schlocky sci-fi horror is both clumsy and compelling

I’m not saying the sci-fi survival horror supermo Dead Space was subtle, but it took time to scare away the spooky, claustrophobic atmosphere and get its hooks into your brain. Meanwhile, Callisto Protocol, who aspires to the crown, wants to turn it into a paste immediately. In the first half hour, I smashed several zombie arms with a crowbar, oozing out the bloody guts of unfortunate spirits, and graphically tearing the top half of my head out of my mouth from the bottom up.

The new game from Striking Distance Studios invites comparisons to Dead Space, with, among other things, the ghoul-infested space station, holographic HUDS, and the fact that director Glen Schofield is the co-creator of the old game. But while it’s safe to say you know where you are with the Callisto Protocol, it’s not a direct compliment. There’s definitely a more blunt object and a lot of disappointment. But he also has a lot to enjoy in his schlocky, tentacled embrace.

You are Jacob Lee (Transformers star Josh Duhamel), a freighter pilot who was attacked by the ‘terrorist group’ Outer Way led by Dani Nakamura (Karen Fukuhara of The Boys). After crash-landing on Jupiter’s colonized moon Callisto, Jacob is thrown into the brutal Black Iron Prison in case of obvious mistaken identity. But soon after his arrival, things suddenly start to go horribly wrong. Sudden and mysteriously overrun by fearsome mutated inmates—biophages—the prison soon turns into a chilling picture of blood and fire. Your goal, naturally, is to get out of hell.

You still have to contend with some impressively rendered chaos on your way. Even in this high-end visual fidelity era, it’s hard not to be impressed by the technically polished but vaguely familiar setting of the Callisto Protocol. It’s all hard sci-fi horror brutality; A solitary confinement unit suspended above an open black mouth surrounded by layers and layers of metallic, angular corridors, holographic signs, gene pop metal rods, and stairs. Blood and viscera spread over all other surfaces, dismembered bodies halfway tell the story of the scientists’ untimely demise. Messages are written in guts in the walls and left behind in hastily recorded audio recordings. The immaculately executed lighting flashes and ripples in flashes of red, white, and shadow before plunging you into darkness with the clatter of steel and the screech of minor-toned violins.

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