Let’s find out together, in this review of The Callisto Protocol, if the title of Striking Distance can be a good appetizer before the arrival of Dead Space Remake: the answer is no, by now you will already know, but let’s see together why
It was 2019 when the Striking Distance studio was formed within PUBG Studios (at the time they were still called PUBG Corporation), led by Glen Schofield one of the fathers of Dead Space, with the intention of wanting to expand the PUBG universe: Battlegrounds with narrative and story-driven gameplay. Despite this premise, The Callisto Protocol soon obtained its own identity and completely departed from that initial concept, and not only that, other figures worked on the project as Steve Papoutsis (co-producer of Dead Space), Scott Whitney (designer of the saga of the same name) and Christopher Stone, Animation Director of guess what? That’s right, Dead Space!
In addition, 20-30 other developers from the former Visceral Games and Sledgehammer Games studio have collaborated with Striking Distance Studio on the creation of The Callisto Protocol. So you understand that it was also normal to have a certain type of expectation, but as if that weren’t enough bad marketing choices put the eleven load on us: The Callisto Protocol was advertised as the first game to be a AAAA (quad A), an outstanding horror experience and captivating action gameplay. Will these big boys have succeeded in their endeavor? No. Welcome to our The Callisto Protocol review!
It starts with one thing
For obvious reasons we won’t give you plot spoilers, the only thing we tell you literally happens in the first minutes of the game and this will help us describe one of the main problems of The Callisto Protocol: the lack of freedom given to the player. The game begins with our protagonist Jacob Lee (played by Josh Duhamel) who, together with his partner, Max Barrow are carrying out what for them should have been the last job before a deserved life of ease: a cargo transport from the Black prison Iron to the Europa colony. Just outside Callisto’s security perimeter, Max notices a light on the helm station go on, and it’s up to us to go see what’s going on. Arrived in the back of the ship we notice that we have been boarded by a group of terrorists called Via Extrema and it is at this moment that, theoretically, we should go back to the cockpit without being seen by the enemies. If, on the other hand, as soon as we hear the dialogue, we immediately go back, we can go all the way back, without any terrorists getting on our ship and going back to the cockpit… and nothing happens. Because?
Because the game is programmed so that we, after discovering the boarding, necessarily follow the path that is placed in front of us, making sure that the door behind us is sealed and therefore all subsequent events are triggered, which will allow the progress of the story … and this thing already makes you turn up your nose a little, but we assure you that it is only the tip of the iceberg. Obviously things get ugly, and this is where we can see how the level of Italian dubbing drops drastically, especially in terms of acting (let’s not get too specific to avoid spoilers), but moreover the audio levels themselves are stoned. It will not be strange that during the dialogues the voices of the characters are not heard because they are too low or that even a disturbing noise is heard in the background. With the English dubbing this thing does not happen… and thank goodness! For the rest, following what happens, we will find ourselves in the Black Iron prison as incarcerated together with a terrorist, Dani (played by Karen Fukuhara, Kimiko of The Boys to understand each other) where obviously everything will fall even more apart and we we’ll find ourselves having to escape during… well, we’ll leave that to you to find out!
I don’t know why… | The Callisto Protocol Review: Misplaced Hype and Where to Find It!
And here we are finally in the heart of The Callisto Protocol gameplay, with a camera that inevitably recalls the same shots as Dead Space. However, we can immediately notice that the gameplay of the Striking Distance game immediately has an identity of its own, with a simple addition: the dodge. Holding down the left analog stick while attacking an enemy will cause Jacob to automatically shive, and if the enemy performs a series of attacks in sequence, we will have to alternate the inclination of the stick between right and left to continue dodging until the enemy runs out and we can attack without the risk of being slower than him and taking damage.
As Arsenal Jacob will end up both a white weapon (an Electric Baton) and be it different firearms, starting with the classic pistol. When we attack the monster we will perform a combo, at the end of which a sort of viewfinder will appear on the enemy’s body for one or two seconds: in that window we will be able to aim with the gun (the enemy will be automatically hooked… most of the time at least) and fire from one to three shots depending on how fast we are and the rate of fire of our weapon. In short, as you may have understood, this is extra damage. Add to this the symbolic Stasis glove, with which you will have the opportunity to catch an enemy and throw him, provided you have the charge necessary to perform this action.
…it doesn’t even put how hard you try | The Callisto Protocol Review: Misplaced Hype and Where to Find It!
So far so simple, and on paper it works as well as a thing. The problem is that it actually only works when the enemy is alone. When you face two or more enemies at the same time the matter changes radically, and it is very likely that the confrontation will turn into frustration very soon, because the attacks of the enemies are not coordinated, so it is normal that it happens to find yourself against undodgeable attacks and irreparably take damage. And this only with enemies that attack melee, imagine if you find yourself against a combo of monsters that attack both from close quarters and from a distance (and we assure you that you will find them) and therefore the question: But is there a way to fix this? Yes and no.
By upgrading practically only the truncheon, the stasis glove and the first gun you will receive, with a minimum of coordination between keys and positioning you will be able to manage the hordes of enemies that will come against you, and we will also explain how. cWith the gauntlet you will have control over their positioning, throwing the enemies following the first one that come against you from a distance, with the upgraded truncheon and pistol you will inflict enough damage to kill an enemy before the second one, which you have thrown from a distance, will find itself close to you to attack again. Playing in any other way takes you back to the previous point: anger, frustration and saints of the calendars falling one by one.
On the other hand in one against one you will be practically invincible, because dodging does not need timing and does not need a specific direction: just keep the lever tilted (even going against the wall) and Jacob will dodge any single melee attack regardless , completely destroying the tension of the fight that theoretically we should have heard.
Keep that in mind i designed this rhyme… | The Callisto Protocol Review: Misplaced Hype and Where to Find It!
If all this seems like a big problem to you, and it is, the trouble is that the troubles aren’t over yet. Another piece of information that came from The Callisto Protocol before its release was that, unlike Dead Space, we would not have an indicator for the way forward, and it would have been us who had to find the right path to advance in history. This on paper for a Horror game is an excellent thing, precisely because it manages to do something that Dead Space failed at the time: leave the player prey to their own fears… except that the level design of The Callisto Protocol is as simple as it is basic. Basically the game is a huge corridor, and although at the beginning it is rather well hidden as a thing, as the game progresses this camouflage gradually fades away revealing the game for what it is.
Every now and then we will be able to find crossroads that will lead us to some extra objects (ammunition, treatments, money, audiologs or schematics for weapons) and which may have two options: dead end, so we will have to go back, or we will go all the way around will bring back either a little before or a little after the crossroads we took. If you are wondering, rightly, what is the problem in all this, the answer is soon said: i checkpoint. By taking the right path you will advance in the story, and this you can guess when you trigger a checkpoint on the screen, which is the only way to understand that you are going in the right direction. But if you are a completionist? well in this case you will have to go back and take every single crossroads that you have left behind. Only that going back will not trigger the previous checkpoint, and therefore if you die you will have to redo every single fork each time from the advanced checkpoint you triggered.
If you add to that very limited inventory, whose only way to increase it is to progress through the story and get the space suit, well, you will understand that with all the things you have the possibility to take you will be forced to leave something else behind. Because it is true that there is a shop where you can sell extra things for money (which you will need to upgrade your equipment), but there is no deposit common to all points of sale. Or rather, there really isn’t a storage area where you can leave your extra ammo that you want to save for another time.
…to explain in due time | The Callisto Protocol Review: Misplaced Hype and Where to Find It!
And that’s why the game leaves no room for the player. If you are not going to play The Callisto Protocol the way the game intends it to be played, it is very likely that rather than having fun you will be dealing with walls of anxiety and frustration, hoping to find a store as soon as possible to free up space from the inventory. And above all, you will pray to encounter no more than two enemies at the same time, always in the hope that you have upgraded your equipment in a way to allow you room to manoeuvre.
Yes, but the bosses? How does all this work against them? Well… it doesn’t work. Or rather, since there are practically only two “bosses”, of which the first is repeated several times, you will always face them one-on-one… so you guessed right, the mechanism is always the same: dodge right, dodge left, wait for the boss to finish his sequence of shots (all melee) and counterattack with the truncheon plus extra pistol shots. Even the enemies are not manywe basically have ten different types including some variations, but it’s always that enemy, and to our regret none are memorable enough to have to be mentioned.
However, you don’t have to…