Howdy hidey ho! I’m a massive Dead Space fan: the first game in the series is STILL one of my favorite modern horror games of all time! That pretty much means I absolutely had to give The Callisto Protocol a chance. The thing is: this game is made by many of the same devs that made Dead Space… Does that mean I’m in for something new and horrifying, or familiar and horrifying?
…combat is quite a bit more dynamic than… Dead Space.
It’s immediately familiar. Well, at least for someone who’s played Dead Space. They follow an almost rigidly similar formula, and that means a slow, methodical pace of exploration dotted with combat against horrors beyond your comprehension. Fortunately, that second part is where there’s a difference: the combat is quite a bit more dynamic than the limb-severing nature of Dead Space. Instead, this game opts to make encounters up close and personal… and I love it. Melee combat is visceral and deliberate, and if you so much as assume you can hack-and-slash your way through, you’ll die the death you deserve. The tools work the way they’re supposed to if you conserve ammo, move, and attack with intent. The auto-lock shoot combo could use a little polish among other things (sometimes you take blows even though the enemy attack animation was interrupted), but the fundamental combat system is sound. So while you’ve got exploration that is a bit TOO familiar (and delightfully UN-guided, thanks to Elden Ring once again making this acceptable), the combat system expects you to “get good”. And believe it or not, the hours begin rolling by pretty quickly as you press on through the mystery.
…I ended up better off having gotten it on Steam…
And it all comes to a head in about 10-12 hours. The thing is… this game is focused: there is no side content. In fact, there isn’t really anything other than the main campaign which purposely ends on a cliffhanger. You COULD force yourself to try some different weaponry, but you don’t even get a New Game+ or anything to encourage this: it’s just… done. In this lies a bit of a serious problem and also why I ended up better off having gotten it on Steam: I paid $10 less. However, while the campaign isn’t exactly done in a single sitting or two, the complete and utter lack of anything else to do at all leaves me with little choice but to lambast the game for coming in at full price, nay $10 MORE for people who buy it on consoles. Ouch.
…show your friends the power of a Steam Deck.
Playing this handheld on such a small screen, you’ll find it hard not to be impressed by what’s being pulled off graphically. Sure, you’ll have to cap it at 30fps for obvious stability reasons, but there’s no denying this is definitely a game you can use to show your friends the power of a Steam Deck. I’m not going to pretend it’s perfect, though: expect heavy framerate dips in certain areas and some occasional visual bugs. Of course, that leads into the game’s core problem: optimization. There are a lot of asset streaming stutters that occur when loading between major “areas”, something that seems mostly down to the fact that the game is designed to scale down to last gen hardware while ALSO taking advantage of current gen SSDs. This is painfully obvious in how often you have to squeeze through “loading sequences”. But if you can drudge past the hiccups and stutters, the game pulls off quality work that I can’t deny will only get better as they patch and stabilize the game. Shifting gears into the story is where I don’t spoil anything, but properly prepare you on what to expect: humans are evil. Yup, humans doing stupid things to accomplish dreams at the cost of other humans. Geez, isn’t it kind of crazy that humans can be so stupidly evil that we feel the need to put it into our movies and videogames as a cautionary tale time and time again? Of course, the use of proper actors actually comes through this time to deliver this story by making believable characters.
…isn’t as good as the original Dead Space.
I got what I expected: something familiar and horrifying. And I thoroughly enjoyed it even if it simply isn’t as good as the original Dead Space. The exploration is definitely a bit of a copy-pasta, but the combat was refreshingly up-close and brutal. The game punishes you for not respecting its combat methods, and in turn, I respect that. It’s such a pity, then, that the game is wholly linear and completely lacks any reason to turn it back on after the credits roll. And while the game is good-looking on the Steam Deck to surprising effect, it does need a few more layers of polish in the optimization arena to run the way it should. All of this is wrapped up in a cautionary tale about the horrors of humankind’s curiosity and desperation to aspire, though, and I can’t deny it kept me glued to my couch. Give me… MORE.