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The Callisto Protocol (Consoles, PC) - Releasing December 2nd, 2022 (new studio from the Dead Space creators)

Romier S

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Reviews are not being particularly kind to the game. 


Gamespot 5/10:





Overall, individual elements of The Callisto Protocol are just at odds with one another too often. The enemy design and melee-focused combat mechanics lend themselves to these incredibly tense and fun close-quarters brawls when you're only fighting against a couple of targets at a time, but the game regularly locks you into frantic moshpits or frustratingly difficult boss fights instead. And despite the vocal talent and mocap skill on display, The Callisto Protocol's story isn't all that interesting, save for an intriguing final twist. Some genuine horror might have improved the experience of this survival-action game, but The Callisto Protocol instead leans too far into absurd high-octane spectacle, dampening the tension and adulterating the narrative core of the experience.


Game Informer: 6/10:





The Callisto Protocol is still doing a lot of what Dead Space did, for better and worse. And to that end, there are moments of fun, even if, in contrast, they're light on genuine terror. I'm okay with The Callisto Protocol being another version of its spiritual predecessor, but it struggles to nail even the basics. As a result, I'm underwhelmed, annoyed, and disappointed. If you wanted anything more out of this second crack at making a new sci-fi IP in survival horror, or something markedly different that acknowledges just how far gaming has come since 2008, The Callisto Protocol is not your answer.


IGN 7/10:





The Callisto Protocol is a supremely atmospheric and action-heavy tour through a spectacular slaughterhouse set in distant space. Its largely linear design makes for minimal backtracking, meaning it trims the fat while leaving no shortage of bone and gristle to rip and tear. However, it also betrays its survival horror roots by regularly tipping the balance of power too far in favour of the player, and while there's plenty of murderous fun to be had using giant grinding mechanisms to make mulch out of mutants, such cheap thrills come at the high cost of puncturing any tension and dread that the tremendous art and audio design work so hard to invoke. Aside from the meaty melee combat, there's also the overriding sense that there's not a lot here that hasn't been done before – and there's disappointingly little to do once you've beaten the campaign. Thus The Callisto Protocol is a satisfyingly gory spiritual successor to the Dead Space series, but it's ultimately more of a striking modern mimic than a scary new mutation.


Push Square 7/10:





The Callisto Protocol is a consistently good game that, when it's at its best, gives many of the survival horror greats a run for their money. However, there's no getting around the fact the game has very little to truly call its own. In borrowing so heavily from Dead Space, there's always a sense of having been there, done that. With frame rate issues and an unimaginative story with poor characters, The Callisto Protocol is good. But it's not great.


There's a range here for sure.


I'm in regardless. Reviews have never done much to sway me when there's a game I'm highly interested in and this is one I've been much looking forward to. I'll give my unfiltered thoughts once I've played through it started later today.:)

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I’m roughly 60% done as I just reached chapter 5 of the game. Supposedly there are 9 chapters total.


Im playing on “Maximum Security” which is the toughest difficulty. Honestly, once you get a feel for the combat, I’m not finding anything super hard. I’ll post more thoughts later today after I sleep. I will say that the game certainly shares some of its DNA with Dead Space but this is a very different game. Combat is more “The Last of Us” than Dead Space, frankly.

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In the end, I think that the comparisons to Dead Space harm this game more than help it. I think there is certainly some shared aesthetics and the story really is a spin on EA’s horror franchise. Otherwise, Callisto is much more of a 3D brawler than a third person space shooter. Melee is almost purely the focus throughout 75% of this game. The dodge mechanic feels a whole lot like playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! Seriously, you hold one direction to get out of the way of an attack and then alternate to avoid the next, etc. You’ll then usually get in a 2-3 hit combo that will open the enemy up to quick aim/shot from your gun that’s exposed once a melee combo is complete. Rinse and repeat and you have the core combat loop in the Callisto Protocol. Honestly? It’s works pretty well I think. Mostly when you’re fighting one-on-one. Multi-enemy encounters is where things tend to fall apart as you’ll take hits from things you can’t see on-screen. The spitter enemies in particular can be maddening. It’s best to use a weapon to blow off its head so it can’t spit projectiles at you. Otherwise, you’ll get peppered with no remedy available in your tool bag.

The fundamental issue here is that Jacob, the main character, is the slowest character you’ve ever played in a videogame. He’s downright lumbering with zero mobility to speak of and this is a game that is utterly in love with its own animations. It favors realism over utility so even something as simple as switching weapons has its own dedicated animation that takes forever in the heat of combat. Also, there’s no combat roll or shifting to reposition and it’s nearly impossible to run away from encounters. Stand your ground and fight. Even when you’re being mauled by 3 or so enemies at once. Yes, it can be frustrating but I think the core rope-a-dope design of the combat is a maybe a bit inspired despite that? It desperately needs iteration but in a space where they could have copied Dead Space outright, I commend them for trying something new. Even if the combat never truly evolves throughout the games 10-15 hour length.


The latter 25% of the game shifts from a brawler into a stealth game. Large portions of the last two chapters (there are a total of eight) are spent skulking behind enemies with pretty poor AI that love to bunch up together and make it difficult to execute them. You spend that time crouched which is interminably SLOW. These sequences were absolutely the low point of the game for me and I quite literally cheered when an active enemy tried to clobber my skull again.


Other stand out issues include the fact that the game has no puzzles to speak of. This is an completely linear game that does feature some off the path rooms to explore but most of your time is spent in traversing the environment. If you thought God of War featured too many sequences of Kratos and company shimmying or crouching through segments - oh boy Callisto has that game beaten by a mile. If you’re not fighting, you’re crouching through a vent or moving between rocks or pipes. The common refrain here is that the game is hiding its loading time but it’s obvious that isn’t always the case here as you can already see much of the environment is already loaded and available. No, this is a design choice and much of it is to extend the games length. To its credit, the animation work is beautiful but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t groaning at some of these sequences as the game progressed.


Those sequences may have been forgivable if there was truly addictive narrative to pull you though (ala Ragnarok for example) but you’ll spend 80% of this game with little to no narrative context other than escaping Black Iron prison. On one hand, it’s nice to be set loose into a world with very little in the way of cutscenes but outside of a very brisk setup sequence to start the game, you’ll need to wait until the last few hours to get at what’s really going on. In the end, that’s where the Dead Space comparison hurts the most because it’s all very much a lesser version of Unitology without much of the interesting lore.


There is much more that I could say about some of the design choices in this game. There are sequences where you open up chests and small creatures attach themselves to you and drain your health. Those same creatures will live inside lockers as well and there’s no way for you to know that they are there. I suppose they are meant to be nothing more than a jump scare, but frankly that stops being affective after the first time really. It’s just extraordinarily annoying as it saps much needed health. That really gets to the heart of the main issue that I have with Callisto Protocol. The game just isn’t scary, really. It’s just a series of jump scares that mostly don’t work. It’s much more of an action game with horror elements at best.


The weapons that do appear in the game are pretty straightforward things like pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles. There really is nothing creatively at the level of the line gun in Dead Space for example. I suppose with the de-emphasis on shooting mechanics it’s pretty forgivable, but it is what it is.


One element of the game that I really cannot find any fault with is the graphics. This is a stunningly beautiful game. Especially if you’re playing in the quality mode where you get RT shadows and reflections. I felt that both were worth the sacrifice to the framerate, and thankfully the game runs at a pretty smooth 30 FPS. I know that the game is technically cross-gen but you would be hard-pressed to identify it as such once you start to take in the extraordinary work on materials, and just the fidelity of everything on display. A special shout-out should go to the work on the characters facial animation, and how truly lifelike and believable they are. Despite the fact that the story isn’t amazing, the performances that these actors put in are all very good, and there’s no doubt that this is on the level of the very best games in terms of animation work. I have not tried the performance mode as of yet, but I may do so in a second run down the line. 

This is a solid, if deeply flawed first outing for Striking Distance Studios. I think this is a game that will be remembered in a much more positive light as time goes on. It fails at a great many things, but it also does really interesting things that I hope these folks get to iterate upon. One final thing that I’ll mention is that I am not someone that will generally complain about the price of games these days. Especially when it comes to game length. I am more than happy to pay my fair share for a quality experience. However, this is a game that out of the box will take you probably less than 10 hours to complete on standard difficulty. It does not include any type of new game plus mode and there is little incentive in replaying it. In a vacuum that really isn’t too much of a problem for me but these folks are also out there asking you to pay $30 for a season pass that includes a new difficulty setting, more enemy death animations, a new game mode, and story DLC. That all feels pretty crummy to me when your charging $70 for a game this already bereft of meaningful content. My advice is to wait for a sale on this one. If you can nab it for $30, you’re going to feel a whole lot better about it.




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