It is undoubtedly one of the most awaited titles of the end of the year. The Callisto Protocol is perhaps the next reference in terms of horror games. Developed by Striking Distance Studios, with Glen Schofield at the head of the project (to whom we owe the Dead Space license), The Callisto Protocol promises to be the spiritual sequel to Dead Space.
Scarier than ever, with a very dark, visceral side, a gloomy and scary atmosphere. This title is likely to make a lot of talk. At the beginning of October, we were received by the development teams to play the game for two hours. After a presentation in August at Gamescom, it was up to us to put our hands on the game and make ourselves beautiful scares.
The Callisto Protocol: the next standard in horror games?
The part of the game that we had the opportunity to discover is precisely the famous demo that was presented at Gamescom. Of course, we had the right to an entire sequence of 2 hours and not the short version of eight minutes for the trailer of the Opening Night Live.
The preview begins in what looks like a sewage treatment plant, with dirty water that comes up to our waists. First slap: the use of the DualSense. If we have been amazed lately by A Plague Tale Requiem which is undoubtedly the most optimized game to date (with Astro Bot) on the use of the PS5 controller, we are also very surprised by The Callisto Protocol.
In the water, we feel thanks to the haptic vibrations the famous movements of the character. Whether it’s the steps, but also the current of the water, you can feel everything in the DualSense. It’s a treat and it clearly brings a big plus to the immersion.
Our long and painful journey begins and we are already facing the first monsters. The Callisto Protocol features very heavy gameplay. It is necessarily intended, to add a little anxiety to the situations. And it really works. You can attack with your weapon, when you have (very) scarce ammo. You have a telescopic baton that allows you to fight melee. Without forgetting your GRP (a gravitational weapon) which offers you the possibility of seizing your enemies from a distance to bring them closer to you or swing them in the void, on an object or on other opponents.
Clearly, if you plan to rush into the heap with The Callisto Protocol, you will quickly become disillusioned. The game is hard, it does not offer a difficulty mode. You will have to start again and again certain passages. The Striking Distance Studios teams are not giving us any gifts. You will have sequences with three or four enemies attacking at the same time and it becomes very difficult to manage all this beautiful little world.
As bad news never comes alone, we have the famous creatures that transform. Those with tentacles will be able to mutate. To avoid this, you must directly shoot the tentacles of these monsters, to kill them and avoid the mutation. When you have several opponents on you, it becomes a real balancing act.
The slightest misstep, and it’s death. When you face one or two enemies, the mistake can be made up for. On the other hand, when you have too many enemies on your back, if you take too long to aim at a creature or you miss a dodge, it’s over. In turn, your opponents will chain you and it could end very badly for you.
First big weak point of the title, concerning the gameplay, are the dodges. After two hours of play, I still haven’t understood the concept. Rather than making a simple and effective system à la The Last Of Us Part.II where you have to press the right button at the right time, the teams at Striking Distance Studios opted for something that, at the base, seems more immersive, but unfortunately does not work well.
Dodging is done with the left stick. If an enemy attacks you from the left, you must go in the opposite direction to dodge, the same for the right. Alas, this is very random. Also, when you have several monsters on your back, you will dodge to the right, but another will attack you from the left. To make matters worse, it seems that dodges have latency, so you’re going to hammer the controller and the action is going to happen seconds later. Suddenly, it is not uncommon to dodge too much, when it was the perfect time to run and flee. This whole melee part remains quite strange. Clearly, this was no picnic.
But these many clashes (and countless deaths) were the perfect way to discover the different ways to advance in The Callisto Protocol. Proceed slowly, as enemies can appear from anywhere. A ventilation grille in the walls or on the ceiling, in the corners of a room, etc.
Above all, do not abuse a particular weapon. The gameplay has been designed so that you use all the things you have at hand. Ammunition is very scarce. The clinch very hard. And the GRP is not infinite. You’re going to have to alternate between those three really well to get by.
We also had the pleasure of discovering the sequence with the famous creatures which look like spiders and which move very strangely. Dirty critters that can become invisible, that will hide in the dark to jump on you at the last moment.
In just 2 hours of play, we were able to face many enemies with a multitude of distressing situations. In addition to melee, we were able to test other combat techniques, such as helping you from your environment. Thanks to your GRP, you will be able to grab the creatures and throw them into the void or onto traps that are installed all over the prison. And on this point, it’s a little pleasure.
But in The Callisto Protocol, monsters won’t be solely responsible for your death. During this demo, we were able to discover the sequence where our main character is carried away by water. We can tell you that moment was already quite impressive at Gamescom, but playing it really heightens the intensity of the scene. You really feel the sensation of speed and danger every second. The level design and the environment seem to have been ultra-worked by offering quite impressive rooms and scenes.
What about also the soundscape which is one of the most incredible points of the title. Either way, the teams laid the groundwork early on. They really wanted to create (explain the purpose of sound in the game). And it feels. We were able to play with the famous PS5 headsets to taste the 3D audio of the PS5 and it remains very convincing. We hear a multitude of noises, sounds, each more threatening than the other, without ever knowing where it’s coming from and above all… where it’s going to come from!
A very convincing first approach for The Callisto Protocol which has all the cards in hand to become the next reference in sruvival-horror. The title brings together everything that makes the success of this genre. Whether it’s the atmosphere, the sound-design, the aspect of survival with very few resources, and a slow gameplay that hasn’t finished stressing you out. For the moment, the only thing outstanding remains the clinch and the dodges which do not really seem to be in place. We hope that this will be better calibrated for the final release of the title on December 2 on PS5, Xbox Series X / S and PC.