Some games are considered “big games” immediately after they are announced. Thousands of gamers instantly put these titles on wishlists, keep an eye on the latest news and place pre-orders. Other games fly more under the radar and come as welcome surprises or fail to penetrate a wider audience at all. The Callisto Protocol falls a bit in between in my opinion. The game is definitely more “AAA” than “indie”, so it’s bigger than small, but the unconditional hype that arises around really big game releases isn’t around Callisto Protocol. However, there is enough reason to look at this game in a positive sense. After all, it’s a project from director Glen Schofield, the man behind Electronic Arts’ Dead Space games. These games gained a lot of fans back then, and all those gamers have been following Callisto Protocol with interest this year.
Of course, The Callisto Protocol is not a new Dead Space game. After all, Motive Studios is working for EA on a new version of Dead Space and it’s on the calendar for 2023. The Callisto Protocol has its origins in the creation of Striking Distance Studios as part of PUBG Studios. The desire of the company behind PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds was for a more story-driven game to complement PUBG. At first this would be a game close to PUBG, but that idea quickly turned into a game that was a bit closer to Schofield’s vision. He even had the concept of the Callisto Protocol as an idea for a while. And yes, the concept certainly has the necessary similarities to Dead Space.
Iron Black Prison
The Callisto Protocol revolves around the planet Callisto and space pilot Jacob Lee, played by actor Josh Duhamel. Set in the year 2320, the game begins when Jacob and his partner are attacked while transporting a mysterious and dangerous substance. The attack causes their ship to crash on Callisto. To his surprise, he was handcuffed there and taken to Black Iron Prison. He tries to make it clear that he is innocent and does not belong to him, but it helps no one: he gets an implant in his neck and is thrown into a dungeon.
It’s not a great start, but the evil quickly worsens when it becomes clear that a mysterious disease is spreading through the prison, turning both inmates and guards into zombie-like creatures. Jacob is barely caught when things go wrong. Jacob sees the guards running for their lives and usually fails. He manages to escape from his cell and with the help of fellow prisoner Elias Porter, embarks on a path that will hopefully take him away from prison and the planet. Of course this is not easy: the prison is being overrun more and more by monsters, while the security of the prison, in the form of some killer robots, is still active. So to survive is a big challenge.
The road eventually leads through various areas in and around the prison complex. Along the way you will learn more about the outbreak and who is responsible for it. Karen Fukuhara, James C. Mattis III, and Sam Witwer also play a role in this story. You can learn the latter from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed; Witwer played Darth Vader’s secret apprentice named Starkiller in that game. The cast does a good job, but the most striking thing about their existence is the way they’ve been recreated. The faces of the actors are lively and lively. This is great for a game that should cause a lot of stress. It definitely makes the cinematic scenes instantly so much better and more engaging than they would otherwise be.
The sights are good and the Callisto Protocol in general looks good too. The faces command attention, but the way the environments are built and especially how they are lit, deserves a mention. Striking Distance has developed a kind of hybrid light model for this game that partly uses features from Unreal Engine 4 and partly developed by themselves. The makers were primarily concerned with shadow effects that are centrally located in the player’s field of vision. Unfortunately, we don’t have more information on how this works, but the result is pretty cool. The game can rely on beautiful lighting effects, which is of course also important in a rather dark survival horror game.