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3 Ways The Callisto Protocol Nails the Horror Genre & 3 Ways It Fails

Image Source: Striking Distance Studios

3 Ways The Callisto Protocol Nails the Horror Genre & 3 Ways It Fails

A beautiful mess.

Striking Distance Studios’ much-anticipated survival horror debut has dropped, and even though it’s getting pretty mixed reviews overall, it’s still nice to see a brand-new horror IP come to fruition. With the dust finally beginning to settle, we thought that now would be the perfect time to dig a little deeper into the sci-fi terror of Black Iron Prison and explore three ways The Callisto Protocol nails the horror genre, as well as three ways it could’ve been better. So, without further delay, let’s dive in, shall we?

Nailed: Exceptional Visuals & Audio

3 Ways The Callisto Protocol Nails the Horror Genre & 3 Ways It Fails
Image Source: Striking Distance Studios

Easily one of the most eye-catching aspects of The Callisto Protocol is how well-realised the world looks aesthetically. From the moody lighting illuminating the claustrophobic corridors of Black Iron Prison to the dusty particle effects wafting in the air, there’s nary a moment where your ol’ eye sockets aren’t happy. Well… except for maybe when your protagonist is having his eyes literally gouged out by some hideous monstrosity, but even then, the gore looks pretty impressive (more on this shortly).

While The Callisto Protocol is home to a lot of a tiny annoyances that soon stack up, its art and audio design is a big accomplishment, especially for such a small-scale developer. Kudos, Striking Distance Studios!

Failed: Dodgy Dodge Mechanic

Image Source: Striking Distance Studios

Even though I proclaimed that The Callisto Protocol isn’t quite the next Dead Space in my review, I still feel that the IP has a lot of promise going forward. But, oh lord, the studio desperately needs to figure out a way to fix the dodge mechanic if they truly want to go toe-to-toe with EA’s legendary survival horror classic.

While the dodge system largely works okay when it comes to one-on-one encounters, the real issues start to rear their mutated head once you start bumping into much larger groups of monsters in the latter half of the game. Not only is it nigh on impossible to see enemies’ attacks when they’re behind you, but it’s easy to start cheesing enemies by simply strafing left or right, which undermines the intensity of the survival horror and trivialises the combat.

Nailed: Oppressive Horror Atmosphere

The Callisto Protocol
Image Source: Striking Distance Studios via Twinfinite

The spine-chillingly oppressive atmosphere in The Callisto Protocol is another one of its most potent assets and this is thanks in large part to its strong visual aesthetic and some expertly crafted audio design. Sure, while those blind, clicking creatures in the latter half of the game are a bit too similar to the Clickers in The Last of Us, they still manage to get under my skin, and I mean that as a compliment.

Some of the areas, like the snowfield overflowing with frozen enemies (as pictured above), are a really neat idea. It partly lulls you into a false sense of security, even though you know in your heart of hearts that one is going to pop out and scare the bejesus out of you. You just don’t know when, and which one it’ll be.

Sometimes, it can be the simple things that can evoke terror, and a handful of The Callisto Protocol’s set-pieces are a timely reminder of this.

Failed: Too Many Annoying QTE Monsters

3 Ways The Callisto Protocol Nails the Horror Genre & 3 Ways It Fails
Image Source: Striking Distance Studios via Dot Esports

The consistent onslaught of monsters that jump out of crates or suddenly grab you is quite a frustrating element of The Callisto Protocol. I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if there was a wee bit of meaningful gameplay to tear them off your body. But, no.

Instead, the game leans on the ol’ mash-the-button-till-it-dies mechanic that we’ve not only seen a million times before, but feels like an antique piece of game design from a bygone era. Ultimately, these QTE encounters strike us as a bit of a cheap scare tactic that chip away at your health, and feel unfair to boot. Not cool.

Nailed: The Gore & Brutality

The Callisto Protocol
Image Source: Striking Distance Studios

If you reflect back on Dead Space‘s most memorable scenes, you’d probably place the grisly and brutal ways that Isaac Clarke gets crushed, eaten, or eviscerated somewhere near the top of the list. In The Callisto Protocol, Striking Distance Studios takes this idea and runs with it.

Not only are the death scenes savage and gory, but there’s quite a lot of variety when it comes to the different ways Jacob Lee gets put six feet under. The worst? Probably the one where he gets his eyes gouged out. *Shivers*

Failed: Regular Weapons Feel Like a Step Back

3 Ways The Callisto Protocol Nails the Horror Genre & 3 Ways It Fails
Image Source: Striking Distance Studios

While the core shooting is totally solid and functions smoothly, the actual guns on offer are pretty boring choices that fly in the face of what we’ve come to expect from an experience that’s trying so ardently to recreate EA’s sci-fi horror classic. You see, one of Dead Space’s most unique selling points was its implementation of dismemberment by utilizing a handful of engineering tools.

Unfortunately, in The Callisto Protocol, players only have access to pistols, shotguns, and an assault rifle, which is weaponry we’ve seen in a million different games. Having a more diverse and creative arsenal would’ve been a huge boon and may’ve even helped to add a little more depth and texture to the game’s moment-to-moment combat.

What did you love and loathe about The Callisto Protocol? Let us know down in the comments below.

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