Beautifully Grotesque

Survival-Horror has never been one of my jams for real, oh yea I love Resident Evil but its more for the story than the scares. I don’t mind being scared or anything, I just don’t actively seek it out, but when I was given the opportunity to check out Callisto Protocol I jumped at the chance. I had just begun playing the original Dead Space earlier this year until the remake was announced and figured this would be a good entry point since it was being done by the creator of DS.

Callisto Protocol wears its inspiration not only on its sleeve but indeed in its very soul. There are some differences to be sure, things like the combat for one but this very much feels like the bit of Dead Space that I had played. Unlike Dead Space, Callisto Protocol waste 0 time into throwing the players into the mix, and that comes at the cost of being confused as #$%!. Players control Jacob Lee who will start off this romp on his ship with his co-pilot and friend (later jump scare extraordinaire), on your last smuggling run that’s gonna set you both up for life. Your ship gets boarded by terrorist who cause you crash land on the moon of Callisto, which just happens to house the Black Iron Prison. Here Jacob and the players will meet a sinister Sam Witwer who portrays the prison head guard Leon Ferris. After some tough guy stuff, Jacob ends up imprisoned just because the Warden says so. Queue the jump scare cutscene and BOOM, we killing monsters, boys!

MSRP: $69.99
Platforms: Xbox (reviewed), PlayStation, PC
Price I’d Pay: $69.99

Seriously, it moves that fast at the beginning and I love some action but sheesh, can a brotha get a little bit of background? Well, the game goes a long time without doing anything but alluding to things like Jacob’s mysterious past, and how he may not be such a great guy. Oh, I forgot to mention that he of course has gaps and things in his memories due to the invasive intake process of the prison. The device that is implanted in the back of his neck (which also doubles as the health display, YAY for multitasking) has punched more holes in his memories than a block of Swiss cheese. Without spoiling any story here, intuitive players will have it figured out well before the credits roll. But let’s be honest you came here for those graphics and some sweet monster killing, amirite?

Well, I have some good news and bad news, the good news is this game is freaking gorgeous. Because I am apparently blind, I overlooked the ‘performance’ mode option and played for much of my time in the superior looking ‘graphics’ mode and boy does it deliver. ‘Beautifully grotesque’ is as good a way as any to describe what players will experience visually. The near realistic character models portrayed by Josh Duhamel, and ‘The Boys’ Karen Fukuhara are incredibly done that when close-up shots occur (and the game doesn’t glitch) its hard to tell it’s just 1’s and 0’s and not the real actor having their arm ripped off for the 12th time. And that friends, brings us to the combat or as I call it ‘Breakdown’ (shout out to those that get the Xbox reference there)

Oh lawd, where to even begin; for starters Callisto tries to differentiate itself by trying something different with its control scheme. For me, it’s a complete miss; I know some folks feel like you can get used to it, but the game mechanics and designs make it a chore. Once players run across one of many scripted encounters with the biophages their left stick (if playing on console like me) will now control their dodge. It’s nice because you can infinitely “move like a butterfly” weaving left and right as long as you rotate directions. But the real problems start to arise when the game throws multiple enemies at Jacob and wait till its ones of various types. With no ‘quick-turn’ option, or even a dodge roll if players aren’t exacting in their footing it can spell death quickly. Nothing wrong with having to watch your footing but give me some sort of an escape as it stands it makes it impossible to do anything other than ensure all enemies are in front and you just whack away with your beat stick. Oh, but there are guns that as players beat enemies with your stick of death will trigger a blue target on a limb of the creature which indicates that Jacob can lock on and fire to remove that appendage… you know like in Dead Space. After the enemy has been felled don’t forget to stomp on them because they can drop ammo and other goodies… like in Dead Space.

The other thing that doesn’t help the combat any is all of the bugs this game seems to have shipped with. I have fallen through the map, I have been jumped by invisible enemies (not the ones who are supposed to be invisible… those exist. Spoiler) and probably a few more issues I can’t think of. The other kind of overarching thing with the game is the overall feeling as if the world is full of molasses and the player is wading through it. Even the camera pans slowly which just further handicaps players ability to walk about from fights unscathed. Lastly for some odd reason once players get the ‘suit’ the difficulty spikes something awful. I never died before that part of the game and then I died constantly, again no problem with difficulty, but this just felt like the developers pulled rug from under me which isn’t fair.

This game wants to be Dead Space really, REALLY, bad, but what’s interesting about that is I haven’t even finished the first Dead Space game and I can see it. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s really not as Callisto Protocol isn’t a trash game at all, they tried some new things with the controls and stuff some of it worked but for me a lot more of it didn’t. The game’s depiction of excessive violence is fun but even it wears on to the point of feeling overboard, especially when you think why they have giant grinding machines in the open like this in the middle of a prison. The story, while predictable, was an enjoyable adventure, but as far as graphics this game looks incredible. But as most of us know by now, looks aren’t everything and so it is with Callisto Protocol.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Some of the prettiest graphics I've seen this year
  • Voice work is great, especially by the main players
  • Lots of bugs and issues at launch
  • Combat just isn’t fun or exciting
Written by
Terrence spends his time going where no one has gone before mostly. But when not planning to take over the galaxy, he spends his time raising Chocobo and trying to figure out just how the sarlaac could pull Boba Fett’s ship with its engines firing FULL BLAST into it’s maw with relative ease; yet it struggled with Han Solo who was gripping *checks notes* SAND!