We can’t deny that The Callisto Protocol was one of the most anticipated games for us in 2022. We had high hopes for the team at Striking Distance, and how could we not when there’s Glen Schofield at the helm of the studio. When the game’s release date was revealed, we were surprised. How will a new studio established in 2019 be able to release its game in just 3 years?
Also, how could anything go wrong with the development of The Callisto Protocol, as it comes to us from the main team that worked on the Dead Space trilogy, so much so that we can call it the fourth part of the series, but with a different name. Despite some apprehensions, our hopes were still high, and we expected that we were facing one of the most powerful survival horror games in history. Unfortunately, all those high expectations that we set have returned to our head like bombs, because The Callisto Protocol lacks many of the basics that we expect to see in any game released during the year 2022.
The story of The Callisto Protocol is disappointing
Set in the year 2320, the game follows Jacob Lee (played by the amazing Josh Duhamel) and his friend Max Barrow, who work as freight forwarders for the United Jupiter Corporation (UJC). Their current shipment has no information on it, and is a shipment destined from Europa to the Black Iron prison on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. They were promised that the profits they would get from this shipment would be enough to retire for life without having to work again.
While flying the cargo, a terrorist group led by Dani Nakamura (played by Karen Fukuhara) boards their spaceship, and things get turned upside down as they land on the surface of Callisto. With Dani and Jacob, the only survivors, they are taken to Black Iron Prison on the orders of the warden. After the painful prison entry process, Jacob wakes up to see that the prison has been overrun by prisoners with an unknown disease, and now he must survive this horror, and try to get out of prison in any way.
The problem with the game’s story is that it’s weak from start to finish. The first 4 hours of the game (about 33% of it) are spent being ordered to do some similar things, and when the story finally starts to take a step forward, it’s a weak step that doesn’t really do anything. By reaching the end of the game, we discover the person behind the outbreak of this unknown disease, and frankly its causes are Cliche and we have witnessed many similarities in other movies or games.
In general, the story of The Callisto Protocol, which lasts for more than 10 hours, aims to build a completely new world that will be developed in the future. Although there are some good moments in the game, it’s not the best thing overall. If you want to enjoy a strong story in this world, we advise you to listen to the Helix Station podcast, which tells what happened before the events of the game. This podcast has a story that is much stronger than the game itself!
We can’t make a firm opinion about the gameplay
Hand-to-hand combat is ruined by a sterile avoidance system
Since The Callisto Protocol is a survival horror experience, there aren’t a lot of shots you can use to kill enemies, and most of the time you’ll have to resort to hand-to-hand combat with a stick. This wand is the basis of the encounters in the game, and to be honest, we had a lot of fun with the close encounters.
The idea here is that every blow you hit an enemy shows its effect on him, whether by severing limbs or splattering blood all over the place. We love the violence and strong action in games, but unfortunately it doesn’t always stay the same here because of the sterile avoidance system that the game offers.
The dodging system requires you to use the same buttons that you use to move the character to avoid attacks either left or right. Over time, the experience of The Callisto Protocol becomes something like this:
- Dodge the first attack on the right, then the second on the left
- Hit the enemy with two or three strikes
- Now the enemy starts hitting you with two or three hits and you have to dodge them right or left
- Then it’s your turn to hit the enemy
This is one of the most boring combat modes I’ve seen in 2022. Add to that the fact that it becomes much more difficult to avoid enemy strikes when you find yourself facing more than two or three enemies, and any mistake from you will result in your death, which will send you back to the previous save area, and now you have to Repeat a few minutes of the game again until you reach this confrontation and start the same boredom again.
The game has stealth and stealth, but its presence is like its absence
The Callisto Protocol offers you a stealth and stealth system to kill enemies without making a fuss. But the system is very weak and only works on some enemies, as there are strong enemies that you cannot eliminate in one fell swoop. In addition, the knife you kill enemies with in disguise cannot be upgraded throughout the game’s events, which makes the stealth system weak and not many players will enjoy it.
Fortunately, gunfights are great
Our dislike of hand-to-hand confrontations does not apply to long-range confrontations, as the weapons that the game offers you such as the pistol, the Shotgun, and the Assault Rifle at the end of the game provide you with an extremely enjoyable experience. There is nothing better than firing various shots at enemies and seeing blood and body parts splatter in the environment.
The element we liked the most about the game is the enemy grab gauntlet, which allows you to lift enemies into the air, then throw them against the spiked walls for a quick kill. This gauntlet needs to be charged constantly, so the game ensures that it does not use its capabilities to quickly kill all the enemies around you, which is a good idea.
Throughout Black Iron Prison you will find upgrade tables. In this place, you can upgrade all the weapons you own so that your strength is the same as that of the enemies, especially since the game becomes more difficult with progression. The idea of upgrade tables is similar to Dead Space where you can also sell some resources to get money to upgrade.
In short, when all the gameplay elements are mixed together, we end up with a fairly entertaining experience. Hit the enemy two or three times and they’ll show you a quick weak point you can shoot at, then lift another enemy into the air and fling them away for a quick kill. This combo is unique, but it needed some improvements (especially in the dodging point) in order to make the gaming experience more enjoyable. We also want to quickly talk about the enemies, which varied quite well throughout the action of the game. Unfortunately, this diversity does not apply to the confrontation of the leaders, as they had a noticeable repetition. But in general, the enemies were all great and their designs were really terrifying!
You built a wonderful world, but you don’t want us to explore it?
Black Iron Prison is one of the scariest areas I’ve seen in recent times. Each area of the prison is designed more than wonderfully, and each stage has its own character that possesses you strongly and makes you feel awe and fear at every step. Unfortunately, the game does not have any kind of exploration!
We don’t have any problem with linear games, and sometimes I’d rather enjoy those games at the expense of open worlds. But the world of The Callisto Protocol is wonderful in every sense of the word, and we wanted to explore more of this prison because every area of it draws you in. Just add more sideways while expanding some key story areas. We want to immerse myself more in this world, but the very simple linear design doesn’t help me, and we often find myself moving through the story and events faster than we expected.
The Callisto Protocol’s graphics and audio are some of the best in the industry
Most realistic graphics I’ve ever seen
We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we said that The Callisto Protocol’s graphics are the best we’ve seen in the history of the gaming industry, especially the characters’ faces. The motion capture of all the characters here was more than perfect, and the amount of detail in the facial graphics makes some scenes look like real scenes and not inside a game!
The surprising thing here is that the game is based on the latest version of the Unreal Engine 4 engine, let alone how the new part of the series will look on the Unreal Engine 5 engine. We expect that we will be facing a wonderful technical boom in the industry.
It applies not only to the design of the main characters and famous actors, but also to everything in the game environment. Striking Distance’s attention to detail surprised me. Every corner of the Black Iron Prison is filled with picturesque details, clouds, steam, lights, and shadows. The atmosphere of the game attracts you and makes you blend in with everything around you, and herein lies the most important sense of terror in the game. Even the design of the creatures and monsters you encounter, specifically the design of blood and body parts flying through the air, was beyond excellent. There are some violent death shots in the game, and it seems that the studio paid more attention to detail here because it is extremely realistic and disgusting!
Sound effects and acting performance
Sound effects play an essential role in any horror game because they are considered half the experience, and here the sound effects are beyond excellent. 3D sound is used in The Callisto Protocol which makes you feel anything moving around you behind the walls or on the ceiling, which sometimes sends you into a panic attack especially as enemies approach you.
All sounds in the game are designed very professionally. The sound of weapons, the sound of enemies and their cries, the sound of blood and body parts when hitting enemies with hand weapons. All these things when combined together make the Callisto experience a masterpiece in terms of sound design, so do not play this game without powerful headphones that provide you with surround sound.
We have no comment on voice acting, as we are here in front of veteran actors who have given us many wonderful roles previously. Although the main character is a simple character in terms of purpose and motivation, we liked it because of Josh Duhamel’s acting. Also, we can’t forget the amazing Karen Fukuhara as Dani. We loved her in The Boys, and we love her again in The Callisto Protocol.
Technical performance has been improved after the new update
The Callisto Protocol game, on the day of its release, suffered from a major technical problem on the PC platform, which made the game unplayable for many users. In short, this issue was causing the game to suffer from constant stuttering every few seconds and the overall experience was unacceptable. You can read more about this problem in this report.
Fortunately, an update to the game released a day after the release solved most of the stuttering issues, and the game is now a much smoother experience than before. The problem was not completely resolved, but the game has become better now. Our experience of the game was on an average personal computer with the following specifications:
- Intel Core I3 10100F processor
- 16 GB of DDR4 RAM at 2666 MHz
- NVMe M.2 SSD
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 8 GB
We were able to play the game at 1080p with the settings between Medium and High, and in return we got an average of about 60fps with no issues most of the time. We were also able to enable ray tracing for reflections and shadows, but as expected framerates dropped to an average of 30 (or even lower in some situations). We do not recommend trying the game with ray tracing technology unless you have an RTX 3070 card or higher. The game did not consume much processor power (average 30-40%), and the graphics card consumption reached 99% most of the time, and this is what is required. Currently, there is only one problem with gaming technologies that the AMD FSR 2.0 technology does not work as it should, and in general the performance is not optimized as you would like it to be. Also, the game does not support Nvidia DLSS technology at the time of release.
Tip: If you are not interested in trying the game with ray tracing technology, change the DirectX in the game from 12 to 11, and you will find that the game performance has become better with a noticeable increase in frames.
The Callisto Protocol ingredients could have made it a delicious recipe we’d enjoy for years to come, but the chef who made the dish forgot to include some essential spices, and the end product was disappointing. Fortunately, this game aims to be just the beginning in a giant horror series, and it is supposed to open the way for many future parts, so we hope the studio learns from its mistakes because we really want to see more of this world!
Hawke Centre evaluation
- Story and characters: 5
- Playstyle: 6
- Graphics, acoustics, and voice acting: 9
- Technical performance after the last update: 8
- A wonderful world that opens the way for a powerful series
- The gameplay shines at times
- Good variety of enemies
- The graphics are the best in the gaming industry without a doubt
- Excellent sound effects and music
- Great acting performance, and the best character design
- The latest update has significantly improved technical performance
- The story grabbed us from start to finish
- Hand combat suffers due to the parry system
- The world needed some expansion to be exploreable