It’s finally here! The Callisto Protocol has been on everyone’s mind, and now that it’s finally out, I can’t wait to tell you exactly how worthwhile it is to play the game. Given that the Dead Space series’ co-creator, Glen Schofield, directed the game, it’s hard not to compare the two. But I'll do my best to keep them separate, separating The Callisto Protocol as a separate entity.
If you’re waiting to make that purchase, hoping to know exactly whether the game is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. So sit tight as we explore the storyline, the gameplay, the combat, and everything in between of the newest survival horror game in town in this The Callisto Protocol review.
Slow and Steady, She Goes
In the beginning, mysteriousness and unnerving notions hang tight, with The Callisto Protocol setting out on a promising premise of exactly what it’s here for. (Spoilers alert!) During an unsettling walk through the street, you come across a pile of dead bodies laid to waste.
In the news, it’s claimed a biological attack was orchestrated by the terrorist, Dani Nakamura. The protagonist, Jacob, is winding up his last run as a cargo pilot when the news comes up.
Then Dani Nakamura attacks Jacob’s ship, crash-landing it on a planet called Callisto. The planet’s law enforcers arrest Jacob and Dani, throwing them into Black Iron Prison. You wish they hadn't, because soon after, a riot ensues, and many of the prisoners start to mutate into monstrous beings, thanks to a mysterious virus infection.
These creatures spell out abominations, with tentacles and talons constantly growing out of places they shouldn’t. So, now, you find yourself wrongfully incarcerated, a CORE device jammed into your neck syncing with your thought and health status, and tasked with the one essential mission: to survive the monsters everywhere by every means possible, escape the prison-planet Callisto, never knowing who to trust.
Look, it’s not the most ambitious plot in gaming history. And there are some logic issues, which we’ll get to later. But so far, so good. Certainly, no-jumping-out-of-your-seat jump scares to expect here.
Perhaps the game wasn’t meant to be scary, except “horror” is in its genre description. There are also no tense moments beyond the premise. Sure, I was somewhat intrigued at the beginning. But past the premise, the combat and the graphics take the spotlight. Speaking of which…
Dead Space Arisen, But Still Very Much Dead Inside
I love Dead Space. So, yes. I have crossed my fingers that the Callisto Protocol will honor it. I feel it’s a spiritual successor to Dead Space, having the same themes of dread, body dysmorphia, gory streets, and yeah, you get the picture.
Unlike Dead Space, though, the graphics are elevated, injecting realism into the grisly cutscenes and the monstrous creatures roaming about Callisto. The blood splashes and body dismembering look, sound, and feel realistic, the only exception being the ton of historical references to games long past.
Perhaps this is what The Callisto Protocol aims for: to gruesomely kill as many monstrous creatures as you can, revelling in the massacre that reigns throughout the roughly 15 hours of gameplay. But why, you ask? Well, it’s kill or be killed. I mean, what else do you do in a city overrun by monstrous atrocities?
I’d have loved to see some innovation that sets apart The Callisto Protocol from Dead Space or previous survival horror games. There are certainly twists and turns in the story to give purpose to the rampage. Or, a not-so-linear progression system that sees you making some form of progress in tearing down the terrorist organization that is taking control of the planet.
I’ll say, though, that The Callisto Protocol really masters the art of dead-inside streets, designing creepy passageways that look different from one another, whether it’s dead bodies hanging on the rooflike pinatas, blood-spattering during each encounter with the enemy, or the uneasy sewerage system Jacob will have to wade through, and thus a less repetitive, always intensifying stroll across the Callisto planet.
Watch out for the Enemy
Sure, the monstrous creatures hunting for blood were once people infected with a mysterious biological virus, but they are out to kill you. So you have to kill them first. Fortunately, you have three weapons: a long-range hand cannon pistol and brain-blasting riot gun; a stun baton; or a battery-powered gravity restraint projector (GRP) telekinetic glove.
Long-range weapons easily blast off body parts, even though some monsters have the tendency to absorb bullets, especially the big bosses. The stun baton is, of course, for unleashing consecutive blows on the monsters at close range. And the telekinetic glove enables you to bring enemies closer for close-quarters combat or haul them off with your wrist to one of the spiked walls for instant kills.
It’s actually plentiful fun when you fling the monsters at a spinning fan blade, off a ledge, or onto the wood chippers on the ceiling or floor (don’t ask why there are wood chippers on there in the first place.) Or when you tear off the monster’s limbs one by one.
If you feel hurling enemies across the room or wading through them with your shotgun is a piece of cake, hold on till you come face-to-face with the big monsters. They look pretty much like the smaller monsters, yet they have the tenacity to withstand several hits while easily taking you out in one hit.
The imbalance is apparent here. One mistake, and you’re done. Add to that the increase in difficulty level in the second half, and therein comes an issue to take up with management.
Also, several of the ideas for the combat system date back to Dead Space, which I’d hoped to avoid. The familiarity between the two games is unsettling, with the only major difference being a greater focus on melee combat.
Logic Beats Random
At this point, you probably have a good number of “whys.” Why are there monsters randomly popping out of everywhere I go? To what end? And the wooden chippers on the ceiling and floor?
They’re fun to launch the monsters into, but why are they there in the first place? The big monsters can absorb bullets. Whoa! Okay. And the collapsing hallways? the ever-growing tentacles? And the list goes on and on and on…
True. Games have no limits. You’re free to create whatever version of a planet you’d like, but at some point, it starts to feel random, and honestly? a bit rushed. Some of these ideas could tie really well into the plot or perhaps design a balance between the horror and the action.
There’s something cool about monsters donning ever-growing tentacles and loose limbs. It’s almost a party game blasting off their parts and hoping to stay alive through to the end of the game. Top that off with an unnerving, gory prison planet whose every corner screams “help,” and you have yourself an ambitious survival horror game to sink some worthwhile hours into.
The only issue with The Callisto Protocol is the over-familiarity with Dead Space, especially in how the two games go hard on combat, leaving the plot and missions in desperate need of care and attention. At the very least, The Callisto Protocol elevates its graphics and technical innovation to match up to modern gameplay standards. Plus, they put much more focus on melee combat, an aspect that really comes in handy if you run out of ammo.
Survive the game, get to the next level, and escape the Black Iron Prison on planet Callisto, lest you become the next meal for the next monstrous creature you run into. Props to the graphic and sound design, coming through the screen and DualSense controller in the most realistic ways possible. The screaming, metal clanking and blood splatter look, sound, and feel surreal.
If you were hoping to jump out of your seat a few times, I hate to tell you that you probably won’t. The Callisto Protocol isn’t particularly a scary game, even though it is, in fact, a horror game. What I can tell you, though, is that the game has the potential for incredible entertainment, at least the first time you play it.
The Callisto Protocol is now available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows.
The Callisto Protocol Review ( PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC)
Brutal, Unsettling, and All Things Gore
The survivor horror game, The Callisto Protocol, is finally here, making waves as one of the most ambitious games this year. Get ready for monstrous atrocities springing up everywhere, all the time, as you try to get to the next level and escape the Black Iron Prison on planet Callisto. Rest assured you’ll die a tad too many times, and the difficulty level will feel like a pain. But through it all, you’ll have the most fun dismembering the monsters with loose limbs and tentacles growing out of places they shouldn’t be ready to be blasted out of space.