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The Callisto Protocol begins like all good prison films do: with a mood of unbearable doom. Workingman pilot Jacob Lee has crash-landed on the dead moon of Callisto, after his cargo ship is boarded by a notorious terrorist group. Someone else has died a bizarrely gruesome death during the crash, and we are given ample opportunity to study this misfortune. Next, Lee is arrested, and it's made clear that he has a life spent in the moon's Black Iron prison to look forward to. But almost immediately the prison falls afoul of some mysterious disaster that turns its inhabitants into crazed mutants.


These events cascade efficiently during the first half-hour, and what better way to set the tone of a relentlessly gory survival horror game than with a disaster, an injustice, and then the abrupt invasion of some walking pus buckets? The Callisto Protocol is not subtle about dropping us into a place of utmost dread. Somewhat counterintuitively, dread is strangely comfortable for us, the players of this determinedly nasty horror game. The stakes are clear: Lee, played with action hero stoicity by Josh Duhamel, is in deep shit and must dig himself out of it. Perhaps we'll learn a bit about that terrorist group. Inevitably, some subplots will creep in, and we'll meet some characters who keep us company. But The Callisto Protocol wastes no time cementing the terror of its setting. Now we just need to walk in a mostly straight line for 15 hours and butcher our way through it.


I'm not joking when I say that The Callisto Protocol is a comforting videogame, albeit on the far end of the same axis occupied by, say, Dragon Quest. Familiarity is comfort, and The Callisto Protocol is a consistent big-budget joyride. The indie horror scene has potent psychological discomfort covered (see Visage, Signalis), and is also the natural home of grindhouse schlock (see Murder House, and countless uncanny PS1 era throwbacks). The big-budget horror game, in the Resident Evil sense, and most saliently in the Dead Space sense, is about roaming moody corridors and getting your shit regularly effed up.



The Den Win GIF by MillwallFC

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