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Early Reactions To The Callisto Protocol Are All Over The Place

"The Callisto Protocol" has finally arrived, bringing a new vision of cosmic horror to PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms. The game primarily follows the efforts of an inmate named Jacob Lee as he fights to survive in space prison overrun by mutated inmates. The only way to kill them: remove the tentacles sprouting from his enemies and dismember as many of them as he can. As a new action/horror title from "PUBG" developer Krafton and "Dead Space" creator Glen Schofield, the game has some serious expectations to fulfill. 

Across the board, critics seem to agree that the game looks absolutely beautiful on consoles — it apparently experiences some serious stuttering issues on PC, according to Steam reviews — and has some moments that will make horror fans' skin crawl and action fans leap from their seats. But that may not be enough. Depending on who you ask, "The Callisto Protocol" is either the "Dead Space" successor fans have been clamoring for, or else it's a middling disappointment that does a whole lot of interesting things in uninteresting ways. Here's what the critics have been saying about "The Callisto Protocol."

The Callisto Protocol is a retread in many ways

Critics have found that "The Callisto Protocol" doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from "Dead Space," and its many homages can sometimes bleed into even bigger problems. In a mostly positive review, IGN's Tristan Ogilvie argued that the game is "gratifyingly gruesome, but never quite as great as the series that inspired it."

In TheGamer's review, Andrew King pointed out that the game's design elements borrow heavily from "Dead Space," even down to the game's tech and environmental storytelling. An early moment in "The Callisto Protocol," which sees Jacob come across a bloody message scrawled on the wall that tells players to "SHOOT THE TENTACLES." This is a clear reference to the infamous "CUT OFF THEIR LIMBS" graffiti from "Dead Space," but it also doubles as an example of how the new game occasionally holds players' hands. Sadly, this creepy moment loses its impact because it arrives after multiple tutorial screens that have already told players to shoot off enemy tentacles. As King put it, "If you're breathing, you're going to understand how to play this game."

Meanwhile, The Verge's Andrew Webster mentioned that the game's apparent pop culture touchstones don't necessarily detract from enjoying the overall experience. Webster remarked, "There's very little about 'The Callisto Protocol' that's original. The most obvious influence is 'Dead Space' ... [and] enemies that look ripped right out of 'Resident Evil,' or the brutalist prison that looks like it belongs in an 'Alien' spinoff. This never really bothered me though, mainly because it's all so well done." Webster was one of many reviewers who praised the game's graphics and sound design, but he also admitted that he was unable to finish the game due to the ramping difficulty towards the end of the game.

The Callisto Protocol's difficulty level is wildly inconsistent

As it turns out, the game is wildly inconsistent when it comes to its level of challenge. Some critics, like Michael McWhertor at Polygon, had to switch the game over to Easy mode in order to complete the game in time for their review.

The Verge and GameSpot's reviews both point out that the later sections of the "The Callisto Protocol" essentially halt the game's eerie build-up and just start throwing hordes of enemies at the player. The creatures' varying attack styles will already offer quite a challenge, but the game's clunky dodge mechanics might end up being Jacob's undoing before players can beat the game. GameSpot's Jordan Ramée pointed out that dodging feels pretty good in the earlier parts of the game, but Jacob is more likely to dodge one monster and go straight into another in the game's more enemy-heavy areas. 

Of course, that's only if the dodge works as intended. "Dodging is a core aspect of Callisto, and this is the move that disappointed me most clearly and most often," wrote Engadget's Jessica Conditt in a negative review. Meanwhile, Polygon found that some button inputs seemed to be more unresponsive than others, providing an unbalanced combat experience.

Some critics have found the game's difficulty level to be one of its biggest draws. NPR's review concludes, "It's challenging and unsettling, but with a little bit of grit and guts, you'll make it through." With critics so split over Krafton and Glen Schofield's new gore-fest, players may be even more interested in seeing for themselves what "The Callisto Protocol" has in store.