When the announcement trailer for The Callisto Protocol first dropped, Dead Space fans like myself were celebrating like our nation had just won the World Cup. It was glorious. The trailers looked hype as heck and it seemed as if Glen Schofield and his team at Striking Distance studios were bringing this style of horror back with gusto… When I sat down to play it however, the metaphorical cracks in the windshield started to show.
The atmosphere, setting and graphics of this game truly look next-gen, and it does feature a multitude of tense Dead Space-inspired scenes that fans will appreciate, but it often stutters between loading areas and events which really takes you out of it. My somewhat powerful PC was struggling at times to keep up, hovering at around 45-60 FPS, especially during the close-ups in cutscenes. Like nails on a chalkboard, honestly. But speaking of cutscenes, I did appreciate how the tutorials of the game naturally slotted into the spectacle, with the camera direction and mini prompts that appear letting players intuitively step into the fray.
Hollywood star, Josh Duhamel does a fine job in the lead role of Jacob, but the off-kilter lip sync is a tad distracting. The story doesn’t give players much to latch onto either, since most of the narrative beats simply act as a vessel for the gameplay. Those who were dissecting the official trailers frame-by-frame like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes might want to temper their expectations. The audio logs might give lore nuts some relief, but the main story itself is wafer-thin, to say the least.
The puzzles are rather basic too: pick up fuse, put in slot, move crank—problem solved. I know that sounds reductive, but that’s what the majority of them boil down to. There are some good stealth sections here and there, although it’s still a very straightforward experience. For those who like to explore off the beaten path though, they’ll find many side rooms to discover for extra goodies like health pickups and store credits. These can be used to upgrade Jacob’s equipment with alt-fires, melee blocking skills, weapon damage and more. Those familiar to the Dead Space series will be right at home here.
Are You Not Entertained?
The combat, just like the rest of the presentation has a hefty visual and sonic impact to it. And before you ask—yes, Isaac’s giga foot-stomp is back. However, most encounters simply involve moving slightly to the left or right as enemies try to slap Jacob, followed by him thwacking them back before they evolve like a Pokémon. The long-range enemies do require players to think a bit more creatively, and it is cool how you can dispatch them in several prematurely violent ways—picking them up with the GRP tool and flinging them into the shadow realm is my favourite—but it quickly starts to become repetitive, as monsters sometimes take 10 or so strikes to go down on the higher difficulties.
When you need to switch weapons on the fly though, the ‘quick weapon swap’ is anything but what the name implies. Especially during mob encounters or boss fights, it’s stupendously difficult to actually change weapons. Jacob needs to slog through an overly drawn-out animation before he can start shooting. Though the kicker is, if it’s interrupted at any point, he has to start all over again! Whose idea was this? Talk about counterintuitive.
In a similar vein, when players stumble upon rooms packed with scalable objects, the AI will sometimes lose it’s marbles and keep climbing up and over the geometry while Jacob picks off one monster at a time. It’s also super awkward when he’s fighting near a ledge. Because if he stumbles forward enough, Jacob will fall and hang in the air for a second or two, leaving him completely open to a barrage of attacks, often ending in a splendiferous bloodbath… Yes, the gory death animations are back with a vengeance, and boy do I let them happen. Anything goes from getting Jacob’s eyes gouged out to having all 4 limbs sliced off in a matter of seconds. A lot of work was done here, and it shows… One freshly carved Josh Duhamel, coming up!
Was the almost decade-long wait for this Dead Space spiritual successor worth it? Yes, and no. While this 8-hour adventure does have some excellent scenes of tension that harken back to it’s predecessor’s former glory, it ultimately falls flat in terms of horror and gameplay. The combat features several ways to dispatch enemies, like stealth takedowns or simply throwing them off of a cliff, but it sadly does become stale over time. The puzzles aren’t great either, with most sections involving a simple ‘insert item here’ to advance the scenario, and the story is far from engaging. Still, The Callisto Protocol does have it’s moments, and these are ultimately what get it across the line.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
The Callisto Protocol isn’t the greatest horror title ever, but it still has some wicked cool moments to witness. There are stutter issues with the frame rate on PC, the combat does get repetitive and the story is largely forgettable, but the general atmosphere and hand-crafted set pieces are worth experiencing.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by KRAFTON. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.