WE’RE sent hurtling towards what seems to be certain death, as a two-headed monster lunges at us out of the dark.
However, the only reaction we can muster is a prolonged sigh. We’re in the second half of The Calisto Protocol, and we’re all juiced out.
The first half is exceptional. You make your way through the bowels of a prison on Jupiter’s moon Callisto with many scares and thrills along the way.
Classically simple horror techniques are used well, such as dark and claustrophobic hallways, and watching the once grandiose building being slowly corrupted.
One of the game’s strongest points is its audio design. Murmurs off in the distance will keep you firmly on the edge of your seat.
It’s tense. As you slowly amble through, with the sense of dread that at any moment you may be attacked.
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When the creatures do find you, their growls and screams hit your jumping heart rate in just the right way.
The silences are as powerful as the sounds. The pacing of sounds ebb and fade leaving you truly alone.
The tension ramps as you pray that you won’t be found, or else find yourself in another tense fight.
It’s even scarier when you are thrown into a blizzard, and the environment drowns out the sounds of monsters, never letting you know when they are close by.
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In the early game, combat feels fresh and fun. The combination of melee and ranged gives a nice flow when switching.
You need to switch between these and the grav gun to defend, which adds to the panic of fights.
There’s a lot to think about as you dodge and block, and early on we had a lot of fun getting a handle on the complexity.
However, once we mastered these techniques, the horror-faded away. It’s one of the few times in video games where you don’t want to feel skilled and powerful, but lost and hopeless.
The longer The Callisto Protocol goes on, the further it slips away from horror and into the action genre, and this is when the issues start to show.
Things don’t get scarier, they just get more frustrating as enemies become harder to deal with.
One of the big issues is that the combat only works well when fighting one-on-one, and as you get further through, hordes of enemies start to overwhelm you.
With these fights, it’s hard to use the techniques you’ve learnt as you can’t see what’s coming at you from every angle.
The stealth can help you pick off enemies to stop them from overwhelming you, but this tactic rarely works.
It feels like a coin flip as to whether they spot you or not, and the stealth kill alerts other enemies who attack you before you’ve even finished with the first.
More enemies will spawn mid-fight, so even if you do start with stealth they’ll soon fill up the room, with nothing you can do to prevent this.
The later enemies also have frustrating quirks. Melee doesn’t work, and they’ll one-shot you at close range.
If you then switch to a ranged weapon, you’ll soon find out they can one-shot you this way too, and these attacks are even harder to avoid.
However, the level design is varied enough to keep you entertained, and the pacing between panic, and build-up is well done.
Conversely, the 15ish hours it will take you to finish is too long for what the story is trying to achieve, and the combat issues arise too early in the game to leave you with an overall positive experience.
If you are craving a survival horror game, then The Callisto Protocol might be worth a try, but it’s not everything it could be.
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Written by Ryan Woodrow and Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.
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