped pretty thin.
You can either cheer these kids toward success, encouraging them to be the best possible version of themselves … or be the shoulder devil that pushes them into conflict, pettiness, and spite, and relish in their eventual mauling and/or death. Add in the antagonists (a cadre of sinister hunters and a horrifying humanoid creature) and their relationship to the mysterious Mr. Hackett, and the plot quickly becomes enticing.
Supermassive manages to pull these assorted plot threads off well, sewing them into a blood-soaked scarf despite all the variables at play. The teens start out in a simple struggle to survive before uncovering the true stakes at play, and then have to conjure a long-term plan. With each successive answer, new mysteries arise. The resolution drives the player toward new questions, and each round is compellingly resolved.
The Quarry is about 10 hours long, and it’s the sort of game that can’t be seen all the way through in just one go. However, the game tracks the main “decision paths” that can alter a playthrough, so you can check and see what butterfly flap might have caused a particular hurricane you want to avoid next time around. It’s an excellent storytelling trick.
What’s more, the presentation of it all is fantastic, from the ’80s-style surveillance technology aesthetics of the menus to the way tutorials are presented in old-school retro animations, a la the Fallout PSAs. There are even chapter breaks where you visit with an unsettling older lady who hints at the wider questions of the setting and the Quarry that help maintain an eerie, unsettling mood — even after an action scene or a comic tension-breaker.
Unfortunately, The Quarry’s central monster doesn’t stand up to the player’s scrutiny. At one point, the beast gets a big cinematic reveal, exploding out of a body in a shower of gore, in a sequence that doesn’t make sense — and gets worse each time it’s repeated. The supernatural creature comes with a list of rules that aren’t always conveyed well visually. The results are more corny than scary.
Being a little bit corny does feel like the point, though. The game has clearly taken inspiration from ’80s horror and slasher classics. It’s just a shame that The Quarry is better to watch than play. I’m sure I missed some secrets back in Hackett’s Quarry, just because I stumbled past them as I tried to trawl the woods and cabins with frustrating controls. As long as you can tolerate the moments where the veil slips and the story’s illusion momentarily breaks, there’s a great horror story to enjoy, full of satisfying twists, creepy characters, and tantalizing mysteries.
The Quarry will be released on June 10 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. This review was written using a Windows PC pre-release download code provided by 2K Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.