The primary few hours of The Callisto Protocol are a few of the greatest horror I’ve performed in latest reminiscence. It merges traditional Resident Evil-style survival horror with the manufacturing values of a next-gen sport to create one thing actually terrifying — I sincerely dreaded having to slowly make my method by the crumbling house jail the place the sport is about, figuring out that some new horror awaited me. It’s not very authentic, however the sport is brutal and violent and genuinely scary. Sadly, that sense of terror was ultimately changed by frustration, as the sport turned plagued with jarring issue spikes that utterly destroyed the stress.
First, a disclaimer: I haven’t really completed The Callisto Protocol. But it surely’s not for an absence of attempting. After round 10 hours, I made it to what I imagine is the ultimate boss (that is perhaps wishful pondering, however it certain felt prefer it), solely to spend one other few hours fruitlessly attempting to defeat it. I’ve given up for now. There are solely so many instances you may watch the principle character get ripped in half earlier than you want a pleasant, lengthy break.
Early on, although, I used to be very a lot having fun with my time with the sport. The Callisto Protocol is developed by Hanging Distance Studios, a brand new group from PUBG firm Krafton that’s helmed by Useless House creator Glen Schofield. (At one level, the sport was really set within the PUBG universe in an ill-fated try at model synergy.) It takes place in a most safety jail on Callisto, a supposedly useless moon of Jupiter, and also you play as Jacob, a contract supply man who takes a foul job and finally ends up locked inside. Nearly instantly, issues go incorrect when a virus begins turning the inmates into zombie-like creatures. Earlier than he may even get acquainted along with his cell, Jacob is compelled to search out his method out of the jail and off the moon.
There’s little or no about The Callisto Protocol that’s authentic. The obvious affect is Useless House. It mainly seems like a religious successor, from the holographic UI to the fight that entails eradicating zombie limbs to the truth that you must stomp on corpses to get ammo and well being. There are many different clear references as effectively — enemies that look ripped proper out of Resident Evil, or the brutalist jail that appears prefer it belongs in an Alien spinoff.
This by no means actually bothered me although, primarily as a result of it’s all so effectively completed. Callisto is an old-school survival tackle horror, which implies it’s extraordinarily linear; most of your time is spent slowly trudging by hallways, whether or not they’re underground caves or corridors linking the jail collectively. It’s the type of extremely directed expertise that’s turn out to be one thing of a rarity in blockbuster video games. It really works as a result of each facet of the expertise — the sound design, the darkish environment, the sluggish and heavy fight — is tuned for optimum scares. Few of the methods the sport makes use of are novel; in actual fact, it’s stuffed with online game cliches. There are plentiful bounce scares to make you suppose twice about opening a locker in quest of ammo, lest an alien parasite leap onto your face.
I’ve seen all of these items earlier than, and but I used to be nonetheless terrified. Partly this comes right down to the extremely lifelike visuals, which make each house zombie look excruciatingly ugly, significantly if you’re beating them to demise with a steel bar and seeing the blood fly. A few of the demise animations are downright disturbing. Callisto’s builders additionally use tried-and-true methods like dim lighting, fog, and even a snowstorm to obscure the terrors, making the jumps hit even more durable. I additionally couldn’t play this sport with headphones on as a result of the 3D audio was merely an excessive amount of; listening to zombies skitter round within the vents above made me rip the headphones proper off. I needed to pause the sport usually to catch my breath.
And regardless of being a largely linear sport, Callisto offers you a stunning quantity of freedom for a way you strategy issues. There’s melee fight, a variety of weapons you improve over time, and even a high-tech glove that mainly offers you Power powers so you may decide up issues (or zombies) and toss them round. I used to be keen on stealth as a lot as I may handle, however as a result of this can be a survival horror expertise, with comparatively restricted ammo and well being, I used to be compelled to make the most of just about each device to fend off the zombies. This was very true as soon as I used to be confronted with extra difficult foes; there are zombies that evolve in the event you don’t kill them quick sufficient, and others that skitter across the partitions like spiders. Some crawl as much as you simply to blow up. (I hate them.)
For the primary half or so of the sport, it has glorious pacing. I’d discover myself methodically clearing out areas of the jail, entering into some tense scrapes alongside the way in which, earlier than having the ability to catch my breath (and make amends for the numerous, many audio logs) in one of many secure rooms. It was a pleasant stability between exploration, storytelling, and fight. I didn’t even thoughts a few of the hilariously misplaced online game conventions, just like the copious graffiti (it’s exhausting to imagine anybody would write “shoot the tentacles” on a wall in blood earlier than they die) or the by some means still-functioning 3D printing merchandising machines for upgrading your weapons and kit. Up till then, Callisto was proper there with Signalis as my favourite horror sport of the yr to date.
After which I hit the problem spikes.
The primary concerned waves of enemies that I needed to battle off whereas ready for a service elevator to succeed in its vacation spot. Quickly after that, the sport began throwing enormous bosses at me that required nearly good timing to defeat, since one hit would imply demise. Even after I turned the problem to its lowest attainable setting, a few of these sequences would take me an hour or extra to efficiently get by.
These moments have been irritating as a result of they destroyed that rigorously directed pacing, but additionally for a number of different causes. To begin, Callisto’s fight is sluggish and brutal, which is ideal for a steadily-paced horror sport. However the enemy waves and boss battles felt extra like an motion sport, and the controls are far too clunky to be operating round and capturing (and utilizing the Power) on the identical time. I died loads of instances simply because it took so lengthy to change my weapon. The sport additionally tends to have checkpoints begin on the worst attainable second, so that you simply’re returning to the sport on the precise second a boss is speeding at you, supplying you with no time to organize. And a few of the bosses simply really feel downright unfair. One-hit kills in a sport that’s in any other case surprisingly forgiving do nothing to make the sport extra enjoyable or scary. They’re simply irritating.
These points are exacerbated by Callisto’s linear nature. In the event you’re caught at an unforgiving sequence, there isn’t a lot else you are able to do apart from brute power your method by it (or take a pleasant calming stroll, as I did a number of instances).
I needed to surrender many instances all through the sport, however I powered by due to how a lot I dug the start of the sport. However ultimately a multi-stage boss battle broke me and I needed to cease. That is what makes The Callisto Protocol so disappointing. It does a lot effectively, and an enormous proportion of the sport is a blast. It’s the type of high-end horror expertise that doesn’t actually exist outdoors of Resident Evil. However then it sours issues with issue that provides completely nothing to the expertise. Ultimately, the scariest factor is the wasted potential.
The Callisto Protocol launches December 2nd on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Sequence X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.