The Callisto Protocol is the latest release from Striking Distance Studios and is helmed by Glen Schofield, the original Dead Space creator. This game aims at returning to sci-fi horror gaming with hopes of recreating or even surpassing the massive success they’ve achieved with the misadventures of Isaac Clarke. If we’re talking about the look and feel of horror, The Callisto Protocol absolutely nails it.
If you’re still not convinced to jump in, we wrote multiple reasons why you should experience The Callisto Protocol for yourself.
In a word, The Callisto Protocol is an enjoyable thrill ride that more than delivers when it comes to its visual and auditory experience.
Beauty in the Horror
The Callisto Protocol was developed with Unreal Engine 4. While that may worry some considering that the fifth iteration of Epic Games’ widely popular game engine has already been launched and is being used in other games, Striking Distance Studios showcases what UE4 can do to its fullest extent.
Everything from lighting, visual fidelity, character models, enemy designs, and environmental density all shine in the most horrific ways possible and The Callisto Protocol is all the better for it. If this is only a taste of what next-gen action horror games can look like, then we’re in for some fantastic-looking titles in the near future.
In my 12 or so hours playthrough of the main campaign, not a single room felt like it wasn’t given the right amount of attention from the environmental artists and programmers. Black Iron Prison is a visual treat to walk through. The faint light shining through long corridors, particle effects from malfunctioning machines, and the wreckage left from horrific events that passed all paint a terrifyingly fantastic picture that remains consistent throughout The Callisto Protocol’s runtime.
The first few hours of the campaign where everything is initially going down immediately showcases what The Callisto Protocol is capable of doing. Fire, explosion, and blood effects fill the screen with a commanding presence. And even when things start to slow down, you can’t help but take in all the sights.
Both character and enemy models have just the right amount of detail without going too overboard with visual noise. The facial capture is one of the most realistic in any game I’ve played and not once did I ever feel like the game was falling into the uncanny valley trap. Cutscenes are executed through the in-game engine which adds a fantastic sense of fluidity in the transitions from gameplay to story beats similar to how games like God of War does it.
The gore system was largely touted in all of the earlier promotional materials for The Callisto Protocol and you’d be relieved (or disgusted) to know that it delivers. Some of the deaths and combat kills found in The Callisto Protocol are a sight to behold. It definitely kept me on my toes all throughout.
A horror game can live or die by the quality of its atmosphere. If walking through a dark area doesn’t elicit some form of emotion whether it be fear, dread, or anxiety from the player, then the developers have done something wrong. The Callisto Protocol features one of the most engaging atmospheres in 2022. If I wasn’t slowly going through a corridor in fear of something popping out, I’m doing so just because I wanted to see every detail the developers managed to put in.
Most of the pictures you’ve been seeing in this article come from The Callisto Protocol’s photo mode in which I spent a lot of time playing around. While it may not be the most extensive system, it still offers up just the right amount of customization in order to create really cool shots during both gameplay and cutscenes.
What’s that sound?
The game’s impressive sound design completely elevated The Callisto Protocol’s excellent visual atmosphere. While combat features crunchy beats that complement the fluid animations and VFX work, the environmental ambient noise adds so much personality to the overall campaign experience.
It’s easy to be scared when a jumpscare occurs. Mixing in a loud noise with an ugly monster jumping at the screen is a tried and tested recipe. The Callisto Protocol has no shortage of those. It is in the quiet moments in horror games where it’s truly tested as to how well it can scare the player. With the right headset or a good quality set of speakers, the empty halls and long vents of Black Iron Prison will have you constantly questioning what’s around the corner.
Screams of agony, faint whispers, horrific monster screams, and sudden sounds of crumbling structures will constantly fill your ears throughout the campaign. There were times when I was questioning the reality of what I heard. Was it the game? Is it a hallucination of Jacob? Is it just my own mind playing tricks on me?
As the Dead Space franchise continued on to a more action-focused path, the quality of atmospheric audio gradually degraded like a rotting corpse. I was glad to see how the developers at Striking Distance Studios went back to their roots to deliver a quality horror experience through auditory means with The Callisto Protocol.
If it’s not obvious enough, The Callisto Protocol is worth experiencing based on the graphics and sound design alone. This is a universe that is just begging to be explored and here’s to hoping that Striking Distance Studios will be able to expand further on the excellent structure they’ve created here. With more content promised to come in 2023, action horror fans are in for a treat.