Survival horror fans will be feasting in the coming months and years. From Silent Hill 2 to Dead Space, to Alan Wake 2, a number of beloved and established franchises are getting major new instalments that are look very promising. But of course, there’s also a new kid on the block that’s attracting just as much attention. Made by a team that’s led by the creators of Dead Space, Striking Distance Studios’ The Callisto Protocol has looked excellent since the moment it was revealed, and as we approach its launch in early December, excitement surrounding the game is growing by the day. Like many others, we can’t wait to get our hands on the game- and there’s more than a few reasons for that. To that end, here, we’re going to talk about a few things that we can’t wait to do and experience in The Callisto Protocol.
Gore and horror often tend to go hand in hand, and that’s certainly going to be the case in The Callisto Protocol. Taking cues from Dead Space’s dismemberment mechanics, The Callisto Protocol is taking gore to the next level, to the point it’s going to be one of the experience’s most crucial elements. Striking Distance Studios apparently worked on the game’s “gore system” for a couple of years, thinking up creative and brutal ways for enemies to die, and it’s very much been front and center in all that we’ve seen of the game so far. How much of a tactical advantage something like that might be for players in combat remains to be seen, but things are certainly looking promising. If nothing else, we can’t wait to see the red, glorious explosions of viscera.
As you’d expect, The Callisto Protocol’s gleefully gruesome nature is going to apply to the entire game, not just the aforementioned gore system. Watching different kinds of Biophages get torn apart is obviously going to be a blast, but it seems like protagonist Jacob isn’t going to be exempt from that brutality either. Striking Distance Studios says there are a number of unique and violent death animations in the game, which is another where where The Callisto Protocol is taking a leaf out of Dead Space’s book. In fact, the game is even going to have an Trophy for every single death animation. Obviously, we’re going to hunt down that Trophy.
THE SECRETS OF CALLISTO
Conspiracies and buried secrets are a common theme in the stories of most horror games (or horror stories in any media, really), and unsurprisingly, it looks like The Callisto Protocol won’t buck that trend. The game is set in a maximum security prison on Jupiter’s titular moon of Callisto, and of course, figuring out how the prison has been overrun by the Biophages and what caused their appearance is going to be a central mystery. Interestingly, there’s more layers to the story as well, as it turns out Callisto has a deeper and wider history beyond the prison itself, with the moon’s old colony having been abandoned for unknown reasons as well. Clearly, unraveling those mysteries will be an important part of he game, and we’re more than a little curious to see how it turns out.
Monster design is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of any horror experience, be it games or movies or what have you- that’s often the best way of evoking actual scares and horror, after all. The Callisto Protocol will feature Biophages as its central threats, but what exactly can we expect from their design, and the variety in their designs. So far, what we’ve seen has looked promising (it’s hard not to be impressed by, say, a horrifying monster with two heads), and Striking Distance Studios has also said that the game is going to have 10-11 varieties of Biophages, each with unique behaviour patterns, weak points, and more. Crossing paths with each of these enemies, being horrified by their designs, and finding out the best ways to defeat them in combat is going to be a highlight of the experience, if Striking Distance Studios does things right.
Good design is only half the story when it comes to enemies- AI is just as important especially in a horror game. The Callisto Protocol is promising aggressive foes who’ll relentlessly try and rip players apart in different ways, while also adapting to your attacks and strategies, but interestingly, outside of the combat, the game will also make use of its AI systems to heighten the scares. And that’s something that we can’t wait to experience. Speaking in an interview with VG247, chief technical officer Mark James explained it as follows: “Our AI will sometimes make the decision not to attack you. It will instead jump into a vent in front of you – making sure you see it happen – so you now know that an enemy is in there, and it’s just waiting for the next time it can pop out of another vent and attack you.”
He added: “The AI is always finding the best way to attack. Sometimes that’s them trying to get closer to you. Sometimes they’re reacting to the way they’re playing to better take advantage of you. Say, for example, you keep using long-range ballistics – the enemy will move out of your line of sight, probably into a vent, and find another way to come to you.”
With the gore system, the enemy AI, the different enemy types, and its emphasis on horror, The Callisto Protocol has enough pieces in place to craft an exciting combat system- but that’s not all, of course. Finding and using its different kinds of weapons and upgrades is hardly ever not fun in a game, and with how The Callisto Protocol is handling upgrades, we’re particularly interested. In addition to each weapon having its own upgrade tree, players will also find certain enhancements that will see weapons enhancing over time, so rather than getting simple damage upgrades, certain weapons might become more specialized. It remains to be seen how much freedom players will have in what sort of upgrades they want, but it sounds like a promising idea.
The weapon that’s likely going to be the star of the show in The Callisto Protocol is the GRP, a gravity manipulation device that seems like it’s going to add a whole new layer to combat. Using the GRP, Jacob will be able to pull enemies toward him and freeze them mid-air, before then sending them hurtling back into a surface. Anytime a game has a gravity manipulation mechanic, it inherently becomes that much more intriguing, and combined with The Callisto Protocol’s emphasis on gore, that becomes double try here. Want to pull an enemy towards you and then send it flying into a giant fan that shreds it to its core? Go right ahead. We can’t wait to fiddle around with the GRP and find increasingly creative and brutal ways to use it in combat.
The Callisto Protocol is going to be a largely linear experience, and Striking Distance Studios has confirmed that it’ll be roughly 12-14 hours long, all of which is pretty standard for a survival horror title. But though it’ll be mostly linear, it will also have some optional content as well. A lot of that will come in the form of beta paths, which are optional routes to completion that players can completely ignore what they wish to. Beta paths will also reveal more of the lore and backstory, while interestingly enough, a lot of them are also going to be hidden. As per the developers, The Callisto Protocol’s replay value benefits greatly from these unique beta paths and the variations they bring, and that’s something that we’re keen to experience ourselves.
Audio design is more important in horror games than in maybe any other genre, and it’s an area where we’ve been seeing steady improvements year over year. The Callisto Protocol is shaping up to keep that trajectory going, at least based on what its developers are saying. More often than not, 3D audio is a buzz word for a lot of games, but The Callisto Protocol is promising to use it in conjunction with core gameplay elements, such as the AI and how it’ll keeping trying to find ways to scare the crap out of players. That’s yet another aspect of the game that we’re quite excited about, especially given how much its emphasizing horror.