Nearly a decade and a half ago, Visceral Games released Dead Space, the now cult-classic survival-horror game inspired by the likes of foreign And Thing, If you’ve ever yearned for a return to the mix of sci-fi and horror, or if you’ve just wanted a near-identical experience to Schofield’s first survival horror hit, then you’re in luck. Schofield’s latest, The Callisto Protocol, hews incredibly close to Dead Space, for both better and worse. Unfortunately, though, it’s all too familiar. There are glimmers of greatness in its opening hours, but what unfolds after that is an exhausting and surprising eight hours that feel like a relic of the past.
Callisto Protocol is primarily set in the Black Iron Prison and surrounding area on Callisto, one of Jupiter’s moons. After the crash landing, correctional officers imprison protagonists Jacob Lee and Dani Nakamura in Black Iron Prison. something goes wrong; Jacob escapes from his cell, and shortly after, meets his first biophage, a highly mutated monstrosity that is a more fleshy gooey gore than human.
The game introduces its unique melee combat system here, and it is one of the highlights. Dodging by dragging left and right on the control stick is engaging, as is the heavy and slow swing of Jacob’s melee attack. Each hit packs a lot of impact, and with proper timing and precise dodging, I found myself using this electrified prison baton satisfyingly to knock down enemies. Guns are later folded into the mix, but they aren’t as satisfying as batons, nor are they meaningfully different from each other. Upgrading my baton felt like a necessity to keep it useful until the end, though ammo is plentiful if you want to go into combat with guns blazing. The telekinesis-like pull-and-throw grapple system is useful and fun, but there’s frustratingly little to do with it beyond throwing enemies off a ledge, or away from you, into the same three-type insta-death machinery. Is.
You are told to leave by characters talking via radio Here And ThereAnd right when you show up, something goes wrong, and now you need to meet them This location instead. After a few hours, I was already anticipating most of the story beats, all the while being fed bread crumbs of a larger narrative. Sure, things happened, but I rarely saw glimpses of the game’s overarching story until the final hour, at which point it felt like a rush of information. While Dani’s story, which weaves in and out of Jacob’s throughout the duration of the game, comes to a satisfying conclusion, Jacob’s, not, ends with a scene that feels inorganically enticing and, to be sure, Designed to make me buy the upcoming story DLC.
The final boss before this frustrating climax is a tedious and repetitive fight that feels like a thing of the past; Which was to be included in every game, even if it did not prove necessary. This wasn’t the only frustrating boss. All of them left me feeling empty and angry at my lack of variance. You fight the same type of enemy as a boss multiple times throughout the game, just in different arenas. Most bosses can kill you in one hit, which takes away the earned tension of survival horror. I wasn’t desperate to find ammo or health packs to survive by the skin of my teeth; I was jogging just to make sure its hit didn’t come close to me.
Adding to my frustration is a poor checkpoint system. If you die by insta-kill, you’ll have to replay the entire fight, even at the end of the boss fight. If you had to kill some enemies before that fight, you’ll have to do that again, too. The same applies to ammo, audio logs and other resources, even if you save where you want to pick them up after death after preparing such. Poor checkpointing is also present in standard enemy encounters, which quickly became stale.
Listening to audio logs, which add little touches of essential flavor to the area you’re playing in, requires you to be in the log menu, and you can’t move or explore the environment while listening. The death animations are exciting and gruesome, but they lack variety. They’re also buggy, and some death scenes are a lot more interesting to play out than others. For example, the biophage that pops Jacob’s eyes out of their sockets is pretty cool. But watching an enemy wrestle Jacob to the ground in an unintentionally hilarious and anticlimactic ragdoll-like fashion falls flat.
The gun animations, which play when you switch weapons, look cool at first, but you must sit agonizingly through each one in order to use a new weapon. If you aim or reload too quickly during the animation, the sequence ends, and the weapon you were using before attempting this change is returned. It’s frustrating during tense combat encounters, where I’m flipping through my handful of weapons to find the right one. A unique quick-fire mechanic that auto-locks on an enemy’s weak point at the end of a melee combo is a nice addition to the combat system, but if your equipped weapon is out of ammo or needs to be reloaded And you don’t realize it, you set yourself on fire for nothing only to happen, leaving you open to loss. Callisto Protocol dies from a thousand cuts like these.
These various problems aside, though, Callisto Protocol is still doing a lot of what Dead Space did, for better and for worse. And to that end, there are moments of fun, even if, on the contrary, they highlight genuine horror. I’m fine with Callisto Protocol being just another version of its spiritual predecessor, but it struggles to nail even the basics. As a result, I am overwhelmed, angry and frustrated. If you want something more than this second crack at making a new sci-fi IP at survival horror, or something different that acknowledges how far gaming has come since 2008, then Callisto Protocol is not your answer.