In 2008 EA launched the original Dead Space to rave reviews, and the game continues to become one of the most beloved sci-fi horror titles of all time. Despite the recognition around Dead Space and its immediate sequel, the franchise died out after the lackluster Dead Space 3 and has been dormant for almost a decade. While EA has announced plans to go ahead with a full-blown Dead Space remake, franchise co-creator Glen Schofield isn’t waiting around. Schofield and his team at Striking Distance Studios have created one Dead Space spiritual successor i The Callisto Protocol which borrows heavily from EA’s franchise while establishing its own unique identity.
IN The Callisto Protocol, players take on the role of Jacob Lee, who finds himself falsely imprisoned in the Black Iron Prison just as a mysterious outbreak begins to mutate people into hideous monsters. Lee uses the chaos to escape his cell and soon aligns himself with other inmates in an attempt to get out alive, while trying to discover the truth behind the outbreak. The Callisto ProtocolThe story borrows heavily from survival horror clichés, so longtime fans of the genre should be able to predict how it all turns out, but the performances of Josh Duhamel, Karen Fukuhara and Sam Witwer help elevate the material. That said, don’t expect anything groundbreaking from the story and be prepared for an unsatisfying ending, as the developers leave a lot of loose ends to set up sequels.
The Callisto ProtocolThe story is pretty by-the-numbers, but players will still find themselves invested in it due to the stellar acting and stunning visuals. The Callisto Protocol looks amazing, with highly detailed environments and near-flawless character models. The Callisto Protocolthe monsters are also incredibly impressive, with one in particular that stands out, but is best left mysterious to preserve the experience.
For most people The Callisto Protocol, players will find themselves exploring Black Iron as Jacob, battling the terrifying monsters that lurk around every corner and the imposing security robots that are best avoided. Jacob is not defenseless and has a number of tools to help him fight back against these foes, including the obligatory prison shive that can be used for stealth kills, a devastating stun baton that can easily hack away enemy limbs, and the GRP, a tools that allow him to grab enemies and throw them into hazards for spectacularly bloody instant kills. GRP downplays many combat scenarios, but the sheer fun factor it provides makes up for any lost challenge.
Gamers will find it difficult to put down the controller for most The Callisto Protocolespecially survival horror fans who have been starved of big budget entries in the genre outside of Capcom’s Resident Evil game. Dead Space fans in particular will get a kick out of it The Callisto Protocol as its visual style borrows heavily from the classic sci-fi horror franchise, and while there are similarities gameplay-wise, The Callisto Protocol certainly does enough to stand out on its own.
While Dead Space combat mostly revolved around shooting off necromorph limbs from a distance, The Callisto Protocol is more about close combat. Jacob’s weapon certainly gives players an advantage in combat, but most of the time they will find themselves dodging enemy attacks and responding with blows from the stun baton. The Callisto Protocol uses a dodge system where players have to swing the stick left or right at the right time to avoid incoming attacks and while it may seem simple on paper, there is definitely a specific rhythm to it and it takes time to learn how you do it properly.
The Callisto Protocol forces players to confront enemies head-on, unlike other survival horror games that encourage players to run away and conserve ammo. Despite this more aggressive approach, The Callisto Protocol doesn’t overwhelm players with resources. Ammo and healing items are limited, so players still need to be smart about how they approach each combat encounter.
Mostly, The Callisto Protocol The fight is tough, but fair. Players must be aware of their positioning and must master the dodging mechanics if they wish to succeed. However, there are some sections that are cheap, and Jacob doesn’t really have a chance to survive until players already walk through the area and remember where the enemies spawn. This trial and error worsens in the late game and hurts the momentum quite a bit.
The Callisto Protocol is great for the first three quarters or so, but the last quarter of the game is where things start to fall apart a bit. There are basically three bosses in the game, and all of them appear in the second half, and Jacob has to fight two of them several times. A recurring boss is particularly durable and can kill Jacob with a single hit, which needless to say can lead to a lot of deaths. Challenging bosses aren’t a bad thing, but the sense of triumph players will get from beating the boss the first time they step on it becomes clear that they’ll have to repeat the long fight a few times.
What makes these boss fights particularly frustrating is The Callisto Protocolits elaborate death animations. As Dead Space before, The Callisto Protocol is full of graphic deaths for the unfortunate protagonist Jacob, with each enemy in the game having their own special way of brutalizing him. Through The Callisto Protocol, players will see Jacob’s arms ripped off, his head smashed, his body torn in half and more. Some of the most disturbing and unique of these death scenes occur during the boss fights, but it gets tiresome to have to watch them every single time you mistime a dodge and fall victim to the boss’s one-hit kill. You can only watch Jakob’s head get stomped into oblivion so many times before it gets old.
An option to skip these scenes after being exposed to them so many times would have been a nice quality-of-life feature, and it’s easy to think of other quality-of-life features that would have gone a long way. The Callisto Protocol reach the next level. For example, it would have been nice if the manual saves were actually saved at the time they were recorded instead of relying on the last checkpoint. While this isn’t a huge deal most of the time, there are instances where players find themselves in a safe room before a tough match and have the opportunity to upgrade Jacob’s gear. If they die during the battle, they have to upgrade all their equipment again, which is a time-consuming process since they can only buy one upgrade at a time and each has its own animation. You would think that manually saving after applying the upgrades would solve this problem, but it doesn’t.
It would also be nice if players could listen to audio logs outside of the inventory screen, but that is not possible in the current version of the game. Sitting around in menus isn’t particularly exciting, and so it’s easy to see how many players simply ignore the audio logs they collect while exploring Black Iron. The final improvement in the quality of life that could have done The Callisto Protocol a much better game would have been the ability to skip cutscenes, as it is not currently available and weighs down subsequent playthroughs.
Replay value is an area where The Callisto Protocol battle in general. Not only are players forced to sit through all the scenes again when they decide to start a new save, but they also don’t get to keep any of the weapons or upgrades they earned in their first playthrough. Unfortunately, The Callisto Protocol doesn’t have a New Game+ mode at launch, which seems like a huge oversight, especially since the feature was so integrated into Dead Space. Without New Game+, the only reason to replay is to find the collectibles or unlock them all The Callisto Protocoltheir achievements, but players should have almost all of these after their first playthrough anyway.
The lack of replay value does The Callisto ProtocolThe short length sticks out a bit more than it would otherwise. Horror games are usually on the short side, and that works in the genre’s favor. The Callisto Protocol isn’t really any different, as it’s fairly fast paced and keeps players engaged from start to finish without having to resort to slow periods or filler. While that has been said The Callisto Protocol takes roughly 13 hours to beat, the in-game clock claimed it took us just over seven hours to complete the first playthrough, and this included making the effort to thoroughly explore each area in search of collectibles and resources. The Callisto Protocol‘s seven-hour runtime makes for a quick and consistently entertaining first playthrough (discounting the repetitive boss battles), but the lack of a New Game+ feature makes the short runtime seem more of a detriment.
New Game+ is supposedly coming The Callisto Protocol next year, and Striking Distance Studios has many other updates planned for the game as well. The Callisto Protocol has a season pass that will give players access to premium DLC that should improve things further. Some may be better off waiting for New Game+ and other new content to be released for the game next year, but die-hard horror fans may still want to take the plunge and spend $70 to pick up The Callisto Protocol right now.
Considering its short length and current lack of replay value, it’s a bit hard to recommend The Callisto Protocol at full price, but it’s a must-buy when the price comes down a bit. The Callisto Protocol is an excellent game let down by some hugely important missing features, but hopefully future updates will help it live up to its full potential as a worthy successor to Dead Space franchise.
The Callisto Protocol launches on December 2nd for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Game Rant received an Xbox Series X code for this review.