This long-awaited spiritual successor to the acclaimed Dead Space series has a strange history. Originally developed as a game set in the PUBG: Battlegrounds universe, the team at Striking Distance, led by Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield, eventually pivoted the game in its own direction. Now, creating its own world and telling a whole new story – The Callisto Protocol with us. But does it live up to expectations?

Unfortunately, the answer is a rather mixed one. Callisto Protocol opts to step into some very large boots, with 2008’s Dead Space frequently ranking among the best games of its generation. The spine-chilling premise of “Resident Evil 4 in space” with an emphasis on gruesome horror and effective world-building remains extremely compelling and memorable. The Callisto Protocol does a decent job of re-creating this premise but doesn’t come close to matching the sheer quality of Dead Space.

Trapped on a Prison Moon

The story follows Jacbo Lee (voiced by Josh Duhamel), a freight transporter who becomes stranded on the Jupiter moon of Callisto, now transformed into Black Iron Prison. A terrorist attack unleashes a biological weapon across the colony, forcing Lee to escape and survive amid afflicted personnel turned hostile. It’s a solid enough premise, and a prison colony based on a moon is a compelling setting, but the narrative and its world ultimately don’t do much to excite.

Despite featuring professional voice talent, Jacob Lee is an exceptionally bland character. Nothing stands out about him, from his appearance to his personality, which may be the point, but he quickly becomes just another forgettable video game protagonist. You are eventually joined by Dani Nakamura (Karen Fukuhara), head of the Outer Way terrorist group. She fares a bit better as a character with something to her, though she doesn’t have a great deal to do.

Callisto Protocol

Atmosphere, Horror, and Combat

That said, the game’s focus is on atmosphere and horror. This is where the game does its best work, though it’s never as truly horrifying as its aspirations. There’s a generally unpleasant feeling hanging in the air, though it often boils down to jump scares and combat encounters. There’s nothing nearly as thrilling as the desperate sprint to the elevator in Dead Space’s opening.

Furthermore, the game undermines itself with its excessive focus on combat. This wouldn’t be so bad if the combat wasn’t as clumsy, awkward, and frustrating as it ends up being. The game features the same “aim for the limbs” idea that makes Dead Space’s combat feel unique, but there’s a questionable emphasis on horribly clunky melee combat. Early on, you acquire a shock baton from the corpse of a prison guard, and this becomes the crux of your arsenal.

There’s a pistol, a shotgun, and eventually an assault rifle, which become essential for tackling larger foes, but you’ll spend most of the time awkwardly hacking away at enemies. Unfortunately, cornering yourself as you swing away at a room full of foes becomes a common occurrence. The combat is sorely lacking and there’s a lot of it. The game introduces stealth mechanics later on, but it’s too little too late.

The Callisto Protocol – Final Verdict

Ultimately, The Callisto Protocol is an underwhelming spiritual successor to Dead Space. Fans of the series will initially feel a warm familiarity toward the game’s space-bound body horror and abandoned setting, but that quickly turns to frustration and disappointment as you contend with the game’s considerable jank, forgettable narrative, and ineffective attempts at horror.

Have you been able to play Callisto Protocol? Are you a Dead Space fan? Let us know in the comments!