The international media had a chance to play Callisto protocol. Check out some video previews below, followed by text from the Brazilian PlayStation.Blog.
Horror fans, let’s be honest. Sci-fi horror is overproduced, and it takes great talent and bold creativity to stand out from the crowd. So creating a new AAA rated sci-fi horror game in 2022 and hoping to make an impact sounds crazy, right?
Well, based on my recent play session with the PS5 version of Callisto Protocol, the developers at Striking Distance Studio are on the right track. My journey through a level called Habitat takes me through several hours of gameplay, resulting in intense combat, chilling atmosphere, and moments of high tension.
Read on for an overview of the gameplay highlights in this preview, including details on visceral combat, life-saving ranged weapons, incredible customization, the scavenger hunt’s terrifying mutant threat, and more.
weather setting – Black Iron Castle is a visually appealing but very stressful environment. Plumes of steam billowed with smoke and blankets of fog floated above the ground. The creaking of chains and the sounds of muffled groans fill the air. The dingy floor lights flicker sporadically, giving vague suggestions of ways forward. Every inch of the castle has been given due attention and comes to life with stunning visual fidelity.
Insidious details – During the game, the camera is behind Jacob, creating a claustrophobic feeling and allowing for great scares. The advantage of this close-up is a good view of the details of Jacob’s character. Beads of sweat appear on his face and reflect the light, and then he wipes them off. The folds of your overalls are really dirty and wrinkled. Jacob also moves with the heavy, labored movements of someone who has survived a terrible ordeal. All of this is combined with movie-like details that add immersion and tension.
A high risk encounter
Your enemy, the biophage – Black Iron Castle is filled with grotesque, infected humanoid monsters called biophages. These enemies range from newly transformed creatures still wearing their guardian uniforms, to strange freaks that crawl through walls and have optical cloak abilities. His movements are erratic, outrageous, and have an astonishing lethality. Never let your guard down and be prepared to learn some hard lessons.
Melee matters – Unlike some horror games where melee weapons are a last resort, Jacob’s electrified baton is critical to survival. Landing light hits with R1 and delivering heavy attacks with R2 is very visceral and fundamental to ensure…
skill shots – Successful encounters cause a “Skill Hit” – a circular webbing that appears over an enemy’s body part. A quick press of the L2 button will automatically target Jacob’s weak point and deliver a critical hit that deals a lot of damage. This is critical to surviving confrontations and conserving ammo.
The tactile feel of the DualSense controller – When Jacob equips his wand, the PS5 controller’s haptic feedback feels like a heavy “thud” on release, as well as a surge of electrical energy at your fingertips. The weight of this ammo translates to satisfying feedback in close combat.
Protect and avoid – Enemies are fast and aggressive, but Jacob doesn’t need to hit like an idiot. Moving the left stick down allows Jacob to block attacks, while pressing left or right allows him to sidestep in either direction. These defensive options are crucial to saving your skin and preparing for new melee combos.
Step over everyone – No battle feels complete without a cathartic hit on a fallen scavenger. Not only does this help finish off dead enemies, but it’s also essential for freeing up items, including ammo, health, and credits.
Fun with gravity – The Gravity GRP weapon allows Jacob to lift enemies and objects. GRP is great for crowd control as it allows you to throw enemies around to create space and find hidden items out of reach. Each use of GRP drains battery, so choose carefully.
The environment kills – The scariest and most practical way to use GRP is to throw your enemies into deadly places like spinning meat grinders and fans with sharp blades. Even when those options weren’t available, I was able to throw many enemies off hills and passages into the dark chasms below.
Count your bullets
remote weapon – Bullets are great for stocking up on ammo, but you’ll definitely be outnumbered, low on health, and have your back against the wall. It’s time to pull out one of Jacob’s powerful firearms.
BI-55 pistol “hand cannon” – Jacob’s trusted weapon is very powerful. I’ve found this slow, powerful pistol to be ideal for blasting the enemy’s legs from afar, slowing their pursuit and giving me time to strategize. I must reiterate that ammo is very valuable, so aim is important.
Skunkgun rifle “In the habitat, I discovered a new weapon design. The next time I visited the store kiosk, a 3D printer had created a powerful and incredibly powerful gun. With its starting power of only two shells, the Skunkgun looks best at dispersing mobs and taking down tough enemies quickly.
Equipment upgrades – Callisto credits scattered around the castle can be exchanged at shop kiosks for ammo, life and priceless equipment upgrades. During my session, I invested in a stick upgrade that allowed me to grab the enemy’s legs after blocking. Improvements to the hand cannon included stability, damage, ammo capacity, and very interesting explosive shells. GRP upgrades include increased reload speed, maximum energy capacity, and launch power.
The Mutant Threat – Tentacles sometimes spawn from biophages, the evolution of a virus that causes them to evolve into larger and more vicious enemies. Watching the flesh of the biophages quiver, grow and form in real time is a stunning visual effect, but you’ll want to nip this in the bud as quickly as possible. Watch your ammo or get ready to feel bad when you target those spawning tentacles and your hand cannon runs dry…
intentional healing – There are injectors scattered throughout Black Iron Prison, but don’t expect to be able to use medicine and heal in the heat of battle. Jacob must stop, kneel down, and slowly inject until the meter at the back of the neck is filled with green. To survive a particularly intense encounter, I took down an enemy using GRP, gaining precious seconds of healing. The sheer tension seems to fit Callisto’s protocol like a glove.
Awarded studies – Finding resources such as ammo is important, and the range of the shot rewards the player’s curiosity. In one sequence, I had to move a large box to get to the air duct. Instead of going forward, I used the box to climb up to the platform where there was some extra ammo. In another example, Jacob mutters something to himself about following the red tube to his goal. Instead, I took another path and found a supply room with credits and health, then opened the door that led to the main path.
Unforgettable horror stories
Doom Runner – At one point I entered a dark corridor, a well-lit door on the other side. Innocently, I started running towards the light, thinking it was the shelter beacon. My optimism was violently dashed by the ambush of the biophages. Although the encounter only required defeating three enemies, it was a true litmus test of the game’s systems. I finally learned the importance of moving slowly, relying on melee, dodging, and skills to save ammo.
on the walls – In another difficult encounter, I tried to escape from the enemy by hiding behind a nearby door. I had my hand cannon pointed at the door, waiting for it to open and allow me an easy shot at the biophage. Instead, I heard a sharp sound from above and suddenly the enemy grabbed me from behind. It was a humbling reminder to always be paranoid.
Water slide – Shot Distance shows off its water effects well in a thrilling sequence where Jacob is thrown into a huge drainpipe. The water convincingly hits the winding curves of the pipe and cascades down the camera as Jacob tumbles down the steep drop. When I wasn’t worrying about avoiding metal obstacles on the slide, I couldn’t help but think.Whoah!”
mental games – One of the more striking encounters involved a dark, narrow hallway, flashing lights, and a spider-like biophage rapidly crawling up the walls and ceiling. The strobe effect of the lighting allowed you to see flashes of the terrifying creature as it got closer and closer. I’ve faced this enemy a few times before, but this ambush left me frozen.
kill and grind – At the end of the level, Jacob enters a room with a column of sharp, rotating cylinders. Like a giant meat grinder. I took the opportunity to use GRP and threw monster after monster into this big blender. My batteries ran out before I shot the final enemy, who instead shot me in the leg with a hand cannon. To my surprise and delight, the monster tried to avoid my attack and involuntarily ran its head into the grinder, disintegrating instantly. The effect was surprising, fun and empowering.
These are just a sampling of memorable and provocative moments from my several hours playing The Callisto Protocol. I started the session with a neutral curiosity about this stunning visual sci-fi horror project from Striking Distance Studios and left with a sweaty hand and the most wanted new game of 2022. I’ll be prioritizing my trip to Dark Iron Castle when the game launches on PS5 on December 2nd.