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The Callisto Protocol Review – A Shotgun from the Past | Game

The Callisto Protocol Review – A Shotgun from the Past |  Game

ONEA huge amount of effort has gone into making the derelict spaceship and monstrous creatures of The Callisto Protocol look, sound and feel realistic, but this sci-fi horror revival from some of the creators of Dead Space is still going strong pure video game logic. Why is a prison colony orbiting Jupiter so elaborately decorated with spiked tapestries? Why does each floor collapse just as the hapless space-truck hero Jacob trips over it, on his way to press the button to drop the bridge to reach the door to loot the room to get the fuse to fix the power to ring the elevator? And why are all the monsters—who look like raging tangles of teeth and chicken legs, perhaps the beginnings of an excellent soup, if only they stopped screaming and grew new claws—burning up everything from bullets to health kits when Jacob has hacked them to death?

It’s technologically cutting edge, but in spirit this is a mid to late 00’s action game. Best to take your common sense to that gun manufacturer and see if you can’t replace it with some shotgun shells.

The Callisto Protocol Review – A Shotgun from the Past |  Game
Combat is the game’s only innovation… the Callisto Protocol. Photo: Striking Distance Studios

Combat is really the game’s only innovation, but it’s a biggie, simultaneously its biggest selling point and stumbling block. After the tutorial introduces us to the Black Iron Prison, we’re introduced to the Callisto triad of weapons: long-range weapons (damage is given to limbs individually, so it’s satisfying to blast an enemy’s legs to slow progress. and advantageous); Stun Baton (a kind of electrified cricket bat); and the GRP, a telekinetic magic gauntlet that allows Jacob to pull enemies closer, hurl chunks of nature at them, or hurl them at one of the aforementioned spiked walls for an instant kill.

All of this feels huge: things crunch and splatter as Jacob flings and punches his way through the space prison, lifting enemies into the air with his Jedi gauntlet and cannonballing them into the whirring teeth of a floor-to-ceiling chipper. (Why is there a chipper in space?) But then come the boss monsters. Aesthetically, they are more of the same, though bigger, with multiple limbs or heads sprouting out of places they shouldn’t. But in gameplay terms, they only differ in the amount of bullets they can absorb (read: more than you have), and their attacks all kill you in one hit. Put one foot wrong and you lose your foot – or your foot may be all that’s left of you, depending on which gruesome movie scene you’ve triggered. It’s frustrating, and along with a dramatic increase in difficulty in the second half, contributes to the feeling that this match may have been completed in a bit of a hurry.

The Callisto Protocol
A place you shouldn’t be… The Callisto Protocol. Photo: Striking Distance Studios

For 15 hours this feels like a place you shouldn’t be. Everything, from the smallest in-your-face pit to the biggest monstrosity, wants you dead. In those rare moments of respite where you have enough time to pause and look around, Black Iron Prison delivers a powerful and consistent sense of dread, along with a shot of nostalgia for survival horror games whose action boils down to truck driving through predictable blackouts , body horror and cartoonish evil conspiracies.

Do I remember why Jakob ended up on the scene with the giant chipper? No. But I do remember forcing a thing with too many heads into it and watching it burst like an arrabbiata piñata. At the end, not much felt new – but I had phantom cramps from swinging the electrified baton, and a strong need to sit down and have a cup of tea. I felt like I had survived – which is exactly what this game is all about.

The Callisto protocol is out now; £49.99.

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