The Callisto Protocol Isn’t Perfect, But It Takes Much Needed Risks

Krafton's new title has issues, but it brings variety back to the survival horror genre.

Arguably, one of the strongest emotions human beings feel is fear. Like other primal emotions, it is a common denominator in all of us. Due to this, the horror genre is popular in every form of entertainment from movies and books to video games.

Nothing encompasses that feeling of anxiety better than survival horror games. The genre found its audience through the first Resident Evil, which came out in 1996. It was the first game in history to be called a “survival horror,” and everything began from there. 

Since then, the genre has become one of the most popular in the industry. Legendary franchises like Amnesia and Silent Hill have made survival horror further stand out among the wide variety of genres the gaming world has. But, like any other discipline of video games, it has gone through a lot of transformation. 

Resident Evil 1
The first Resident Evil put survival horror on the gaming world’s map.

Resident Evil again pioneered this evolution by making their games action-heavy. From Resident Evil 4 onwards, the titles became more like “action survival horror” games. It worked for the company for a while, but they did return to their roots when fans wanted old-school scares back.

The impact of this metamorphosis, however, was profound on the industry. More and more games started incorporating action/FPS elements in their horror games. And, it did work to perfection in some cases like Dead Space, Alien: Isolation, and Dying Light

Survival Horror Employing Psychological Elements

One thing we know for sure about entertainment is that trends change quickly, and that’s exactly what happened in 2014. Hideo Kojima released Playable Teaser, better known as P.T., for his Silent Hill game (R.I.P). It was a short 20-minute experience that took place in a single hallway, but it changed the trajectory of survival horror. 

P.T. didn’t have any action elements, it was a psychological horror game with a single scare. That scare and the atmospheric elements worked so well that it influenced the next decade of the genre. Kojima’s Silent Hills didn’t see the light of day, but its impact was felt. 

Since then, survival horror has gone back to anxiety-inducing atmospheric horror without a lot of action. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard removing the shooter elements and retreating to grounded horror elements also played a part in this. We have got more action-oriented horror titles, but elevated scares have taken over the genre. 

Even though it’s not a bad thing, horror has always prided itself in its variation. For example, we get a lot of psychological horror movies nowadays. But, that is balanced out by slashers like Scream and Halloween Kills, giving options to consumers. 

Recently that hasn’t been the case in gaming. All of the recent horror releases which have grabbed our attention have gone down the P.T. route. Not only the big AAA releases but also games from indie studios, which are the backbone of horror creativity. 

Survival horror games are starting to look exactly like Kojima’s teaser to recreate what it did. We did an article on major 2022 horror releases and how similar they look a while back. And, as you can see, they literally look like the same game with a different story.

All of them have a similar setting and take place in one area. Psychological horror also plays a big part in all of these titles. Hence, instead of doing something new, games like MADiSON and Visage just become generic copypastes. 

MADiSON
New survival horror games like MADiSON, resemble P.T. too much.

It seems like the horror genre pivots to one extreme or the other after a couple of years depending on what’s trending. So, instead of striking the right balance of variety in the genre, horror just becomes formulaic and devoid of creativity.

But, one game this year didn’t follow the popular trends and actually took some risks: The Callisto Protocol.

Why The Callisto Protocol Is Necessary For Survival Horror

Critics haven’t been huge fans of the new game from Krafton. But, The Callisto Protocol brings some much-needed variety to the horror games this year. Instead of being a psychological survival horror, the game brings back the action-shooter elements.

The Callisto Protocol is an entirely different game from other horror releases this year. Probably the best change the game made to its formula was its setting. Striking Distance Studios’ horror game takes place on the moon of the planet Jupiter, giving us a much-needed change of scenery.

Obviously, that is not to say games with first-person psychological horror elements this year have been bad. Titles like The Death, The Complex: Found Footage, and the games we mentioned above, have been nerve-wracking experiences.

However, the problem isn’t the quality, it is the variety, and The Callisto Protocol brings that.

Gamers want to have different experiences and playing games with the same formula, again and again, negates that. The Callisto Protocol gives us a distinct survival horror adventure by making the genre combine with sci-fi. Moving to Jupiter from creepy old houses is something all gamers needed, and the game delivers beautifully. 

Visually, The Callisto Protocol is a masterpiece and has one of the best graphical performances of the year. Seeing Hollywood actors Karen Fukuhara and Josh Duhamel recreated to perfection is breathtaking to see. Hence, seeing a horror game look like a big-budget AAA title again is refreshing to see.

Gamers play The Callisto Protocol from a third-person perspective, which is different from the first-person approach most popular games have taken recently. Nowadays, even horror titles like Resident Evil, which originated as a third-person shooter, employ a first-person perspective. So, seeing survival a new survival horror game with action-shooter elements and a third-person view is nice to see.

The Callisto Protocol
The Callisto Protocol looks amazing graphically.

It has been a long time since a horror game has been set in space. After the Dead Space series, only Alien: Isolation has managed to capture the scares this cold void holds. The Callisto protocol brings us back to a horrifying space setting, and it’s a welcome return. 

Bringing back elements from games like Dead Space has been one of the best things Kraftons game has done. And, that is no surprise as Glen Schofield directed The Callisto Protocol. Schofield was the co-creator of Dead Space, so it’s unlikely many people know more about space horror than he does.

A Dead Space remake is also releasing next year, giving us another kind of survival horror game to try. All of this isn’t to say that The Callisto Protocol doesn’t have its problems. It had technical issues at launch, and many publications reported this.

Its story is apparently very lackluster, and the game barely makes it to the “positive” side of review scores. But, what makes The Callisto Protocol necessary in this horror climate is how unique it is compared to other games. Players can leave the psychological pseudo-elevated horror titles, and pick up a good-old action shooter where your only way to survive is killing your enemies.

The Callisto Protocol Jupiter
The Callisto Protocol isn’t perfect, but it gives players a much-needed escape from creepy hallways.

And, this variation is where The Callisto Protocol succeeds. In no way is it perfect, but it takes calculated risks by bringing elements from old horror games back. That is a big deal in this current era of survival horror and we needed it.

Takeaway

Video games have always had everything for everyone, no matter what genre. Horror hasn’t been sticking to this recently and even indie developers have been making grounded horror games that look alike. The Callisto protocol provides the essential variation horror fans needed right now.

Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it broadens the horizon of 2022’s horror games by breaking a trend everyone is following. Hopefully, we see more survival horror games like The Callisto Protocol that do different things, because that’s what gaming is all about. 

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Ahmed Mansoor


Your average video games enjoyer with a deep passion for single-player adventures who writes about his favorite hobby.

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