While Callisto Protocol is technically an entirely new IP and brand new story, the skeletal base of Dead Space is apparent – much in the same way it’s obvious to everyone in House of the Dragon that Rhaenyra’s kids are not fathered by Ser Laenor Velaryon. So, can the spiritual successor live up to the original? I got some hands-on time with Callisto Protocol on the PS5 to find out.
In my preview time, I played the level called Habitat.The first things I immediately noticed were the creepy ambient noises. Random squelching, clattering, and faint echoes all around made me feel constantly on edge. Traversing through the dark hallways and entering rooms always required me to take a breath and push through while always expecting something to pop out at me. If nothing else, Callisto Protocol gets the creepy, constantly anxious environment down to a science.
Controlling protagonist Jacob Lee felt a lot like controlling Isaac from Dead Space. You’re constantly looking over his shoulders for what lurks ahead. Jacob feels very heavy in movement. He’s less like a video game character and more like an actual person you’re trying to push in the right direction. His melee attacks are a slower wind-up than your usual FPS melee attacks. His run also feels like a realistic jog speed and not like a tireless super soldier who never runs out of stamina.
Jacob’s heavy presence in the world combined with his deliberate pace made Callisto Protocol feel even scarier. For the same reasons, the combat is actually pretty slow and deliberate itself. While this feels great in aiding realism and anticipation, it was also slightly frustrating to deal with at times when you’d want to just be able to smack a biophage enemy immediately in front of you.
Furthermore, the PS5 DualSense controller felt great with Callisto. Dropping from a ledge, shooting your gun, and stomping the ground all had unique rumbles and vibrations in the controller that add a welcome extra layer of immersion to the game. In adding more of a cinematic experience to the game, there is no map function in Callisto so unlike Dead Space you can’t check your next objective and sometimes that would result in you getting lost.
Callisto’s got a new dodging and blocking mechanic that Dead Space didn’t. You move your controller stick opposite the direction a swing from an enemy comes in at and you can dodge. You can also opt to block by pressing backwards on the stick, like a fighting game, but you do take some damage from that. You can chain dodges by switching the direction of your stick timed perfectly to the enemy swings but it’s honestly a bit difficult to time it right after the first dodge and most times I ended up getting clawed after the second swing.
The dodging seems to be very accurate and precise to when the enemy swings and it was difficult to pinpoint that during combat sequences – especially since it’s easy to get surrounded – and each attack you take punishes your health severely. Also, if even two enemies were attacking you at once, dodging was incredibly difficult since you can’t really tap the stick fast enough to avoid both monsters.
With ammo being scarce, much like in Dead Space, melee seemed like the best option for dealing with a monster in front of your face. You start with a pistol and a baton, and can unlock a shotgun later. You also have the ability to use Jacob’s GRP gravity weapon to pull things towards you and also push them away. In combat, the GRP does come in handy in pulling an enemy then flinging them into a wall or object that can damage them further. There’s limited battery on the weapon, though, so you can’t just constantly fling enemies off of you.
While at the start of the level I could blast through enemies with my pistol at will and restock, I found that the further I went, the less ammo I would find. It got to a point where I realized that I had 5 total bullets left going through multiple checkpoints. Callisto definitely encourages you to save on bullets and use your environment and different combinations to fight through the torn prison, but it doesn’t really help you realize you should be prioritizing other options – especially when you’re given so much free ammo at the beginning.
Being forced into a specific playstyle when you originally thought you had more freedom of choice was a bit frustrating. There was one room where you had to utilize every bit of combat mechanics you had in order to survive, since there was no way you could just shoot through each enemy or toss them away. I got stuck here for several respawns until I finally got the perfect combination of GRP throws, pistol shots, and baton slaps in to kill all the enemies in the room. Oh, also, like in Dead Space when you aim at specific arms or legs, you can stomp on them once they hit the ground to ensure they’re actually dead.
The combat almost seems to reward perfect combinations like this. If I had known that going into the game, I would’ve been more ready and less frustrated with the lack of ammo. I played Dead Space, and I know what limited ammo feels like, but in Callisto the ammo somehow felt even more scarce. At a certain point, the aliens you fight will spew tentacles from their chest when damaged enough and will mutate further into a stronger form.
When this happens, a single shot to the tentacles will keep them from mutating. But if you’re out of ammo or if you have a few shots left and miss, you’re very much out of luck and have to either try and melee and dodge (which feels incredibly difficult), or die and try again. This would often lock you into dying and respawning – a cycle that just got more frustrating each time I approached it.
The combat in Callisto seems to really focus on accuracy and precision. Thus, going into Callisto expecting it to be like Dead Space, especially with so many mechanical similarities, was a mistake I made that you’d be wise to avoid. Going into Callisto is a challenging experience that really tests your survival skills with precise combinations of attacks. Certain parts of the levels were really like playing a souls-like game that required you to do some practice runs and fail before getting that perfect run down to progress.
While some may like this more difficult experience, I was slightly turned off by how hard the normal mode was. Overall, now that I know what to expect I’m willing to give Callisto another chance since the environment was so well done, but I need to be mentally prepared for frustrations and replaying specific sequences.
Callisto Protocol releases December 2nd and will be exclusive to the PS5 as a timed exclusive on launch. For more on your favorite horror games, don’t miss our hands-on previews of Resident Evil 4 Remake and Dead Space Remake. And for everything else in the world of video games, stick with IGN.
Stella is a Video Producer, Host, and Editor at IGN. Her gameplay focus is on competitive FPS games and she’s previously reviewed Apex Legends, Hyper Scape, Halo Infinite Multiplayer, and Battlefield 2042. She regularly hosts and shoutcasts competitive Apex Legends and Halo Infinite tournaments when she isn’t streaming on her Twitch channel after work outs. You can follow her on Twitter @ParallaxStella.
Source: IGN Video Games All