Dead Space (2008) was a game that blew up the gaming industry. It was terrifying and intense, and it made us squirm in the seats.
Glen Schofield, Dead Space’s director is now back with The Callisto Protocol. His new studio took the best from that classic and turned it up to 11.
Karen Fukuhara (The Boys’ star) says that she asked the boys what kind of game they wanted to make. She plays Dani Nakamura, the central character in The Boys. “And they said they wanted it the scariest survival horror video ever made.”
The Callisto Protocol will never be a household name, but it is creative enough to get your blood pumping.
The Callisto Protocol puts you in the shoes Jacob Lee (played by Josh Duhamel), who is fighting for his life in a prison colony located on Jupiter’s moon. Callisto is home to something more sinister than prison. Many of its inhabitants have become violent, grotesque mutants known as the Biophage.
Biophages can be anything from monstrosities the size of zombies to more evolved aberrations that are eager to take your head off your spine in a flash. You will have to battle your way through their ambush. The game isn’t scary because of the creatures. It’s actually all around them.
Director Schofield states, “The truth is that everything leads up to a jump-scare or some kind of scare.” “Because there is no tension without a scare at its end or somewhere else. All of it is building towards something.
Schofield says that Callisto takes inspiration from films like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, and also films like Alien, The Thing, and it shows. It keeps you on your toes. As you walk down darkened, bloody corridors, you’ll hear the monsters growl and scuffling in vents. Eventually, one of them will suddenly jump on you from the shadows and force you to fight your way out.
Also, the sound design is excellent. Immersive audio adds to the feeling of uneasiness. To add to the game’s spooky soundscape, the devs created the Apprehension Engine, a special instrument that makes creepy sounds.
Even doors can be frightening. They grunt and groan when they open the door to the next area. This exposes trails of mutilated bodies and the reverberating shrieks all around them.
Despite the grim setting, there is still plenty of interesting lore to be found through audio logs. There are also touching moments that help move the story forward. You get to know the characters and feel their pain, which gives you reason to keep going and follow their path.
All guts, all gorey
However, the game earns 100% its “Mfor Mature 17+” rating. It features “Blood and Gore”, and “Intense Violation.”
You will die. You will die if you engage in combat. Jacob will be pulverized, dismembered and sliced in every way possible to remind you of your failures. Successive players will witness the same fate as their opponents, which is extremely satisfying.
You’ll soon learn the game’s “kill-or-be-killed” rhythm. Callisto comes with a large arsenal. This includes a shotgun and a hand cannon. You also have the Gravity Restraint Projector, (GRP), that allows you to pick up enemy players and throw them into fan blades or other dangers. This is a substantial upgrade to survival horror games that might include a knife or bullets for your pea shooter.
“My thought was, “nah, you can have more than that.” It’s possible to have more and still be in survival horror. Schofield said, “We’ve really made it in your face.” “I believe that we really improved the combat in horror games.”
Schofield describes Callisto as “a thinking person’s horror-game.” It allows for some strategy with your equipment, but combat is so up-close-and-personal that you’ll likely be overrun and overwhelmed, wildly swinging at the nearest foe, and one mistake can be fatal.
You can use a reactive dodge mechanic where you push left or right to pass through telegraphed threats. Jacob will tire if you do so too often. It’s important to use your ranged weapons and accessories, as well as have a plan in place for when you run low on ammo.
The Callisto Protocol is a reprinting of familiar survival horror game mechanics, but it offers an important update to what made Dead Space such an iconic classic.
There is a lot of bloodshed but there is an interesting story underneath. The compelling performances humanize the characters as you uncover the backstory behind Jacob and Dani and the Black Iron Prison.
This is not an easy task, but it’s worth the effort if you’re willing to put in the work. Although it’s difficult and frustrating, with some determination and grit, you can make it through. Be prepared to see Jacob’s face get ripped off several times.