Game Review: ‘The Callisto Protocol’ Is An Impressive But Average Title

The Callisto Protocol is the latest survival horror action game developed by Striking Distance Studios and published by Krafton studio. The game was first announced at the Game Awards in 2020, and its trailer received over one million views. The Callisto Protocol is the latest game from the Dead Space veteran collaborating with the PUBG studio. But is it worth checking out? See what I think in my review below.

[Warning: Spoilers from The Callisto Protocol are below!]

Background and story in The Callisto Protocol

The game was directed by Glen Schofield, who previously co-created the Dead Space series (a big success amongst gamers). Our main character Jacob Lee is played by actor Josh Duhamel. Alongside him, we can hear other well-known voice actors such as Sam Witwer, Karen Fukuhara, Zeke Alton, and Jeff Schine. The Callisto Protocol was supposed to be part of the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds universe, but during the game’s development, the studio decided that it would be better as a separate title set in its own universe.

The story of The Callisto Protocol is set in the year 2320, with Jacob Lee and his partner Max Barrow working as contract freight carriers and co-pilots for United Jupiter and UJC Charon. Their goal is to eventually retire, but there is an unexpected crash of their ship on the moon Calisto, in which Max dies, leaving Jacob and a character called Dani Nakamura alive.

The two are placed in Black Iron Prison by Captain Leon Ferris without trial, only to learn that this prison is overrun by inmates afflicted with an unknown alien-zombie disease. Together with Elias Porter, they escape from prison and have several additional complications along the way.

Our heroes pave their way through the ruins of Arcas. This was Callisto’s original colony before it was abandoned and Black Iron Prison was later built on top of it. Jacob and Dani find an abandoned laboratory and learn that the whole “zombie alien apocalypse” happened because scientists experimented on a dead alien creature. They tried to combine his DNA from some alien larva with human DNA. After leaving the lab, they again have an encounter with Ferris, and this time Dani is infected with the virus, after this incident they are back in their cells.

While going through the story, I felt that at this point the whole story would turn into another space drama familiar from many productions exploring unknown corners of the galaxy. I thought that the story would somehow repeat itself based on patterns from other games. I was wrong, because from this point on, the way the plot works, the development of the characters, and the expansion of the world around is something I didn’t expect.

Jacob is freed from prison by Dr. Caitlyn Mahler, who convinces him that he can cure Dani’s infection from killing her. He unravels all the mysteries and helps us understand the entire prison staff and their warden, Duncan Cole. Cole is trying to end the so-called Callisto Protocol, which is supposed to advance human evolution and make it better.

Josh Duhamel as Jacob Lee in The Callisto Protocol
Josh Duhamel as Jacob Lee in The Callisto Protocol (Striking Distance Studios, Krafton)

There is an antidote, but it can only be created from the DNA of an alpha alien-zombie. Later in the story, Jacob learns that he had amnesia. Before he lost his memories, he knew what the UJC was and that they had used his ship to transport samples of alien larvae. He ignored this fact because of the large payouts they were giving him to keep his mouth shut and not harm the cargo in any way.

Jacob treats Dani and helps her escape with all the evidence to expose the UJC. He stays in prison to destroy what he can and is attacked by the still-living Alpha zombie.

Although The Callisto Protocol has a very intriguing and mysterious story with elements of serious motives, it is very predictable at many points. Not only because of familiar horror themes from older games but because the overall story sometimes tries too hard to be more serious.

Creative but repetitive gameplay

Playing The Callisto Protocol is easier than you might think, a major achievement for the studio that created it, and a whole lot of extra perks to take advantage of. Among them are telekinesis, a greater focus on melee combat instead of using weapons, giving us tips on how to effectively defeat certain enemies, and much more. It really feels like the Dead Space games, but with a touch of gameplay from Dying Light only in third-person view.

After unlocking GRP, the feeling that the game is difficult fades slightly, as the power to grab enemies in the air/telekinesis appears and you can use many objects that are around. Sure, it gives you a bloodbath, guts spilling everywhere, and everything a zombie game should do, but frankly, I got bored with it after doing the same thing over and over again.

There are two boss fights that are supposed to be really scary, but unfortunately, they don’t pose much of a threat.

Even with all these “negatives”, I should mention that the atmosphere of The Callisto Protocol is the thing that will make you want to play this game. Each corridor in the prison is different and varies in detail, making the place vivid and frightening.

During your journey, you can encounter jump-scares, Dead Space Easter eggs, and much more. This is sure to make your gameplay more enjoyable than other similar titles in the horror genre. The game as a whole is not the best in its genre, but it gives a different experience from previous titles, and opinions about the game mechanics vary greatly.

My rating for this game:
★★★/♥♥♥

The Callisto Protocol is now available to play on Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and on PC. Have you played this game? What do you think so far? Let us know on social media or The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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