The Callisto Protocol has a strange history. Although its inspiration stems directly from the Dead Space series, its roots stretch into the PUBG: Battlegrounds universe. Throughout its development, the PUBG ties were severed, but what remains is a labor of love by Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield and the team at Striking Distance. After playing a short demo, I was terrified, challenged, and convinced that this is a must-play title of 2022.
On the surface, The Callisto Protocol shares many similarities with the Dead Space series: Ammo is scarce, enemies appear to be stalking you from the vents, a light on your back indicates your life, and you have a kinesis ability. From the opening moments, even the movement screams Dead Space. However, it still managed to feel original. It’s as if the developers took what made Dead Space so great and add in unique features to make it even better.
The enemies, for starters, are terrifyingly aggressive. It’s easy enough to take on one enemy at a time, but a group of them will make you sweat. The combat mechanics have you rely heavily on your melee abilities as you can dodge and counter enemy attacks. Using this quick follow-up shot, encounters become entirely skill-based in a way that could be compared to Dark Souls. Mistakes are deadly, and healing isn’t really an option in a fight, as it takes a moment to inject yourself.
The idea is to create some distance between you and the enemies, but that’s hard when the various types either spit crap at you or rush in for a quick kill. We haven’t even gotten to the fact that some enemies will transform into even scarier creatures, requiring you to shoot off their tentacles.
The entire combat phase is tense and rewarding when you finally get through a group of enemies and let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding in. Every section introduced new elements of gameplay that I had to adjust to, whether found in enemy designs or puzzles.
The environments are incredibly detailed. You can visibly see the rushed evacuation and mass confusion of those scrambling to figure out what to do before this evil took over. Still, there’s only a limited number of ways to interact with the environment. Everything is more or less glued down, and dead soldiers left on the ground don’t react to being stepped on. I would have liked some dismemberment or increased ways to interact with the set pieces, whether it be knocking stuff over or stomping a dead enemy into multiple pieces.
Puzzle-solving is straightforward, from what I played. Pulling levers and collecting key cards to unlock doors keeps things simple. However, exploration is encouraged with the promise of a few extra ammo clips or other collectibles. There’s also an in-game currency used to upgrade your weapons and abilities. Further, outside of a few graphical oddities, I found little issue with the game’s performance.
The Callisto Protocol has a lot to prove to fans of Dead Space. However, I don’t believe it’s trying to prove to do anything except be a compelling and terrifying survival horror. The entire button configuration feels smooth in execution as you feel the weight of the weapon you’re swinging. The audio of an enemy stalking you forces you to turn around and hope nothing is there. The low ammo warning flashes as two enemies close in—the tension in your chest as you unlock a door, dreading what’s on the other side; this is what I’ve been looking for. The Callisto Protocol is true survival horror, so be ready.
The Callisto Protocol is coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on December 2, 2022.
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