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This Dead Space Successor Has Finally Dropped on Game Pass

Blood, guts, and linear gameplay.

Screenshot from The Callisto Protocol
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The problem with making a masterpiece is it makes you “the one.” As in, “You’re the one who made [insert masterpiece here].Glen Schofield has heard that a lot. Credited as the creator of 2008’s sci-fi horror survival classic Dead Space, Schofield and the team at Visceral Games were responsible for introducing a huge audience to a new subgenre of gaming. Sci-fi survival horror is no longer a novel concept, but that didn’t stop Schofield from creating the spiritual successor to his most famous title.

The Callisto Protocol launched in December 2022 to... average reviews. Hovering around 7/10 on Metacritic, critics and fans alike were entertained if not impressed. It's obvious the deck was stacked against it given the pedigree of the team involved, and anything that wasn’t as good or better than Dead Space was going to have trouble. The Callisto Protocol may not be as great as one of the best games ever made, but it's still tons of fun for anyone who loves the genre or simply appreciates a good jump scare and gory, dismemberment-driven combat.

If you’re not into Dead Space, don’t worry. The Callisto Protocol is an excellent game in its own right.

Striking distance Studios

Comparisons with Dead Space are inevitable, but they’re also warranted given the similarities between the two titles. If you loved Dead Space, you’ll feel right at home in The Callisto Protocol. The health and inventory system are the same. So are the enemies: twisted space-zombies called “biophages” that lunge and howl before murdering you in one of dozens of different killcam scenes.

Even The Callisto Protocols hero, an unlucky space trucker named Jacob, feels similar to Dead Space’s Isaac Clarke, right down to the signature stomp attack. Throw in an abandoned orbital prison riddled with a biophage outbreak and Icarus-y themes of hubris and you begin to see why it's labeled a spiritual successor.

If you’re not into Dead Space, don’t worry. The Callisto Protocol is an excellent game in its own right and, if you’ve never played either, the better place to start. Set 300 years into the future, the story has a thrilling set up. Jacob and his partner Max haul freight across the solar system and are about to retire after just one last job. You can already see where it’s going. The job sends them to the infamous Black Iron prison on Callisto, Jupiter’s second-largest moon. On their way home, a group of criminals hijacks their ship and it crash lands back on Callisto. Jacob and Dani, the lead hijacker, survive only to be imprisoned at Black Iron. Soon after, all hell breaks loose.

Brutal combat offers a nice reprieve from the tense terror in The Callisto Protocol.

Striking distance Studios

Surviving as Jacob honing a few crucial skills. First and foremost is a melee combat system that’s weighty but fair. The Callisto Protocol loves a good dismemberment so prepare yourself for plenty of hewn limbs courtesy of your trusty crowbar. The meat-and-potatoes of combat is a melee/shooter combo that uses a quick fire prompt to help you headshot staggered foes.

The ranged combat is solid too, allowing you to equip a primary and a sidearm. Don’t get too excited, though. This isn’t a COD-style shooting gallery with loads of weapons. There’s only a half dozen or so in the game, but upgrades let you customize them to fit your preferred playstyle.

The final piece of the combat puzzle is the GRP, a gravity glove that lets players lift objects or enemies and toss them around the room. It can lead to some gruesomely satisfying action thanks to a peculiar abundance of spiked walls, but comes with limited uses and a long recharge time to start. It doesn’t require any ammo though, making it a good alternative when bullets running low, which is basically half the time. If you’re envisioning a Tears of the Kingdom style god hand, think again. There aren’t puzzles to solve beyond some rudimentary crate+switch combos and exploration is minimal.

This linear approach to the environment can be either pro or con depending on what you want from the game. If you’re looking for lots of investigation and discovery, keep looking. There is a fair bit of found narrative in the form of audio logs, but this isn’t an open-world adventure. Still, plenty of players will be happy with a 10-12 hour campaign stuffed with macabre moments and eerie atmosphere.

A haunting, otherworldly atmosphere that is not for the faint of heart.

Striking Distance Studios

This shorter playtime is what makes The Callisto Protocol a solid addition to Game Pass. At launch this was seen as a pretty big drawback given the dollars-to-hours ratio found in other titles, but being part of a subscription service offers a low-risk, high-reward scenario for players. Plus, there’s a year and a half’s worth of patch updates that resolve a lot of the issues that dragged down the review scores. Enemies are easier to manage in groups, New Game+ and Hardcore modes offer incentive to play through a few more times, and auto-play audio logs quickly immerse you in the story.

Is it as good as Dead Space? No, but it doesn’t have to be. The Callisto Protocol is a worthy spiritual successor that stands on its own. Is it a masterpiece? Only one way to find out.

The Callisto Protocol is available now on Game Pass. It’s also for sale on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

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