A hype train living in Dead Space's shadow

User Rating: 6 | The Callisto Protocol PC

Dead Space was one of the last original IPs to really push the horror genre forward. I felt it was the only horror game to take Resident Evil 4's torch and carry it along. The Callisto Protocol received a ton of hype because Dead Space's co-creator Glen Schofield was leading the charge. The game was another third-person horror shooter with sick monster designs, a desolate Callisto moon, and a great story. I was honestly shocked by how below average this adventure is and was quite saddened the longer I played.

The game actually starts out quite well. You are Jabob Lee. A space courier delivering medicine to the prison colony on Callisto when suddenly everything goes wrong. Your ship crashes and you are wrongfully charged for a crime you did not commit. The game takes you on a pretty long cinematic journey for the first 30-45 minutes before the action starts. This is when things immediately started falling apart. The game's main mechanic is melee combat. That would be fine and all, but it just doesn't work as intended. You are expected to go one-on-one with each enemy and whack at them like Whack-A-Mole and then dodge attacks. It's a dodge-and-then-attack type combat system. You can't parry without unlocking it as an upgrade and animations can't be quickly interrupted. It's hard to judge the enemy's attacks and how long their combo will go on. These animations just aren't well done. It lead to many cheap deaths that came from the animations being too long and not interruptable.

This makes the first couple of chapters a chore, and most people might quit here. You do get weapons, but ammo is scarce until later on in the game. There are five weapons you can acquire, but don't think these are as unique or interesting as Dead Space's weapons. You really only get three weapons with two being nearly identical. Two pistols and two shotguns. One is a "Skunk" gun and the other is a riot gun. The only difference was their spread, to be honest. Your first weapon is the Hand Cannon which can pack a punch, but the Tactical Pistol is nearly useless. All of these weapons feel handicapped until you start upgrading them. Just like Dead Space, you get a limited inventory with healing items, valuables, and ammo. It's literally a 1:1 ratio of how Dead Space plays.

Weapons are acquired by finding schematics (yeah that's a direct copy too). You can find 3D printing stations throughout the game that will print add-ons, health, and ammo, but you won't be able to buy everything in one play-through. No matter how thorough you are. It's best to just upgrade the Hand Cannon and either Skunkworks or Riot Gun and do the rest on the next play-through. That is if you even want to. This hand-to-hand combat with these monsters just isn't fun. Once I was able to get more ammo more often by stomping enemies (seeing a pattern here?) I tried to avoid melee combat. That's not a good thing when the core combat mechanic is so bad that you don't want to ever use it. Sadly, it's forced upon you during the same two repetitive boss fights, but there were a couple of patches later on that made it more tolerable, but still not good.

Sadly, despite how great the visuals are the level design is insanely linear and boring. You just run down the corridor after corridor fighting randomly popping-up monsters until you get to the next fuse, switch, or generator. It's pretty mundane and has already been done in many games before it. Unlike Dead Space, there are no puzzles here. In fact, the overall level design is just elementary and basic at best. There is one area where you must sneak around monsters that are sensitive to sounds. You can stab them in the back and do takedowns, but this was for an entire chapter. It became dull really fast. The only advantage was killing them all silently and then stomping on them to rack up tons of ammo. You do get a grappling glove that allows you to pull and push objects away, but this just seemed like an excuse to use death traps in certain arenas. It was poorly implemented.

The story itself doesn't get interesting until the final chapter. There isn't much story here at all. I wanted to know what this thing was that killed off the entire planet's population, but you just move from scene to scene falling around trying to escape each section. It's a poorly paced-story that seemed more like an afterthought. Jacob himself is well-acted, but we know nothing about him nor did I care one bit about his character. Dani is the other main character and I cared about her just as much. The game isn't long enough or has enough story to tell us anything worthwhile. There's no care in world-building through visuals like Dead Space did. You just move through corridor after corridor killing enemies that pop up and that's it.

The visuals might be really good, but the performance is awful. Even after half a dozen patches, AMD FSR2 is broken, ray-tracing cuts the frame rate in half even on a 3xxx series card. There are tons of stuttering from poor shader optimization as well even months after release. Despite the nice visuals, they aren't taken advantage of due to 90% of the game just being in cramped corridors. Overall, The Callisto Protocol is a colossal disappointment trying to copy Dead Space to a tee and failing to capture anything that made that game stand out or become the icon it is today. The monster designs are neat, the visuals are good, and the story's premise is good. That's about it.