Almost a decade and a half in the past, Visceral Video games launched Lifeless Area, a now cult-classic survival-horror sport impressed by the likes of Alien and The Factor. Should you’ve ever yearned for a return to its mixture of sci-fi and horror, or if you would like a near-identical expertise to Schofield’s first survival horror hit, you’re in luck. Schofield’s newest, The Callisto Protocol, veers extremely near Lifeless Area, for each higher and worse. Sadly, although, it’s far too acquainted. There are glimmers of greatness, particularly in its opening hours, however what unfolds after is a tiresome and unsurprising eight hours that really feel like a relic of the previous.
The Callisto Protocol is ready primarily in Black Iron Jail and the encircling space on one among Jupiter’s moons, Callisto. After a crash touchdown, correctional officers imprison protagonist Jacob Lee and Dani Nakamura in Black Iron Jail. One thing goes improper; Jacob escapes his cell, and shortly after, meets his first biophage, a highly-mutated monstrosity who’s extra fleshy pustulating gore than human.
The sport introduces its distinctive melee fight system right here, and it’s one of many highlights. Dodging by pulling left and proper on the management stick is partaking, as are the heavy and gradual swings of Jacob’s melee assault. Every hit carries a ton of impression, and with correct timing and exact dodges, I took down enemies utilizing simply this electrified jail baton in a satisfying method. Weapons are later folded into the combo, however they’re not as satisfying because the baton, nor do they meaningfully differentiate themselves from each other. Upgrading my baton to maintain it helpful till the top felt like a necessity, though ammo is plentiful in the event you want to go into encounters with weapons blazing. The telekinesis-like pull-and-throw GRP system is beneficial and enjoyable, however there’s disappointingly little to do with it past throwing enemies into the identical three kinds of insta-death equipment, off a ledge, or away from you.
You’re requested by characters speaking by way of the radio to go right here and there, and proper if you present up, one thing goes improper, and now you must meet them at this location as an alternative. After a number of hours, I used to be predicting many of the story beats upfront, all of the whereas being fed bread crumbs of a bigger narrative. Positive, issues occurred, however I hardly ever noticed a semblance of the sport’s overarching story till the ultimate hour, at which level it felt like a rushed dump of data. Whereas Dani’s story, which weaves out and in of Jacob’s all through the length of the sport, involves a satisfying conclusion, Jacob’s doesn’t, ending with a scene that feels inorganically attractive and designed to make sure I buy the upcoming story DLC.
The ultimate boss earlier than this disappointing climax is an exhausting and repetitive combat that seems like these of yesteryear; the one each sport needed to embody, even when it didn’t show mandatory. This wasn’t the one disappointing boss. All of them left me feeling empty and irritated on the lack of variance. You combat the identical enemy kind as a boss a number of instances all through the sport, simply in several arenas. Most bosses can kill you in a single hit, which takes away the earned stress of survival horror. I wasn’t determined to search out ammo or a well being pack to outlive by the pores and skin of my tooth; I used to be simply jogging away to make sure its hits didn’t land near me.
Furthering my frustration is a foul checkpoint system. You have to redo the complete battle in the event you die by insta-kill, even on the tail finish of a boss combat. If you need to kill a number of enemies earlier than that battle, you must do this once more, too. The identical goes for ammo, audio logs, and different sources, as effectively, even in the event you save proper the place you’d like to choose up post-death after doing this type of preparation. Dangerous checkpointing can also be current in commonplace enemy encounters, which shortly grew to become stale.
Listening to audio logs, which add small touches of wanted taste to the world you’re enjoying by way of, requires you to remain within the log menu, and you’ll’t transfer or search the atmosphere whereas listening. The demise animations are thrilling and grotesque, however they lack selection. They’re buggy, too, and a few demise scenes are drastically extra fascinating to observe play out than others. A biophage pulling Jacob’s eyes out of the sockets, for instance, is nice. However watching an enemy knock Jacob to the bottom in an unintentionally hilarious and anticlimactic ragdoll-like style falls flat.
Gun animations, which play when switching weapons, look good at first, however you will need to agonizingly sit by way of every to make use of a brand new weapon. Should you purpose too early or hit reload throughout the animation, the sequence ends, and the weapon you had been utilizing previous to making an attempt this alteration returns. That is irritating throughout tense fight encounters the place I’m flipping by way of my handful of weapons to search out the proper one. A singular quick-fire mechanic that auto-locks onto an enemy’s weak level on the finish of a melee combo is a pleasant addition to the fight’s techniques, but when your outfitted weapon is out of ammo or requires reloading and also you don’t notice it, you hit hearth just for nothing to occur, leaving you open for injury. The Callisto Protocol dies by a thousand cuts comparable to these.
These varied issues apart, although, The Callisto Protocol remains to be doing a whole lot of what Lifeless Area did, for higher and worse. And to that finish, there are moments of enjoyable, even when, in distinction, they’re gentle on real terror. I’m okay with The Callisto Protocol being one other model of its religious predecessor, but it surely struggles to nail even the fundamentals. Consequently, I’m underwhelmed, irritated, and dissatisfied. Should you wished something extra out of this second crack at making a brand new sci-fi IP in survival horror, or one thing markedly totally different that acknowledges simply how far gaming has come since 2008, The Callisto Protocol will not be your reply.