The Callisto Protocol
Extremely gory sci-fi horror game not for faint of heart.
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The Callisto Protocol
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Callisto Protocol is a survival horror game for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PCs. The story focuses on Jacob, an unjustly detained prisoner in a brutal, unethically managed penal colony on Callisto. When the prison comes under attack by an alien menace that turns inmates and guards into grisly monsters, he must engage in extremely gory combat using guns, a baton, a shiv, and a sci-fi gravity gauntlet. He frequently severs heads and limbs from bodies, throws enemies into grinding machines to be torn apart, and stomps remains to bits with the heel of his boot. Deaths -- including Jacob's -- are typically accompanied by screams of pain, fountains of blood, and viscera scattered across the environment. Bodies are everywhere, and noisy jump scares are frequent. Jacob doesn't enjoy the violence he commits, but is forced to be brutal in order to survive. While most of his actions are for his own benefit, he helps others in key situations and near the end of the game commits a very selfless act. Dialogue is intense and characters use strong language, often while describing horrific situations. Parents should be aware that this is a very challenging game that may prove frustrating for some players.
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What’s It About?
Set in the 24th century, THE CALLISTO PROTOCOL puts players in the orange jumpsuit of Jacob, an inmate at Black Iron Prison on Callisto, one of Jupiter's moons. Having been unjustly captured, chipped, and incarcerated after crash landing his ship during a delivery job to the prison, Jacob wakes up on his first day as a prisoner to find the facility overrun by monsters in the form of inmates and guards that have been infected by alien entities. He befriends other inmates in his attempt to find a way off the moon, and slowly unravels the secrets of the monsters' origin as well as what has been going on in the prison along the way. Players spend much of the game wandering the prison's subterranean halls and facilities, which are dark, covered with the remains of unspeakable carnage, and filled with spooky sounds. Monsters frequently pop out of vents and from behind corners to attack Jacob, who must defend himself using a small but slowly growing arsenal of weapons, ranging from melee gear such as a stun button and shivs to more high tech weapons, including sci-fi guns and the GRP, a gauntlet that lets Jacob pick up monsters and hurl them at spikes and grinding machines. These weapons can be upgraded and augmented at ReForge machines throughout the game, and are the primary way in which the player's character grows to become capable of taking on not just one or two monsters at a time, but roomfuls of creatures attacking from all sides.
Is It Any Good?
It may be derivative, plucking from sources ranging from Dead Space to Aliens, but this sci-fi survival horror game is very effective in making players squirm and jump in their seats. The Callisto Protocol is an audio and visual masterpiece, providing players stunningly detailed environments to explore, lifelike animations of characters running and looking around in fear, and a collection of ambient and dynamic sounds. All of this is used to make the player feel like they're in the game, experiencing the same dread, claustrophobia, and panic as Jacob. The incredibly detailed gore is extreme verging on excessive, but it's nothing if not unsettling, and that's exactly the sort of vibe this game is going for. Plus, everything has a believable kind of weight to it that somehow enhances the player's sense of presence, from Jacob's slow, heavy footfalls to the weapons he uses, which take time to wind up and eventually release authentic haptic feedback through the controller. Add in some great performances from Hollywood stars Josh Duhamel and Karen Fukuhara, and you have a deeply cinematic horror experience.
Where things sometimes go just a bit sideways is how you interact with this world, its objects, and its monsters. For example, while combat is never less than an intense, pulse-pounding fight for your life, and includes satisfyingly realistic dodging and blocking abilities, it takes time to get used to and master the controls. Even sprinting feels a bit weird, mostly because it's assigned to the left shoulder button. Finally, the decision to make ammunition, health items, and sellable objects scarce is great when it comes to forcing strategy and ramping up the tension. But there are times when dealing with Jacob's oddly limited inventory -- like running back through completed halls and rooms to pick up objects left behind just so you can sell them at the ReForge machine -- pulls you out of the atmosphere the game has worked so hard to create by reminding players that they're just playing a game with some silly arbitrary rules. Despite these occasional missteps, though, The Callisto Protocol remains beautiful, engaging, and terrifying, making it an easy recommendation of mature fans of the genre.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Is the impact of the violence in The Callisto Protocol affected by the graphically detailed destruction of bodies? At what point does the depiction of violence in media move from realistic to excessive? Would the game's impact be lessened if it wasn't as bloody or gory?
How should we try to ensure that the government's treatment of prisoners is humane and that they are safe while in custody?
- Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid ($69.99)
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: KRAFTON, Inc.
- Release date: December 2, 2022
- Genre: Survival Horror
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Robots, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: M for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language
- Last updated: December 5, 2022
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