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The Callisto Protocol preview: the most brutal game of the year is also really hard

Will McCue

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The Callisto Protocol preview: the most brutal game of the year is also really hard

Featured Image Credit: Striking Distance Studios

I’m sliding down a tube of faecal matter at high pace, narrowly missing the timing to evade an oncoming piece of machinery. I’m thrusted up into the ceiling by a blade as my body is literally ripped in two. The screen goes black and I can see myself gasping in the reflection at the sheer brutality of The Callisto Protocol.

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After playing around 90 minutes of Striking Distance Studios’ upcoming horror title, two main things stick in my mind. One: the game is gruesome, possibly the most gory game I’ve ever played. Two: the game is hard. Not quite Elden Ring hard, but much more difficult than I imagined.

Check out a trailer for The Callisto Protocol below:

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I’m thrown into the fourth chapter of The Callisto Protocol, after the devs have shown the basic controls. I think they’re excited to see how differently the game is played by everyone in the room after giving out very limited information. I say room, we’re sat in a dark, gloomy vault underneath London Waterloo Station. Whenever a train goes overhead, the whole place shakes. That’ll add to the horror, I think to myself.

The first thing I notice is the limited HUD on screen. Your health is shown by lights on the back of your suit and remaining ammo lights up on the back of your gun, like the assault rifle in Halo. It’s a subtle thing but ensures that eyes are focused on the scares in front of you, adding to the immersion and, ultimately, the horror. I’m wading through murky waters on what I assume is a spaceship. One of the devs tells me that they affectionately refer to this area as the ‘poop room’. It’s good to know what you’re stepping in.

The Callisto Protocol (Credit: Striking Distance Studios)
The Callisto Protocol (Credit: Striking Distance Studios)
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As I’m adventuring through the gritty setting of Callisto, mutated abominations pop up to try and rip my face off (literally). Even the easiest grunts take almost an entire pistol clip to go down. I learn this the hard way as one gorges on the main character, Jacob’s, intestines. I rapidly learn that shooting off the legs of the zombie guys forces them to crawl, and it’s easier than just going for headshots.

Going through the mission, I encounter enemies with armour and some creepy half-spider, half-human mutations that crawl above you, creaking the metal above as they gain an advantage. Playing with headphones, you can almost hear them breathing down your neck and drooling their disgusting monster drool all over. Ahh, what’s that? Oh, just the 12 o’clock train coming into Waterloo above. Phew, it's real life, not the game, I thought as the spider boi pierced through my body, tearing the skin off my face. I told you it’s gory.

Fortunately, it feels like you progress with each death. You begin to learn paths to take, general weaknesses to take advantage of, and even sometimes when to not attack. You spawn again fairly close to where you died, eliminating annoying moments like going through the same boring area 12 times. Even though it’s a horror game, I want to keep trying after each death, almost like an arcade game. Once I clear a particularly tricky section, I take a deep breath, enjoy the endorphins and continue on to the next abhorrent situation that awaits.

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The Callisto Protocol (Credit: Striking Distance Studios)
The Callisto Protocol (Credit: Striking Distance Studios)

A cool weapon, or gadget I suppose, is the GRP (Gravity Gauntlet). It’s so much easier to pick up one of the zombified baddies and throw them into the abyss than to shoot them with bullets. It’s super satisfying seeing a tough foe flying like a rag doll out to their demise. You can also use the gravity-arm-thing to pull items or enemies closer to you. It’s useful in certain scenarios but I’m mainly enjoying throwing things around like some kind of unhinged superhero.

Sometimes, enemies will begin to mutate by showing off pulsating ulcers. This is a weak point that you need to hit quickly, otherwise the monstrosities before you become so much stronger. So much so that it’s probably easier to just restart at the latest checkpoint.

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The Callisto Protocol aims to be the scariest game coming out on new-gen consoles and PC, however I’m not finding the game to be that scary at all. Sure, it’s incredibly tense and I’ve experienced multiple spine-tingling moments in a very limited window of the game, but I don’t feel like avoiding that dark corridor, nor am I worried about being jumped from behind. I know it’ll happen, however the ammo doesn’t seem that limited and I can always just use the GRP for protection, assuming it has charge. On the other hand, approaching combat does get daunting when on low health.

The Callisto Protocol (Credit: Striking Distance Studios)
The Callisto Protocol (Credit: Striking Distance Studios)

Comparisons will always be made to Dead Space and although The Callisto Protocol is largely Dead Space 2.0 (not to be confused with the actual Dead Space 2), it does feel like an evolution on the format instead of just more of the same.

Before playing, I wasn’t too excited for The Callisto Protocol as I saw it as just another space horror. After playing, I can’t wait for the release on December 2nd, 2022.

Topics: The Callisto Protocol, Preview

Will McCue
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