Year:  2022

Director:  Glen Schofield, Scott Whitney

Rated:  R

Release:  Out Now

Distributor: Five Star Games

Running time: 8-10 hour campaign

Worth: $14.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Josh Duhamel, Karen Fukuhara, Sam Witwer

… a flawed, but mostly engaging, B-tier effort with enough splatter and grime to keep the player occupied …

Dead Space, the 2008 survival horror game, has cast a long shadow over popular culture. The grisly, limb-slicing classic deftly blended gory, tense gameplay with a simple but effective story and a genuinely grim and foreboding atmosphere. It was an instant hit and spawned two sequels (one great, one not so much), a bunch of spin-off titles, animated movies and comic books.

However, after the third game failed to make an obscene amount of money, the series languished, much to the chagrin of right-thinking gamers around the world. One of those disgruntled folks was Dead Space series creator, Glen Schofield himself, who formed an entire studio to create The Callisto Protocol – the spiritual successor to the much-missed franchise. And the result? Hmmm… it’s well-intentioned but sadly not always successful.

The Callisto Protocol puts the player into the heavy clomping boots of Jacob Lee (Josh Duhamel) who, after a brief opening sequence, finds himself incarcerated in the Black Iron prison on the icy moon of Callisto. The bloke barely has a chance to nod off when the entire prison goes berko, with insane inmates and strange mutated creatures running about the place. Jacob must find out what the heck is going on and, more importantly, get the hell out of there before something gobbles him up… or worse.

Okay, so first up, let’s talk about what The Callisto Protocol gets right. For a start, it’s simply gorgeous. The character models, the textures, the lighting, the sheer sense of place is dripping with sci-fi/horror atmosphere. The creatures are all suitably slimy and disgusting looking, if a little samey (more on that in a sec). Also, the audio soundscapes are dense and creepy, with mechanical clanks echoing eerily and organic slurps and growls suitably spine-chilling.

Taken as a work of pure spectacle, particularly when you’re standing still, The Callisto Protocol is a feast for the eyes and ears. The problems, however, occur with everything else. See, while Dead Space wasn’t exactly brimming with story, it seems like The Odyssey compared to TCP. Once the premise is established, Jacob Lee basically gets pushed from one objective to the next, creeping down corridor after corridor, walloping enemies as they appear and occasionally popping fuse boxes into gates to get them open. Over and over again.

Mindless objectives during tense gameplay is nothing new, it’s one of the things that remains great about The Resident Evil and Dead Space series, but it’s so repetitive here without even the light puzzle solving that so often typifies the genre. This would probably be okay, or at least acceptable, if the creature combat was anything to write home about, however, that too is a bit of a letdown. Focused initially on melee (and occasionally gunplay), the system utilises an odd dodge/block mechanic that works well enough when fighting one or two foes but completely falls apart while battling a group. Even once you get the hang of it, it’s just not all that satisfying to use, something exacerbated by the fact that your enemies come in very few varieties and are generally more annoying than scary. And sadly, that’s The Callisto Protocol’s biggest crime here: it’s just not terribly scary. It’s gory, it’s noisy, it’s chockers with jump scares but it never burrows under your skin the way the original Dead Space or Alien: Isolation managed to do so well.

All the above being said, there is enjoyment to be wrung out of The Callisto Protocol. Stop expecting the second coming of space-set survival horror and what you have here is a flawed, but mostly engaging, B-tier effort with enough splatter and grime to keep the player occupied for 8-10 hours. If that sounds like faint praise, well… It kind of is, but for those starved of sci-fi horror video game content, The Callisto Protocol will kill (and eviscerate) time amiably enough until 2023’s much-anticipated remake of Dead Space.