When I first saw the announcement for The Callisto Protocol it made me think there was a connection to Dead Space. Sure enough, it turns out that Dead Space creator Glen Schofield is behind The Callisto Protocol too, so right away they had my attention.
The Callisto Protocol tells the story of a pilot named Jacob Lee (Josh Duhamel), who, following a crash, is imprisoned without trial and sent to the harsh Black Iron Prison. Not long after his brutal in-processing, Jacob finds things have become a chaotic nightmare. Insane creatures and deadly guard robots are everywhere.
Guided by a fellow inmate, Jacob must escape his cell and run, crawl, vault, and squeeze his way through the prison to accomplish various tasks and to find weapons, ammunition, and the resources he needs to stay alive.
The task is daunting. There are some deadly and abundant enemies on the prowl. Death is a frequent and brutal part of the game as environmental and organic enemies all come into play. There is nothing like the frustration of brushing a spinning chopper in the heat of a battle and seeing your character diced to a pulp to get your adrenaline going.
You’re playing in the third person. You start with a melee weapon and can obtain a pistol, shotguns, and other weapons which can be upgraded along the way. This can be a bit tricky. Resources are limited, and having to decide on health versus ammunition or that really important upgrade and which items to keep or sell at the automated stores makes for some hard choices.
Jacob also has a leash option which allows him to grab and throw many enemies and objects. Tossing an explosive or throwing an enemy into a spiked, shredding, or dangerous area is very enjoyable.
The enemy types are varied and abundant. Players must find a style that works for them. They may have to play various areas frequently to find a tactic that works best. This, in many ways, is a big frustration, especially with boss fights. Survival can come down to simply guessing at the right time, as the player control was sometimes a bit laggy, sometimes drifting right into an enemy when I had instructed them to run.
The last update to the game went a long way toward fixing this, and I saw marked improvements. I was on the final boss after several frustrating near misses, but I was able to win the game on my first try after the patch.
I found the look and story very engaging, but I did have frustration with the slow controls and the effect that had on combat, requiring me to replay some segments more than I wanted in order to get past them.
The dichotomy between the cinematic aspects and gameplay was noticable. I thought the game looked great, and it was appropriately challenging, but exactly how much of that challenge was due to control issues seems to be a matter of public debate. This became more of a topic when the recent updates made areas much easier for players to get through. So, play balance improved because the control issues were addressed, and that isn’t great.
There is a new story DLC promised for the summer and hopefully, the disappointing sales for the game won’t delay this. The game has much going for it, and while it’s no Dead Space, it is a very worthy and enjoyable time for those willing to be patient with it and the issues.
The Callisto Protocol is published by Striking Distance Studios, and is available for PC, PS4, PS5, XBox series X|S, and XBox One.
4 stars out of 5