The Callisto Protocol could have been much better than it is. In the absence of Dead Space and other similar games in the past decade, The Callisto Protocol will be released here at the end of 2022 to boost the survival horror genre. And while Callisto largely hits all the basic benchmarks you’d expect from a game of this type, it doesn’t do anything special to make it an unforgettable experience.
Like the Dead Space series that The Callisto Protocol director Glen Schofield helped create in 2008, The Callisto Protocol is a sci-fi horror game that takes players to the titular moon on Callisto. Here, protagonist Jacob Lee (played by Josh Duhamel) finds himself trapped in the Black Iron Prison as it is overrun by vicious, mysterious monsters. With the help of a number of other characters Lee encounters, you must try to find a way out of Callisto, while also discovering how this monstrous outbreak started in the first place.
The story of The Callisto Protocol is very simple, and for the most part I have no problem with this. I think horror stories often work best when their central conflicts are fairly basic, so to have the vast majority of them The Callisto Protocol centering around this idea of escaping Black Iron Prison works quite well. Yet, without much depth, Callisto becomes quite predictable and unappealing. So much so that hours before I reached it, I was able to determine what would happen at the end of the game.
One of my bigger problems with storytelling The Callisto Protocol is that many of the finer details and lore of this world are fleshed out through audio logs that can be collected over the course of the game. And while this is a perfectly adequate way to fill in the gaps, my biggest annoyance on this front is that audio logs can’t even be listened to unless you open them manually from the game’s menu. Instead of being able to listen to these recordings as you progress through a certain level, you’ll instead have to stop everything you’re doing, find the respective audio log you just picked up, and then activate it. It’s an annoying feature and I’m shocked to see it present in a 2022 video game.
When it comes to the characters in The Callisto Protocol, the best I can say is that the performance is pretty strong across the board. Duhamel in particular adds a lot of weight to Lee’s character and does a great job in the game’s more emotional moments. Karen Fukuhara, who plays Dani Nakamura, is also a standout throughout.
Gameplay is the part of it The Callisto Protocol which I find myself most disappointed with. In a general sense, Lee acquires a number of tools over the course of the game, each of which is quite different from each other. Much of the battle The Callisto Protocol encourages you to use melee attacks in an attempt to save ammo. This is a great idea on paper, but the melee combat seen in the game is way too basic to be fun after the first hour. Lee’s hand-to-hand attacks remain one note throughout the game, and the added dodge and block mechanics don’t do much to shake things up.
There are also weapons available The Callisto Protocol, but unlike what was seen with Dead Space, there are no weapons that feel unique or fun to use. Any weapon you get throughout the game The Callisto Protocol is a variant of a pistol, shotgun, or assault rifle. These weapons can be upgraded over time and can unlock different firing modes, but even then they mostly work the same way. For a game that wanted to become a spiritual successor Empty spaceI was shocked to see how hackneyed his weapons were.
The most unique attack Lee has in his arsenal The Callisto Protocol is known as GRP. Essentially, GRP allows you to pick up various objects or enemies and hurl them around the environment. While simply throwing enemies around deals damage in its own right, environmental hazards are also common and can be used to dispatch enemies quickly. GRP is not necessarily a groundbreaking feature of Callistobut picking up a monster and throwing it into spinning propeller blades was always entertaining.
Boss fights don’t happen very often The Callisto Protocol, but when they appear, they are not funny. My biggest annoyance with bosses in Callisto is that they can basically shoot you in one shot in the blink of an eye. If you get too close to them and don’t dodge them in time, you’ll soon be greeted by one of the game’s many death animations (which are comically violent to the point of hilarity). Bosses only reinforced many of my complaints with the gameplay mechanics of The Callisto Protocolwith the game’s final villain proving frustrating beyond the point of fun.
On its merits as a horror game, The Callisto Protocol at least does a good job of creating eerie environments and gruesome monsters. Striking Distance Studios really nailed the tone and vibe I was hoping for The Callisto Protocol would appear since the initial reveal. Still, I have to say that I never really scared myself through the game, much like other survival horror titles have instilled fear in me. There is a rather notable lack of jump scares and the ones that are displayed are often relied on more than once.
By far my biggest problem The Callisto Protocol came up with its performance and other technical issues. I mainly played the game with high fidelity mode enabled (since it was the default option) and consistently saw the frame rate drop below 30fps on Xbox Series X. This was amplified the most during combat sequences, but some levels of the game were much worse in this realm as I couldn’t hit 30fps when doing the most basic of tasks. In short, I cannot recommend you to play Callisto anything other than the powerful graphics option.
To go along with this, I found myself having quite a few other minor issues with the game as well. In addition to an outright crash, I often found myself unable to pick up items or even not see certain items appear when starting over from a checkpoint. I can’t say how the Day One patch might fix some of these bugs, but my own time with the game has been pretty rough.
The Callisto Protocol isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t do much to verify why survival horror fans wanted these kinds of games back in the first place. With a little more depth into the different systems and mechanics, The Callisto Protocol could have been a lot more fun from start to finish. Instead, my main takeaway from Callisto is just that I’m so much more excited now to play some of the other survival horror games coming out in 2023.
Rating: 3 out of 5
The Callisto Protocol is now available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC platforms. A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review and the game was played on Xbox Series X.
- The developer of the Callisto protocol is responding to issues following negative user reviews
- The length of the Callisto protocol revealed; Multiple paths Add replay value
- The Callisto protocol has gone gold
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- The Callisto protocol gets Day One patch