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Callisto Protocol Review


 

Developer: Striking Distance Studios

Publisher: Krafton, Bluehole Inc.

Reviewed on: PC - Allied Patriot

Also available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S & Xbox One

Release Date: 2nd December 2022

Rating: R18+

Price: $89.95

 

The Callisto Protocol is a game that I have been waiting for a long time to play. First shown at the 2020 “Game Awards” the hype was immediate and real, growing as time passed and we got to see more of what could easily have been mistaken for a spin off or follow up to the Dead Space series. Created by Glen Schofield, one of the original creators of Dead Space the similarities were very apparent. As a fan of the Dead Space series this only put my excitement for this one at a fever pitch, something that I feel usually hinders my ability to just enjoy a game for what it is rather than comparing it to my lofty expectations. Something I feel The Callisto Protocol also suffers from.



If you don't already know, The Callisto Protocol, is an atmospheric, horror game in which ‘you’ AKA Jacob Lee (played by Josh Duhamel) are the pilot of a cargo ship. You very quickly find out that aside from your regular deliveries, Jacob has been smuggling certain items between the planet's moons Callisto and Europa. That is until the outlaw militia group “The Outer Way” have different plans and attempt to take whatever it is that you are smuggling, sending everything into chaos. The resulting fight causes you to crash your ship during which everyone but yourself and the leader of The Outer Way crew dies. You're then arrested by a local patrol on Callisto and taken to Black iron prison where you wake up and shit hits the fan.


Firstly let's talk about the games poor optimisation on PC, because unlike the rest of this review, this is a matter of fact rather than opinion. And well, it is terrible! In fact the game became largely unplayable in key moments and in both gameplay and cutscenes where more than 1 or 2 enemies presented themselves on screen. It's also worth mentioning that I am running the game on my Allied Patriot, with an RTX 3080, accompanied by other hardware that runs just about any other game comfortably at around 100-120FPS in 4K, so specs aren't the issue. In fact the majority of the time while playing The Callisto Protocol I was getting anywhere between 80-110FPS. But every now and then and as I said, usually in key moments involving combat etc, it would drop as low as 12FPS and stay there until I very clumsily cleared the area and moved onto the next. This put a real damper on the gameplay and really damaged the story's immersion and continuity. I haven't actually played on console, but from a few google searches these issues seem isolated to PC.



I am not going to talk about all the ways in which The Callisto Protocol shares similarities to Dead Space of which there are many, in fact this is the last time I will mention dead space, as not everyone has played Dead Space to be able to draw comparisons.


In terms of the story, The Callisto Protocol had some really promising moments, there were parts in which I was well and truly hooked, and then others where I really struggled to care at all and actually found myself almost trying to skip cutscenes and playable dialogue parts such as audio files, something the story in my opinion relies far too heavily on to be engaging. I feel the idea to use Josh Duhamel as the main protagonist was an excellent one, one that did add a level of immersion and magnitude to what was happening. Josh really lends himself to this type of role and was probably the most enjoyable part of the cutscenes and story.


Graphically, the game is stunning. On PC I had everything cranked up to max, and WOW! The light effects, the character models the environments are all immaculate, the gore and dismemberment is some of the best I've seen in a video game and everything just looked really clean and realistic (when the game ran at a respectable frame rate at least)



The biggest letdown for me was in fact the combat, I don't want to use the word terrible, but I really didn't like it. It required zero skill or timing or anything other than mindless button presses that very quickly become repetitive and monotonous. Here's exactly how 95% of my combat interactions went… Use the right trigger to hit the enemy 3 times, then dodge by holding the left stick either left or right (no timing required) then hit the enemy again 2 times, the enemy is dead. This exact same combination of moves was used every single time, except the odd time I'd shoot my gun to mix it up a bit. The lack of timing needed to dodge was a let down, as long as you're holding the stick in a direction the game will automatically dodge for you all you have to do is select the appropriate direction in which to do so. The weapons are cool, however the overall crafting system that's used to create them is a bit of a flop, resources are really hard to come by and upgrades require way too many of them to allow you to do a lot with it. So I found myself relying far too heavily on melee.



The general gameplay was also for the large part a little repetitive and uneventful, being the type of game it is, I would have loved to see some more problem solving mechanics added, such as games like Resident Evil do, some network hacking with a puzzle to unlock different cells or to gain access to different parts of the prison. I'd also love a little more freedom with exploration, like an open world type feel to the prison in which you choose your own path but ultimately certain parts are inaccessible until later in the story. The Callisto Protocol however is very linear, sure you can go back, but there's no real exploration whatsoever. It's not all bad though. The atmospheric nature of the game did make entering every room exhilarating and thrilling, rounding every corner had you waiting for the next jump scare and the darkness of the visuals made the whole thing very creepy. It definitely relies on the atmospheric aspects more so than the horror side of things.



Ultimately, The Callisto Protocol promised so much but ends up being a bit of a letdown. I still believe in the premise, and the game ends on a cliffhanger so hopefully they follow this one up with another game and build on the foundations that have been laid here.




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