Summer Game Fest Showcase: The Callisto Protocol

Summer Game Fest is taking a break over the weekend so we’re here to showcase a few of the games that were announced or received some juicy new information!

The Callisto Protocol is an upcoming space horror shooter currently slated to release December 2nd this year. The game was first announced with this gorgeous cinematic trailer but now we’ve finally gotten a peek at some gameplay!

Who’s Schofield?

Glen Schofield is the head of Striking Distance Games, the studio working on Callisto Protocol but also the father of Dead Space. When Dead Space 3 undersold back in 2013, EA moved Visceral Games to work on developing Star Wars games with two other studios. In 2017, EA closed the studio based on “listening to player feedback and following marketplace trends”, and the hope for a fourth Dead Space waned.

The current Dead Space remake is being developed by Motive Studio and has no connection to Glen Schofield. Schofield joined Krafton as the CEO of the newly created Striking Distance Studios and promptly got to work on The Callisto Protocol.

If you’ve played Dead Space, you are probably well aware of how similar Callisto is in terms of gameplay, monsters, UI, sound and, well, most everything else. While Callisto was not the only space horror game to be announced on day one of SGF (you could say space horror was one of main themes of the entire stream), it is certainly the most alike to Dead Space and, pending review, could be its spiritual successor in a similar way Path of Exile is to Diablo II.

Let me end this section with a fun fact: The Callisto Protocol was initially supposed to take place in the PUBG universe. At some point during development, this idea was scrapped; Callisto now lives in its own world.

Gross. Awesome.

Breaking Callisto Down

While we’ve only seen a few minutes of gameplay, it is clear to me that Callisto is a new iteration on Dead Space’s overall design and gameplay loop. The UI is fully built into the character, the camera is positioned exactly the same, it’s dark and there’s monsters.

While Dead Space let you pick up objects and throw them around with your Kinesis module, Callisto takes the concept a step further by introducing The Grip; a gun that lets you pick up enemies and, as we’ve seen in the trailer, shove them into vents. Take note of how we went from enemies jumping out of vents to throwing them back in.

Gives them the jitters!

A scene later in the presentation shows the player interacting with some kind of terminal, activating the various machinery in the room. This collection of grating, ‘brutal’ sound effects of machines powering up and whirring blades, followed by monster growls should be no surprise to the Dead Space player.

Sound plays a very important role in horror games and it sure looks to be a big focus for the team behind Callisto. You can probably also expect monsters to show up whenever you turn on heavy machinery. While the clanks and bops add a great deal to the atmosphere, they also serve to “muddy” the soundscape, making monsters harder to hear (and consequently easier to be ambushed).

Don’t press that button!

One other aspect I’d like to touch on is the gory deaths. I’ll be honest, very few games come to mind when trying to compare what is shown in the trailer to what’s already out there: Mortal Kombat (of course), Dead Space (naturally), Until Dawn: JAWS; I could go on.

Callisto seems to have this aspect nailed as well. If you’re into nightmarish cutscenes of your character getting disassembled piece by piece or just enjoy hearing what the sound design team achieved with nothing but some bell peppers, a banana and a microphone, you can add this game to your list.

The two gameplay scenes (which take place in the first half of the game) show you wearing two different outfits, so we can expect a suit upgrade system that adds armor/health and perhaps more inventory slots. While not explicitly revealed, I’d also assume there’s going to be weapon upgrades as well as a bunch of ‘engineering’ problems to solve throughout the game.

Dead Space 1&2 had a simple, elegant upgrade system. You can probably expect Callisto to iterate on it and add some depth.

Something the first two installments of Dead Space are known for is being a pretty linear experience. Dead Space 3 added optional “dungeons” (some even co-op exclusive, for whatever reason) which tended to award a bunch of loot and perhaps a little bit of story here and there, centered around the two playable characters. In a recent interview, Glen Schofield confirmed that Callisto Protocol will have a lot more optional story content, seemingly focused on learning more about the characters you find along the way. This will be paired with lots of hidden paths ensuring there’s a reason to go back and replay through the whole game.

As we near the launch date, I’m sure the marketing machine will pick up and we’ll be getting an increasing amount of information on what Callisto has to offer. We’ll keep you posted on any updates!

Where To Play

The Callisto Protocol launches December 2nd this year on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC (on Steam).

While I become less resilient to body gore as I age, I’ll definitely be picking this one up. Space horror shooters have become their own genre but there’s something reassuring about having the man behind Dead Space developing Callisto that makes me believe it’ll be an excellent game.

What did you think of The Callisto Protocol? Are you going to play it when it comes out? Let us know in the comments below!