Almost 15 years ago, Electronic Arts launched Dead Space, a space survival horror as terrifying as it was successful. While waiting for the remake scheduled for January 2023, fans of the genre have an appointment today with The Callisto Protocol. A brand new license, from a rather unknown studio, but nevertheless directed by Glen Schofield, who had participated in the creation of the game signed EA. And as much to say it straight away, The Callisto Protocol is a huge interstellar slap.
Buy The Callisto Protocol on PS5
Dead Space’s spiritual heir
In The Callisto Protocol, we play Jacob Lee, a pilot who will quickly end up in a cell in Black Iron, a futuristic colonial prison (the game takes place in 2320) located on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. Of course, events will quickly change, and the prison will quickly be taken over by monstrous (and deadly) creatures. From the first minutes, The Callisto Protocol poses a classic plot of course, but devilishly effective.
Side inspiration, certainly Dead Space is omnipresent, but The Callisto Protocol also borrows some elements from films such as Alien of course, but also Prometheus, The Thing or Pandorium.
In addition, the game of Striking Distance Studios is also essential from a strictly technical point of view. On next-gen consoles, the graphics are simply sumptuous, the faces are of an impressive photorealism and each element, each decoration has been the subject of incredible care. Added to this are the light effects which are also breathtaking. Only the flames do a little bit here, but overall, The Callisto Protocol is a huge technical slap in the face, which few saw coming.
The on-screen interface is just non-existent, Jacob’s health, as well as the energy of his GRP (a glove that allows you to attract and propel objects and enemies) are displayed directly in his neck. A principle taken (again) from Dead Space, and which is still just as immersive. No map as we said, only a small dynamic inventory (accessible via the Up key) which we will almost never call on in reality. Perfect therefore to avoid any form of breakage of rhythm or atmosphere.
On the gameplay side, The Callisto Protocol allows the player to freely control the camera, installed by default behind the character. The game offers a hand-to-hand combat system, with a rather instinctive and unique dodging system, but also offers its share of upgradable weapons, which will notably allow you to dismember enemies (as in Dead Space yes). The movements are heavy, the fights intense, and we feel the power of the impacts, as well as the difficulty for Jacob to move in certain circumstances.
No open world here, not even a map to get your bearings. The set is very guided, and we manage to find our way without too much trouble. On this subject, we can sometimes escape from the main path to discover various bonuses and/or admire the places, but the game remains very narrative, very linear, and does not allow (for example) any backtracking. No central hub either, The Callisto Protocol constantly advances the player, while revealing a plot again quite conventional, but very effective, in addition to being very nicely staged.
As in a classic survival horror, it will sometimes be necessary to solve small puzzles, but nothing very convoluted, since it will often be a question of repairing a door or an elevator with a simple fuse generally located in an adjacent room. We would have appreciated having to manipulate objects for example, to discover a key or a pass, but so be it. The Callisto Protocol will not make your brain work much, but will play more on your fear, with a permanent tension, supported by sublime graphics as we have said, but also a neat sound design, which greatly contributes to the atmosphere.
Note, during our test, the presence of small audio bugs, with in particular a VF which sometimes tends to desynchronize slightly, not to mention a few rare lines that remained in English.
Shortcomings despite everything
Attention, despite countless qualities, do not think that The Callisto Protocol is free from defects. Thus, in addition to a few slight drops in frame rate and other miscellaneous and varied small bugs on our version (1.004), we happened to pester the checkpoint system more than once. The latter are not very far away, but it will not be uncommon to lose your life, and to have to start over a notch too far, the game having not taken care to save a possible trip to an additional corner (with the objects therein).
Plus, as intense as it is, The Callisto Protocol is also a relatively short game. Our save indicates a total effective play time of 8h01 very precisely (about 10h in reality), with a game completed on Normal difficulty mode. Admittedly, it is much less than the 40/50 hours needed to go around God of War Ragnarök, but the principle is not the same here, and the lifespan turns out “in the norm” for the genre, although I clearly wouldn’t mind an extra hour or two of fun.
On the other hand, you should know that the game signed Striking Distance Studios offers absolutely no replayability. No New Game+, no bonuses to unlock, no new areas to discover, no artwork to watch, nothing, que’tchi, nada, peanuts, walou! Admittedly, the most picky may also wonder why the somewhat unlikely presence of various traps in certain areas, if not obviously to impale / shred / crush the enemies.
The Callisto Protocol also does not allow you to return to previously visited areas, except by resuming an old save. Once the adventure is complete, you can always try the adventure in Hard mode, and try to get your hands on any forgotten recordings and other missing weapons (which shouldn’t happen to you), but apart from that, the potential replayability is non-existent here. You have been warned.
Our opinion on The Callisto Protocol
As long as you are nostalgic for Dead Space and / or fond of survival horror, it is difficult not to take a monumental step with The Callisto Protocol. The game signed Striking Distance Studios invents nothing (or not much), but what a technical slap, what mastery, what atmosphere, what intensity. A “classic” game in its form, not without flaws (lifespan, audio/visual bugs, enemy AI sometimes…), but terribly immersive and effective. In our eyes, the best surprise of this end of the year, and incidentally of one of the best games of 2022 too.
The Callisto Protocol
- What a technical slap!
- What an atmosphere!
- What intensity!
- What tension!
- What violence!
We love less
- Lifespan that will be debated
- No replayability
- Some visual and audio bugs