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Callisto Protocol seems to have the promise: Dead Space-style sci-fi horror set in a prison, with grotesque monsters popping out of every dank corner. You, a prisoner of ambiguous innocence, must fight and find your way out, finding a way away from the cold, dark moon. That’s a great premise. Too bad the game didn’t grow beyond its elevator pitch.
Callisto Protocol is advertised as, and seems to think it is, a horror game. It’s creepy and disturbing at times, but expecting it to play like a horror game would be wrong. The game is actually more of an action-horror hybrid, with an emphasis on the former in gameplay and the latter in design.
Who am I and why am I on this moon?
Callisto Protocol tells the story of Jacob Lee, a cargo pilot who crashes on Callisto after a routine delivery, only to be thrown in a maximum security prison without explanation. Shortly after his arrival, a mysterious disease called bacteriophage breaks out, mutating guards and prisoners into terrifying monsters. As one of the few remaining uninfected, Jacob is determined to escape prison and the moon.
As mentioned above, the gameplay is more action-oriented than you might expect. The main mechanic is dodging, and Jacob can avoid enemy attacks by holding the movement stick left or right by the player. Jacob also carries his trusty melee weapon and an assortment of guns to deal with enemies infected with biophages.He also got a glove to give him very familiar Can bypass the opponent’s telekinesis.
While the concept isn’t impossible, Callisto Protocol is a raw and unremarkable work. I don’t believe it will stand out in the zeitgeist like its predecessors did. On top of that, it has some technical issues. I can’t say I enjoyed my time with it, though it might still be fun for those craving space horror.
welcome to hell: what to like
The opening story of Callisto Protocol is really interesting. Jacob was thrown in prison immediately after falling into the moon without explanation, despite his protests of his innocence. He also ran afoul of the notoriously disaffected Dani Nakamura and partnered with long-serving Elias Porter on the run. I suspect developer Striking Distance had a richer story before having to cancel the game’s association with PUBG, but the rest is good enough for me.
The environment design is also great. Jacob starts out in a grim, barren prison environment, which gradually becomes more broken and disgusting as the bacteriophage infection spreads. He puts on a suit and walks on Callisto’s icy surface. He explores the depths of an ancient and eerily quiet colony. The final stretch of the game is set in a pristine, unspoiled area of the prison, and it’s more disturbing than almost everything else combined.
I also needed to support the sound design for the Callisto Protocol. Throughout the game, Jacob kept hearing monster screams, metal explosions, and the screech of flesh monsters as they moved from sight. This is especially disturbing when you’re walking in areas with pipes or vents. You can hear creatures waiting to jump out at you, but can’t quite tell where they are.
I also like the performances of the main actors. While they didn’t have a lot of collaborations, I was intrigued by their stories and wanted to see things through. It’s not a complicated narrative, but it doesn’t need to be. “Murderous Dirty Everywhere. GTFO,” is all the story I’ve ever needed from a horror game. Callisto Protocol has that, with some interesting twists to the larger game world later in the story.
The Callisto disaster: what’s not to like
I liked Callisto Protocol for most of its runtime. But the game hits a certain point when you realize it’s not going to get better or upgrade any further. I remember that exact moment in the game when I thought, “I’ve been playing this game for hours and it feels like I’m just getting started.” In retrospect, that’s actually about two-thirds of the game’s runtime . It never really upgraded after that. It doesn’t get any more challenging or scary. Everything it promised was pretty much the same — which was disappointing.
First of all, the character design is unique. The enemies are two-legged humanoids with ugly faces, and half the time they’ll bite off Jacob’s head–and always, since Jacob only has one in-game damage model. Jacob himself is so vague that he could be any husky hero in a jumpsuit. The health and stamina readouts on the back of his neck are too small to provide much color contrast. That’s disappointing because the two main supporting characters, Elias and Dani, are the more interesting people in both story and design.
Also, the animation for swapping guns is very slow. Technically, Jacob only has two guns. This change is accompanied by him changing different attachments – and he does it in real time. It might sound like a small complaint, but it adds up over time.There’s also no way to shorten animations with upscaling or anything like that, so you just have to deal with it like Jacob slowly Change his gun. This can be troublesome, especially during boss fights.
The space zombies are at it again
If you’re playing on Medium or Hard difficulty, enemies are bullet sponges, and tanks will hit no matter how well equipped you are. While the game’s design and combat encourage you to invest in melee or your telepathic abilities, there are some places where you simply can’t use them. For example, during a mid-game boss fight, for the first time, I couldn’t use melee or telekinesis on an enemy. The only way to defeat the boss is bullets, bullets and more bullets. Luckily, I’ve upgraded both of my guns, but imagine if I put those points on my baton?
Even action games have their drawbacks. First, the dodge mechanic locks you into combat with a single enemy. When you’re facing multiple enemies, you can’t dodge attacks from unlocked enemies. So you could be shuffling side by side with one enemy while another is fighting around you. Additionally, the game occasionally flashes teal crosshairs on enemies, prompting players to draw their guns and fire at these weak points. However, doing so often repositioned the camera in a dizzying fashion that made me a little seasick.
Callisto Protocol is so integrated with its action gameplay that when it does throw in stealth gameplay, it feels out of place. In the middle chapter, Jacob encounters super-mutated blind creatures that attack if he makes too much noise. However, their attacks are dodgeable, and they’re no more threatening than the normal monsters in the game. Also, they’re supposed to have super-sensitive hearing, but Jacob can “stealth” kill them side by side (or telepathically impale them on a spiked wall right next to each other) instead of blowing them up .
save me now
When the game launched, there were apparently some major technical issues. I waited until these were patched before continuing with my game. I wanted to give the game a fair chance – and it was barely playable on the Xbox Series X before the patch. But somehow, even with the patch, the problem persists. Boss fights in particular caused my framerate to jump into Tartarus.
One of my main technical difficulties is the save system. The location of the autosave checkpoint is confusing. For example, the game will often autosave in safe rooms, which is fine, except it will do so when the player needs to redo an in-game upgrade. This is especially frustrating when you’re preparing for a big fight and have to do it over and over again before the fight starts. The game will then have an in-combat checkpoint where you’ll be stuck with an empty gun and have to swap it out via the aforementioned slow animation.
But the real problem is that the game seems to ignore manual saves. Maybe it’s just a problem on my part, since I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it. But that’s what happened to me. I had trouble getting through one of the main boss areas, and the checkpoint was in a safe room – meaning, every time I reloaded, I had to re-buy my upgrades and ammo before going all the way to Boss area. So I keep my kit where I want it and keep it by the door of the boss area. I lost, waiting for reload. . . and the autosave checkpoint is reached. Thinking it was a fluke, I reloaded my manual save. Instead of loading at the boss gate, I went back to the checkpoint. The game completely ignores my manual saves.
take me back to callisto
if it has a little more, then I would like The Callisto Protocol. It would have felt more interesting if it could have committed more to its existence as an action game or a horror game. I also wish its heroes had a deeper story. It feels like I ended the game knowing no more than I started, which is disappointing.
I wish there was a horror game or Dead Space fan who got more out of this game than I did. As it stands, I can’t really recommend it. I feel like this might disappoint both horror game fans and Dead Space fans alike. I know I leave it feeling unsatisfied.
For the purposes of this review, Krafton provided GamesBeat with a copy of the game. Callisto protocol is currently available for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
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