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The Callisto Protocol Game review

Game review 07 December 2022, 17:15

The Callisto Protocol Review: A Dull Space Horror

A survival horror set in space—it’s hard not to compare The Callisto Protocol to Dead Space, but does it offer enough excitement to help it stand out? Find out in our review.

The review is based on the PS5 version. It's also relevant to PC, XSX, XONE, PS4 version(s).

Dark, dreary, and with surprises at nearly every corner, The Callisto Protocol is a space-themed survival horror game you probably have seen and played before. Add flesh-eating zombies to the mix, and you get a game that strangely feels a lot like Dead Space. In fact, the game’s development team was even led by Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield so you are bound to see a family resemblance if you’ve played the series before.

Note that The Callisto Protocol is not Dead Space, but it sure could be its spiritual successor as it follows a similar format, albeit with a unique story and flawed combat system. It’s a game that will feel familiar, but perhaps not in the way you hope it would as it is dragged down by questionable gameplay elements and an experience that doesn’t really stand out from games that came before it.

Beauty in Despair

As soon as you start playing, you will notice how beautiful The Callisto Protocol looks. Its visuals complete with realistic facial renderings are its strongest selling point. You will think you are watching a movie play out at times when actors like Josh Duhamel and Karen Fukuhara give life to an otherwise bleak setting where corpses line the halls of an infested maximum security prison.

PROS:
  1. Beautiful visuals capture the essence of grisly horror;
  2. Strong performance sells the mediocre story;
  3. GRP is a fun way to kill enemies and offers some strategic advantages to fights.
CONS:
  1. Combat doesn’t always work the way the game wants it to;
  2. Linear gameplay with no room to explore or change up the pacing of the story;
  3. Story isn’t groundbreaking but merely serves to keep the action going.

Even small details like the sweat that forms on your character’s face or the splatters of blood you make when you bash into an enemy will fill the game with a sense of realism that can only happen in a video game. Where else can you travel to one of Jupiter’s moons and fend for your life with a measly police baton? Even the sharp sounds you hear will put you in the mood and also offer you an advantage when enemies start scurrying above the ceiling. This can prove unsettling at times, but it also offers you a sensory advantage when you need to plan your next move. And in a game like Callisto, you will always want to be ready.

While its cast offers strong performances making the characters you meet feel believable, the story itself is what you would expect from your typical survival game set in space. Your character is a pilot named Jacob Lee who is wrongfully arrested and thrown into a prison on Jupiter’s moon that soon becomes overrun by infected inmates. His story involves him trying to escape the prison with the help of some other prisoners while discovering the cause of this strange disease. Cutscenes move the plot along, but most of what you will initially be doing is trying to stay alive as your surroundings are ridden with zombies trying to kill you.

Clunky Gameplay

Gameplay is very linear and usually doesn’t offer much room for exploration as areas usually just have one way out and involve killing enemies before making it to the next point. There are no puzzles here, just nonstop combat and few moments to catch your breath before the next fight. In fact, while there is a stealth option in the game to sneak behind enemies and take them out with one blow, the game prefers to have you face enemies head on in various tense encounters. Sure, it adds to the suspense of survival, but that also means having to make do with a combat system that doesn’t do you any favors.

VERDICT:

The Callisto Protocol prevails at setting the mood and making you feel like you are part of the action, but it comes up short when delivering an experience that keeps your attention longer than the initial jump scare.

Part of the reason Callisto’s combat feels clunky is because it relies on melee attacks that requires you to make space between yourself and the enemy. While I love melee weapons over firearms in almost any game, I really wish Callisto offered more guns to play with as getting up close and personal with a mutated zombie with tentacles coming out of its stomach means you are bound to get hurt. There is some strategy to how to approach enemies, however, as you will need to make sure you smack them with your blunt weapon at the right time so they don’t get a chance to hurt you. Just smashing the attack button won’t be a good idea as you will need to also dodge enemy attacks, but herein lies the problem.

Dodging doesn’t involve pressing a button like you would expect but requires you to hold the left stick in one direction to avoid an attack similar to Punch-Out—you know, that arcade game where you go one-on-one with formidable boxers. While this system looks awesome and fluid when it works, when it doesn’t, it really sucks. Not the mention, you aren’t just facing enemies one at a time, here, but you will often be attacked by groups of zombies—plural. This means while you could be artfully dodging and exchanging blows with Zombie A, Zombie B will sucker punch you from behind and ruin your entire groove. And getting back in it will mean running away and reorienting yourself to your surroundings as your environment can either be your enemy or your best friend.

Because space is tight sometimes, you won’t have a lot of room to engage in fights with multiple enemies and will sometimes need to run away (and dodge while you do so) to find an area where you can get back into your hit-dodge-and-repeat pattern. Again, if you just hit enemies where you are, you are bound to get counter-hit or surprised by someone from your blind spot. The plus side to this however, is that the game offers you plenty of traps to play with which works nicely in conjunction to your secondary weapon—the GRP.

Iffy Combat

The GRP is a glove you get early in the game that lets you wield telekinetic powers and pick up enemies to then toss them wherever you want including spiked walls, explosive containers, or simply over ledges. This offers another way to fight besides bashing or shooting them down. Your GRP loses charge the more you use it so you will either need to wait a while or recharge it with consumable batteries. This lets you decide how often you want to use it and even try different ways to take on similar enemies.

At times, this glove feels overpowered as it can end suspenseful fights in an instant. There was a section in the game that had me wait until water finished draining from a tank, but threw in some spider-like creatures that could tear my arms out in an instant if they got too close. Fighting them the normal way was a challenge and caused me to die a few times, but using my GRP let me simply pick them up and toss them into a pit right next to me. It’s surprising how unfair it makes some encounters sometimes, but it sure beats dying from a frustrating combat system.

And to be honest, dying is easy to do in Callisto if you do not memorize enemy movements and utilize your environments to your advantage. Some enemies, including a few bosses, have cheap shots that will kill you in an instant despite you doing your best to dodge their attacks. This hurts the game’s light RPG elements that let you outfit Jacob with better weapons or techniques to his melee skills. So while using the GRP makes things easier, not using it makes the game feel more like a routine than an atmospheric adventure you want to experience.

Final Thoughts

The Callisto Protocol Review: A Dull Space Horror - picture #5

Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.

The Callisto Protocol prevails at setting the mood and making you feel like you are part of the action, but it comes up short when delivering an experience that keeps your attention longer than the initial jump scare. This is the kind of game that beautifully shows off a plethora of ways Jacob can get killed each time you die, but doesn’t change much in how you play it throughout its 10 hour run. It’s a shame, too, because there isn’t much to do after you beat it except play it again on a harder difficulty setting.

While the game is inspired by Dead Space and follows in its footsteps, it doesn’t do much to shake the formula games in the genre have been following for years. While it may look amazing and features a fun way of killing zombies, the majority of the game feels more like a frustrating and very mundane time trying to not just survive your enemy’s attacks but also the game’s scary combat system.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.

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