The scifi horror game can't escape it's clear insipiration but it might have been better for it to try something new.
THE CALLISTO PROTOCOL made no secret it was Glen Schofield's DEAD SPACE spiritual successor, and while the game looks incredible on next gen hardware and has a pretty intriguing plot it is held back by some punishing gameplay.
While DEAD SPACE was all about resource management and strategic targeting, CALLISTO wants you just to dodge and melee your foes, leaving little variation in the moment to moment combat.
I love this genre so I found I was able to persist through to the final credits, but if you're not a big fan of stories of evil space capitalists ruining it for everyone you mileage may vary.
Space capitalism strikes again
Jacob Lee our gruff beardy space pilot protagonist is hurtled onto the frozen moon of Callisto and soon finds himself manacled and locked up into the monstrous Black Iron Prison built there.
It's not long before all hell breaks loose and biophage zombie inmates are tearing the place apart as you battle through increasingly destroyed environments plagued by fleshy walls and pustules.
The environment you move through look pretty fantastic, they are detailed and distinct each suffering from various levels of decay, and you'll visit garden domes, rusty soviet looking work camps and bloody hospital hallways.
A major trade off with each of these highly detailed areas is the linear progress and the hundred or so small gaps or vents that you need to shimmy through as the game obviously unloads the area behind you.
There are a lot of these and outside of a few rare instances are mostly pretty samey small corridors that slow down the gameplay a lot, so I hope you enjoy crawling through vents.
This game loves a jump scare but it uses them so frequently halfway through my playthrough I was anticipating exactly what was going to jump out next.
There is a big overarching story of secret societies and the dangers of space capitalism, think Weyland Utani from Alien or UAC from DOOM (2016), but the story does enough to keep you moving through each zone.
On the PlayStation CALLISTO makes good use of the controller's builtin speaker to deliver radio messages and audio logs that you find, it's a neat little narrative design choice but it would have been nice to play these logs and be able to keep moving.
Zeke Alton who plays fellow inmate Elias your early guide and ally as you battle through Black Iron absolutely steals the show but the game is full of solid performances.
A penultimate twist that sort of comes out of no where and fell a bit flat for me, but you don't really have much time to dwell on it, before you're off blasting again.
There is enough intrigue and mystery left in this story which is good, I didn't know everything by the end and I honestly like it that way.
Combat in CALLISTO is all about dodging, if you don't time your movements perfectly you're dead, and it takes a fairly long time to reload so you'll want to stay alive.
There is a quite complex directional dodge system which has you pulling the movement stick backwards and in the opposite direction of incoming attacks which felt nearly impossible to master, so I ended up turning it off really quickly.
Movement feels really slow especially if you're trying to put a bit of distance between yourself and the enemy, so often it was just better to stand still and dodge attacks before the enemy finishes their sequence so you can unload your clip.
There is a really strong emphasis on the melee attack, which is essential for finishing off enemies easily, and some mini bosses will absorb your bullets endlessly unless you clobber them when they are down.
While you can dismember enemies to an extent, that's mostly just to simplify their attack patterns, and you'll be stomping corpses to pick up items and prevent baddies from mutating and respawning.
An obligatory stealth section in the back half of the story where you're warned to not make a sound mixes up the gameplay a bit, but it's again a pretty similar stalk and stab to take out all your foes.
This isn't really a boss fight heavy game, you'll mostly be running into similar enemies throughout the base as you try to escape, to all of which you'll need to dodge then bash. If you can master that you'll be fine.
In space no one can hear you scream
Ultimately THE CALLISTO PROTOCOL is a pretty enjoyable linear experience that is marred by a few odd control decisions that hold it back and a difficulty curve that felt too punishing.
Do yourself a favour crank the diffficult right down and turn on dodge assist and you'll get the absolute best out of this moody scifi action game.
Even with the easiest difficulty I found myself dying in ways that felt almost impossible to avoid and it sucked.
If you can push through all that that it's a solid science fiction adventure.
A copy of THE CALLISTO PROTOCOL on PlayStation 5 was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review.