When The Callisto Protocol was shown off during Geoff Keighley’s Summer Games Fest event last week, the knee-jerk reaction among fans and observers alike was that it looked a lot like Dead Space: the same style and similar UI, even bloodier. But an action game can seem even bigger than the classic of the genre from Visceral: God of War 2018.
Released a decade after Dead Space, it has proven to be highly influential in the way it makes the difference between open-world adventures and more linear action-adventure games. The Callisto Protocol is among the action games that seem to be following suit, with optional paths and exploration sounding very similar to PlayStation’s seminal action game. With apologies to Dead Space fans who are still traumatized by the series’ most infamous scenes, it suggests there may be more to Striking Distance Studios’ new project than meets the eye.
‘There’s going to be a lot more replayability’
Speaking to IGN at Summer Games Fest 2022, Callisto Protocol director Glen Schofield talks about what he calls “beta paths” — optional paths that, in some ways, function similarly to side quests in RPGs. .
“We added beta paths for exploration. We add a lot. And you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but there’s a lot of hidden stuff in the game,” says Schofield. “You learn more about the story, you learn more about the characters. Each character has a story that you can flesh out for them. So I think there’s going to be a lot more replayability for this game than there is for Dead Space.”
Much like God of War 2018, it appears that The Callisto Protocol will generally follow a linear story, but there will be plenty of optional content for curious players who want more. Schofield says that he doesn’t expect players to find all the beta tracks in his game, which means they’ll have a lot of additional content and story beats to find if they choose to play The Callisto Protocol again.
Callisto Protocol may end up being easier than God of War. Sony’s game featured hidden paths that led to unique loot; secret bosses like Valkyries and a simple quest system. In Callisto Protocol, you’re more likely to come across a door that leads you down an unexpected path to optional content. It may be less complex, but Schofield hints that there will be many such paths.
Either way, it’s a departure from the more linear, direct design of the original Dead Space, which was heavily inspired by Event Horizon and Resident Evil 4 (Schofield says he alternately introduced Dead Space as “Resident Evil 4 in space” and “Resident Evil 4 where you can walk while you shoot”). It speaks to the general evolution of action games, which are now expected to be meaty, open-ended adventures that justify their price tags.
To that end, Schofield says Callisto Protocol won’t be using guidelines this time around, though he says it was “great” for Dead Space. He hopes this decision will heighten the horror of Callisto Protocol by disorienting players.
“I want you to be a little bit like, ‘Where am I?’ Because it’s not really too hard to get through, but I do want you to be like, ‘Oh, hell, I was here!’… I don’t think people are missing out on much, because we’re trying to be smart. about it, but I think the evolution of this game is that we’re not going to tell you exactly where to go. We’ll give you hints and stuff like that.
The Gameplay of the Callisto Protocol Summer Gaming Festival 2022
Venturing across a dead planet
The Callisto Protocol has been in development since early 2020, shortly after the founding of Striking Distance Studios. His team includes several Dead Space veterans, including former Dead Space executive producer Steve Papoutsis, the creator of Dead Space 2’s googly-eyed scene, whom Schofield describes as one of his “handy people.” right”.
Schofield has always seemed especially fond of Dead Space, which fueled the meteoric rise of Visceral Games, which has since folded. When Striking Distance first announced The Callisto Protocol, many assumed that Schofield would essentially be remaking Dead Space, an assumption reinforced by the recent Summer Games Fest demo, which on the surface seemed like a direct return to Ishimura.
In the demo, Jacob fights zombies (or “biophages”), explores claustrophobic corridors, and dies in truly gruesome ways. Until now, so Dead Space. But Schofield says that when The Callisto Protocol escapes those corridors, the differences will start to become apparent.
“[T]The environments are all different. You have to think about how you’re going to get ahead,” says Schofield. “Outside, there’s an area where you say, ‘I don’t know which way to go. It’s a snowstorm. It’s… you have to find your way, get a little lost, that kind of thing. And that’s part of being a little scared. It’s a different kind of scared, right?
He continues: “I think different environments allow for different types of scares, but they also allow for different ways that enemies encounter you, and also different types of combat for you. We try to confuse you as much as possible and make each area unique.”
The image that begins to form is that of a horror game that clearly has Dead Space DNA, but is otherwise inspired by much more modern games. When Dead Space was released in 2008, Resident Evil 4 was only three years old. Third-person action-adventure games still felt comparatively new. Like the Necromorphs in the original games, third-person shooters have evolved considerably since then, and with its more open design, The Callisto Protocol evolves with it.
“I think you’ll go in there and play the game, maybe you’ll think of Dead Space, but when you’re done, it’s a different story, different characters, a different universe, a different way of telling the story. We go very deep into the story. The combat is different, the enemies are different”, concludes Schofield.
“I can’t see people saying, ‘Oh, that’s Dead Space 4.’ I just can not.
We’ll be able to see for ourselves very soon, when The Callisto Protocol launches on December 2 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. You can check out the rest of our Summer of Gaming 2022 coverage here, including all the announcements from the weekend’s Xbox + Bethesda showcase.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN and a co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have a tip? Send a DM to @the_katbot.