Dead Space is one of the most renowned survival horror games of all time.
So, when a supposed spiritual successor, The Callisto Protocol was announced, many gamers, including myself, were excited.
Directed by Glen Schofield, one of the minds behind Dead Space, The Callisto Protocol has you playing as Jacob Lee (Josh Duhamel), a cargo transporter taking medical supplies to the moon called Callisto, where the Black Iron Prison is located.
After his ship is nearly hijacked by a group of terrorists called the Outer Way, led by Dani Nakamura (Karen Fukuhara), Jacob crash lands on Callisto.
He and Dani are then imprisoned in Callisto by the nefarious warden, Duncan Cole (James C. Mathais III), and prison guard, Leon Ferris (Sam Witwer).
However, at the exact same time, a zombie virus known as the Biophage begins ravaging the prison, turning both prisoners and guards alike into undead monsters.
Left with no other choice, Jacob and Dani have to work together if they want to escape, alongside another prisoner named Elias Porter (Zeke Alton).
The story of The Callisto Protocol is fine.
It is incredibly predictable and does absolutely nothing new.
I feel the same way about the characters.
I did not hate them but neither did I love them.
They were all just okay.
But this is a video game so the story and characters do not have to shine so long as the gameplay is great.
Well, unfortunately, this is where The Callisto Protocol mostly falters.
Since The Callisto Protocol was supposed to be a spiritual successor to Dead Space, not exactly like it, the developers had to make the Biophages different from the Necromorphs.
So no shooting the limbs to kill them.
Instead, they added two features to make Biophages stand apart from Dead Space’s iconic enemies.
The first of these is the combat, which is melee focused instead of gun focused.
The second is the Biophage’s tentacles, which, if you do not shoot, will cause them to mutate into a stronger enemy.
Sad to say, both of these gameplay features do not really work out in the long run.
The Biophages mutation process is interesting and fun to play around the first few times it happens but you will quickly notice that the mutations all look and fight exactly the same with no differentiation.
Likewise, the enemy variety is quite lacking in The Callisto Protocol, with there being about six or so different enemy types and at least three of them, just like the mutations, look and fight mostly the same.
The problems with the melee combat are far worse, though.
Credit where it is due, the dodging mechanic is pretty fun when you are fighting one or two enemies.
However, all of this falls apart when you inevitably get surrounded.
The camera view in The Callisto Protocol is quite limited, with it being focused over Jacob’s shoulder.
Thus, when you are swarmed by Biophages, it is incredibly easy for the ones behind you to attack Jacob without you even seeing them.
What makes this worse is that Jacob often seems to target whichever Biophage is closest in this swarm so the camera will constantly be flying around while he is trying to hit enemies.
With all of this and the Biophages running around the screen, the combat is so chaotic that is becomes incredibly difficult to tell what is happening and whether you should be dodging or attacking.
You cannot switch to shooting enemies either because that often does so little damage, and attempting to use the grip in this melee will just result in getting hit.
Add the constantly mutating Biophages and you end up with a combat system that results in a lot of deaths, which is highly frustrating.
That is the word I would use to describe The Callisto Protocol: Frustrating, not scary.
The marketing talked big about how scary this game would be but this was so often not the case.
For example, I never once jumped at a jumpscare because of how highly telegraphed they all were, especially in cutscenes.
There are admittedly a few creepy moments, like one combat encounter when some Biophages hide in the trees, and when you first fight some blind enemies.
However, the creep factor for that latter encounter is completely wrecked by a whole bunch of cognitive dissonance.
You are supposed to stay completely silent when killing the Blind so you don’t get surrounded but Jacob has such a loud stealth attack that it should alert them to his location.
Yet, it does not.
The gameplay of Callisto Protocol just has a lot of issues, including its checkpoint system, which often loads you in before you did your upgrades, the extreme linearity of the levels, and the final boss, which has a massive and unfair difficulty spike.
Also, you should probably not buy this game on PC because it apparently has a lot of stuttering issues.
I bought the game on PS5 and it ran smoothly throughout.
I know I have been criticizing The Callisto Protocol a lot but I do want to end on some positives.
Like I said, despite its many issues, the combat is pretty good when you are only fighting a few Biophages.
The grip in particular is a lot of fun, as you can use it to throw enemies into spikes, impaling them.
Speaking of impalement, Jacob has a lot of gory deaths, which are awesome to see.
Granted, these drawn out deaths do become frustrating when you die over and over again but they are still done well.
The biggest compliment I can give The Callisto Protocol, though, is its graphics.
The photo realism in this game is absolutely incredible, especially when it comes to the characters’ facial animations.
They not only look exceptional in cutscenes but outside of them as well.
I remember just stopping Jacob a few times and turning the camera to look at his face and marveling at the level of detail.
In my opinion, The Callisto Protocol is definitely the best looking PlayStation game we have got so far.
Does this make it worth a buy, though?
Well, certainly not at full price with the many, many issues this game has.
The Callisto Protocol wanted to be a spiritual successor to Dead Space but it failed to live up to those expectations, presenting a game with a generic story and characters, along with incredibly frustrating combat that is rarely scary, despite this being a survival horror game.
Unfortunately for The Callisto Protocol, I think when the Dead Space remake drops in January 2023, we will quickly see its sails dip.