The Callisto Protocol: The Kotaku Review

Oddly enough, after a biophage mutant, whose limbs fall off so easily it’s like scooping a pudding, sticks its hands in my mouth and rips my jaw out of my face for the fifth time, it occurs to me: Oh, this is a transport game.

The Callisto Protocol takes place on a moon propelled by tentacled enemies with loose limbs, but Empty room The so-called spiritual heir to game designer Glen Schofield would rather guide you by the hand through his muddy, wet, visually stunning maze than revel in killing those enemies. Killing is never really the point, getting to the next location to escape is. It is more death stranding as Empty room.

As cargo ship pilot Jacob – who I thought really looked like soap opera star Josh Duhamel before I knew it was Recreated in sweaty, heroic detail from soap opera star Josh Duhamel, you’ll need all the help you can get to escape the Black Iron Prison on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. You don’t know why you were thrown into one of its inhospitable cells in the first place, why something called a CORE device was rammed down your throat and syncs to your mind and health, why monsters are everywhere, or whether you trust should inmates Elias (Zeke Alton) or Dani (Karen Fukuhara) the latter of which crashed your ship and got you into that shit.

Jacob stares at Jupiter in The Callisto Protocol.

screenshot: Striking Distance Studios / Kotaku

But when they tell you to meet them on the tram, or take a scary high ladder underground, or activate this or that panel, you listen and start running. What are you up to? You’re trapped, there’s blood everywhere, do you have a better idea?

No not true. You do as Elias and Dani tell you, their voices crackling through your DualSense controller (or CORE device) as the prison creaks and falls apart. The sound design is impressively meticulous – Black Iron is filled with an ambient howl, pieces of metal cracking and clattering as your zombified enemies or biophages take over the low notes, cracking, screaming and gargling around you.

I do not think so Callisto is a particularly chilling horror game – watching Jacob’s neck twist and crack like a knuckle is entertaining the first time around, then an inconvenience once I realize this death scene is repetitive and non-skippable – but its layered tone holds me back a dizzy low level of anxiety. Like waiting for a text or looking at the sun and realizing that after looking away you can’t see anything for a moment.

More hit or miss, but still often admirable get there, which the game is most interested in – fighting a biophage is a temporary distraction. Your plan to escape Black Iron has you flying down the sewers, trudging through a blizzard and dark corridors glistening with organic matter, fleshy pods, twisting vines and slime. It sends you everywhere, in front of beautiful lunar vistas and illuminated desktop screens, and hurtles through space. Pristine white walls. Sticky floors. Blood-smeared vents and loaves of shiny pink meat. That leaves you wanting more. And on the PS5, Callisto is able to deliver every high gloss, smallest detail without any problems. Or close to zero – sometimes my weapon would mysteriously disappear before reappearing.

The Callisto protocol also plays with the pace of this journey, often forcing Jacob to silently crawl through narrow cave walls or around blind biophages, or put his large spacesuited body into a heavy sprint. Confronting so many different textures at so many different speeds feels great with haptic feedback – even grabbing an ammo box or in-game currency, Callisto Credits, triggers a satisfying, unique experience blow. Callisto is like physical cinema in that way, slow and steady, which might require a readjustment of some expectations if you were hoping for horror on your feet.

But as varied and masterful as the path to get there often looks and feels physical, I eventually tire of hearing my companions say I’m getting closer, only to fall through a collapsed catwalk or eventually reach Callisto’s frigid surface, only to be promptly ushered back in by the Hercules zombies. At these points the game feels aimless and I have no sense of the progress I’ve made. My frustration only increases when I’m stuck in a room full of relentless zombies.

Jacob stares at a zombie in The Callisto Protocol.

Nothing, a little concealer can’t help.
screenshot: Striking Distance Studios / Kotaku

The zombies are perhaps the least entertaining part of Callisto, which isn’t ideal considering they’re Jacob’s motivation to get off and presumably your motivation to be curious and find out where they came from. As I learn by dying so, so, so often – so often that about halfway through the game I turn on the easiest setting, which inexplicably still lets you kill with two lazy punches from some enemies – the zombies come from everywhere .

I am in love Dark Soulsthe famous benchmark for difficult games, but unlike a FromSoftware boss fight, you can’t “learn” how to get past it Callisto protocol‘s vitriol biophage hordes because they seem to appear randomly and out of nowhere. “Are they invisible now?!” I yell at my PS5 either before or after yelling “I hate this damn game!!!”

Biophages suddenly leap out of rattling air vents or an otherwise empty room. They’ll look like they’re frozen, locked in ice, and then suddenly very much alive, warm and murderous. They come in many different forms: standard decay, armored decay, decay and projectile vomit, wriggle at you with snowball-sized erupting pustules on their backs, come at you looking like evil mutated axolotls and then turn invisible (?! ).

You’re given an arsenal to deal with them, primarily a sizzling melee stun baton, a hand cannon pistol and a brain-crushing Ready Cannon, as well as a Gravity Restriction Projector (GFRP) hull that bends gravity around airborne enemies hold until you throw them into a spiked wall, a spinning fan blade, or off a ledge.

In the early stages of the game only the baton and its characteristics blow feel like they’re actually doing something useful – enemies suck up your shrimp standard bullets like you’re flicking marbles into a pyre, which also makes it impossible to manage hordes efficiently. But as you progress, you can find the blueprints for additional weapons like an assault rifle and a skunk gun, and use Callisto Credits to buy upgrades from Reforge locations mid-game, which to my great amusement you don’t buy more than one lets thing at once. Before each boss fight, I would spend five minutes buying ten ammo boxes individually.

Callisto wastes your time in such small, unnecessary ways. Audio logs you collect from corpses throughout gameplay should help you unravel the mysteries of the story, but they won’t play automatically – you’ll have to manually bring up your menu, select them, and stay in the menu. If you leave the game, they stop playing.

But the most irritating time waster that made me throw my PS5 controller into the muddy depths of the Gowanus Canal in my deepest moments is Callisto‘s sometimes buggy dodge mechanics.

When facing an enemy, you are expected to dodge their attacks by holding your left stick in the opposite direction of their swing, or down if blocking them. The game tells you there is no time window, just do it, but I dodge this many times and get yet another long, non-skippable death animation – Jacob’s skull is trampled and turned into a jet of oceanic blood, Jacob’s eyes are gouged out by fat ones Zombie thumbs, Jacob’s nose concave from all the zombie fat punches in the face—knowing it can’t be true.

CallistoThe two-headed bosses of are the worst at tinkering with your dodge mechanics. Thinking about hitting them with your stun baton instead of staying far away and shooting them will result in an instant skewer through the chest. Make sure you also spend five minutes collecting orbs or health charges from Reforge. Resources found are limited, and manually saving the game will start you from your last checkpoint. So if you start a fight with low health and an unloaded weapon, consider your fate sealed.

But despite all these temporary irritations, I end the game on a high. “There’s always a price to pay,” one villain keeps repeating The Callisto Protocol, reminding Jacob that it takes sacrifice to raise fallible, limp people. And looking for video game greatness, I loved what I saw so much that I was willing to pay the price for buggy dodge mechanics. But as far as actual price goes, I don’t think anyone should buy a $60 game, period, but especially not one that it currently appears to be Runs lousy on PC and won’t receive PlayStation’s New Game Plus until a free update lands on February 7th, 2023. But.

I look at The Callisto Protocol one of the most ambitious games I’ve played this year, maybe even the next elden ring (although I think elden ring is in a league of its own – I don’t know if anything will be able to approach its depth and sophistication for long). His keen attention to environment, sound and touch is what I believe next-gen gaming should be: an experiment with the senses and with history. The game also has its issues that cannot be ignored. But at least it feels human. The Callisto Protocol: The Kotaku Review

Curtis Crabtree

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