The Callisto Protocol review: Under the Looming Shadow

Striking Distance Studios
Striking Distance Studios /

Title: The Callisto Protocol
Developer: Striking Distance Studios
Publishers: KRAFTON, Bluehole Inc.
Platforms: PlayStation 5 (reviewed on), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: December 2, 2022

The tail end of 2022 has been pretty dry in terms of horror games. Because of that, and many other reasons, The Callisto Protocol has been highly anticipated and the bar for the game placed very high. From the very first trailer, we were hooked to the amazing graphics, the stellar voice acting and the legacy that is Dead Space hanging over it like a mothership. Unfortunately, despite all of the good things the game has to offer, it shot itself in the foot with its own mechanics.

In The Callisto Protocol, you play as Jacob (Josh Duhamel), a space freight contractor that often takes loads to Europa near the prison moon, Callisto, where Black Iron Prison resides. During a delivery, a terrorist group called Outer Way led by Dani (Karen Fukuhara) causes the ship to crash killing his co-pilot and friend and Jacob is taken into custody by the head of Black Iron prison security, Captain Leon Ferris (played by the incomparable Sam Witwer). Jacob is arrested with literally no information, fitted with some painful prison tech and taken to his cell. When he wakes up from a nightmare, he finds that all hell has broken loose in Black Iron and almost everyone is dead or has turned homicidal.

Jacob must work together with another prisoner and Dani to try and get out before getting killed by Ferris, infected or a rogue security bot. All the while you must try and uncover what the hell is going on at the prison and what it has to do with you.

The Callisto Protocol
Striking Distance Studios /

On paper, The Callisto Protocol seems like an incredible game. Think of the past several years on sci-fi games and you have a whole handful of winners: The Outer Worlds, Prey and Alien: Isolation just to name a few. And lest we forget the granddaddy of them all: Dead Space. This game had a hell of a big brother to live up to. On first glance it IS amazing. The game looks incredible. When Jacob wakes up in his cell and walks out to see the whole prison in shambles, it’s rewarding to just stop and look around and listen. The sound mixing is great and all of the small sounds can make for an eerie environment. Then you have Sam Witwer who is a video game treasure and I will die on the hill that Days Gone was an amazing game.

There were several moments in the beginning when Jacob needed to sneak around some security bots that The Callisto Protocol reminded me a lot of the beginning of Soma and it brought me back to that place of anxiety and anticipation of not knowing what will pop up around the corner. And pop up they do. I am not ashamed to say that I screamed out loud on more than one occasion from a solid jump scare but I found myself screaming more in anger and frustration than in frightful glee.

First off, Jacob is THE slowest video game character ever. And I literally mean EVER. I have never seen a character that moved around so much like a tank. Even 1996 Resident Evil seems nimble and full on acrobatic in comparison. I had to turn the sensitivity all the way up for his movements and it still seemed like he was maneuvering through cold molasses. It was frustrating and even his run was something to be desired. My 85-year-old grandmother seems more spry than this character.

The Callisto Protocol
Striking Distance Studios /

Let’s put aside his janky ass movements and look at the star of an action game: the fighting mechanics. If we completely ignore how stiff Jacob is, the fighting would still be awful. There’s no variety to it. Early in the game you learn to dodge. You dodge one way, you dodge the other way, you get a few hits in. Rinse and repeat. That’s literally it. If, after the first several hours of dodging, you get bored, you can always put on auto dodge which works most of the time. You can’t dodge the same way twice because otherwise you will regret it. And god forbid there is more than one enemy at a time. Ammo is limited and your melee weapon is slow and even two enemies at a time will get you killed. Then there are the enemies that you can’t dodge and will one-hit kill you. Thankfully, by that time, your weapons have improved and you get some semblance of armor.

Even the guns have issues. Over time, the more tech you unlock for your weapons, the more you will have to switch your attachments for different kinds of combat but the switching animation takes time and you will get killed before you can manage it. You almost have to know what fight you are walking into BEFORE you get into it. Not only that, the healing animation is SO stupid slow. Jacob needs to get his syringe and then kneel to jab it into his neck and then you have to wait for the injection. This extended healing animation makes it basically impossible to heal during a fight so you better make sure you’re in the green before puffing up your chest to any infected baddie.

The storyline itself has highs and lows and the game leaves the ending open for a sequel. There is more content coming to The Callisto Protocol in 2023 and despite my review, I do look forward to it. I hope that they listen to all of the players that point out the game’s shortcomings and improve upon it. There are good qualities in there but they are so far overshadowed by the very foundation. You can have a so-so game but with a solid foundation, it can securely be built upon. Take Cyberpunk 2077. That release was a mess but there was a good heart to the game.

I almost feel like The Callisto Protocol is a shell, a chocolate bunny if you will. On the outside, it looks amazing and delicious but it’s just hollow. Here’s hoping that the game’s bunny gets filled before a sequel shoots out.

Next. The Devil in Me review: The wasted potential in you. dark

The Callisto Protocol (PS5) Score: 6.5/10

Amazing graphics and talented voice acting isn’t enough to save The Callisto Protocol from the beast that is bad game mechanics. The game is its own worst enemy.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.