The Callisto Protocol Review thumbnail

The Callisto Protocol Review

Who knew violence could be so tedious?

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PS5 on 🌑

The Callisto Protocol is also available for PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One

The Callisto Protocol is rated Mature by the ESRB

Survival horror games come in all shapes and sizes and The Callisto Protocol provides a promising take on the genre so let's get to it.

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The Callisto Protocol screenshot 1
Why bother hiding when I can just smash their heads in?

Enter Black Iron Prison

When I first starting playing The Callisto Protocol, its opening cinematics blew me away. You play as Jacob Lee who crash-lands on a prison moon only to be quickly taken into custody for some inexplicable reason. Right away, this gave me heavy Alien 3 vibes yet the game that follows definitely did not, especially with its enemies being mutated inmates and guards. Anyway, the acting is superb and the visuals are equally as jaw-dropping with realistic environments, hideous monsters, and top-notch character models. To make things even better, the audio is where the presentation really shines thanks to its gruesome and visceral effects and immersive soundscape. v1d30chumz 35-172-230-154

Brutal violence

I must say that The Callisto Protocol is one of the most violent games that I've ever played. Now, obscene amounts of violence don't sit well with me, especially when it's perpetrated upon human characters but the violence is so cartoonishly over-the-top here that I actually didn't mind it. The combat is melee-focused where you bob and weave as if you're playing Punch-Out!! then strike whenever you have the opportunity. Although you get guns, melee is always the focus yet popping off a few extra shots can be satisfying. Once you defeat a mutant, you can stomp on its corpse in order to claim some loot which is needlessly aggressive and feels tacked-on but whatever. The combat overall is super-simple and I found it to be easy (as long as you play it correctly) but it gets repetitive incredibly fast.

The Callisto Protocol screenshot 2
A little fire won't slow these suckers down

Linear yet annoying

The Callisto Protocol is generally a linear game where you traverse enemy-infested hallways yet there are moments when you need to figure out how to get a key or which path to take. Considering there is no map or guidance whatsoever, I ended up wishing that the whole game would be linear because I sometimes got lost and running around in circles while not knowing what to do is never fun. I once interacted with a corpse, nothing happened, and so I ran around aimlessly for about an hour or 2 only to realise that my button press didn't register for some reason and that corpse was in fact the missing piece of the puzzle. That made me extremely angry. Either make your game open-ended and exploration-focused with some guidance or super-linear; don't try to pull crap like this. 😠

New gadgets

After playing for hours, the melee combat really started to overstay its welcome and whenever I faced an enemy, I felt more annoyed than excited to work past another challenge. I think a big contributor to this is that the combat requires a lot of patience as you dodge and wait to strike but thankfully, there are some gadgets that help with freshening things up albeit not in a big way. My favourite gadget is a glove that you can grab enemies with and I enjoyed pushing them into stage hazards only to watch them get grinded up. However, if you accidentally step anywhere near a hazard then you die. What; is Jacob Lee stupid or something? Even though gadgets and weapons like this are neat and upgrading them can be fun, they still don't quite push the very basic melee combat to new heights.

Is this supposed to be scary?

Finally, one of the most disappointing aspects about The Callisto Protocol is that it's supposed to be a horror game yet it's not scary in the slightest. I read that it features jump-scares and I'm very sensitive to those as they usually give me a jolt. With that in mind, I didn't jump once while playing The Callisto Protocol; probably because it doesn't build any tension whatsoever and I didn't care about the characters at all. Contrast that with The Last of Us Part II and you'll immediately see what weak sauce The Callisto Protocol is.

It also makes me wonder: who is The Callisto Protocol for? When I play a video game, I expect to feel something such as a sense of accomplishment after overcoming a steep challenge, whimsy while being swept away in a fantastical world, hilarity while enjoying some silly fun, or tension as I observe a memorable cast of characters deal with hardships. Meanwhile, The Callisto Protocol doesn't make me feel a damn thing; it actually puts me in a bad mood with its grittiness and unapologetically gruesome level of violence and why would anyone want to intentionally be put in a bad mood? I'm sure some dummy thinks it's a work of art and good for them, I guess.

The Callisto Protocol screenshot 3
Never walk into the kitchen at Arby's

Playing The Callisto Protocol made me feel like I'm wasting my time and I rarely feel that way when I play video games. With simple and repetitive combat and a world that's completely void of tension yet still filled with absurd amounts of violence, it can go suck an egg.

  • + Outstanding visuals, audio, and acting
  • + Simple controls are easy to get used to
  • + New weapons and upgrades can be cool
  • - Flat world and characters with almost no sense of tension or actual scares
  • - Combat is irritating and highly repetitive
  • - Finding your way occasionally gets maddening
4.0 out of 10
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Watch A.J. play The Callisto Protocol
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