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Why The Callisto Protocol Failed To Capture The Magic Of Dead Space

Developer Striking Distance Studios intended for "The Callisto Protocol" to serve as a spiritual successor to "Dead Space," but it failed to live up to the magic of the original survival horror experience that captured fans' hearts. K-ODYSSEY reported that the game underperformed in sales, to the point that publisher Krafton's stock took a hit as a result. 

For many, "The Callisto Protocol" didn't have that special something that made "Dead Space" so beloved. However, it's worth noting that expectations for the title may have been impossible to meet. Though "Dead Space" creator Glen Schofield wasn't part of the remake of his original game, which released to critical acclaim, he was involved in "The Callisto Protocol." This seemed like a strong indication that the project would share the spirit of "Dead Space."

When "The Callisto Protocol" came out, critical reactions were all over the place – even the positive reviews couldn't touch the success of the "Dead Space" remake. Several factors played into why the space horror left gamers unsatisfied and downright disappointed.

Performance issues

Like ambitious, glitchy titles before it, "The Callisto Protocol" has experienced more than its fair share of performance issues since release, including a rough launch day. Though reviewers felt the game shines in the visual department on consoles, lots of PC users on Steam have had quite the rocky time with "The Callisto Protocol," making it unplayable for some. Detractors pointed out problems ranging from bugs and lag to constant stuttering. 

Since many of the problems popped up on day one, the title introduced itself as unreliable from the start. Director and "Dead Space" creator Glen Schofield addressed the PC performance issues at launch, attributing them to someone's mistake moving too quickly and implementing the patch on the "wrong file." Since then, Striking Distance has rolled out updates, but certain players still have a sour taste in their mouths despite improvements on all platforms.

Players prefer Dead Space

Since the "Dead Space" remake came out, it has become increasingly clear that perhaps all fans really wanted was more of the same quality content they already fell in love with. "The Callisto Protocol" tried to bring a fresh feel to some of the key concepts of "Dead Space," but to large pockets of gamers, it didn't do the original justice. The "Dead Space" remake scratches an itch that "The Callisto Protocol" can't quite touch. Maybe this could've turned out differently with a better overall game, but fans can't help comparing the two, especially since the spiritual successor stumbled its way through release.

Writing for Eurogamer, Vikki Blake identified the core idea of "The Callisto Protocol" as one of its main problems. "It's just another game about another man imprisoned for another crime he didn't commit and whilst sure, it's just the vehicle in which to drive the action, it's a pity the premise couldn't have been a little more inventive," summed up Blake. IGN's Tristan Ogilvie agreed that other than the high-quality voice acting and next-level gore, "The Callisto Protocol" couldn't compare to either the original "Dead Space" or the remake.

Lackluster combat

Elaborating on why "Dead Space" knocks "The Callisto Protocol" out of the water, Tristan Ogilvie at IGN pointed out the weak points of the latter's combat system. In the reviewer's words, "The Callisto Protocol is saddled with an ordinary ordnance limited to pistols, shotguns, and an assault rifle, which feel satisfying enough to shoot but are ultimately indistinct from the firearms featured in any number of other action games ... There really is no contest when it comes to combat variety and balance; The Callisto Protocol's Jacob is a blunt instrument, while Dead Space's Isaac is a sci-fi Swiss Army knife." To Ogilvie, "Dead Space" had much more exciting mechanics, especially given melee timing issues on top of an unappealing arsenal.

Several Steam reviewers also found the combat in "The Callisto Protocol" disappointing, with multiple gamers describing the system as tedious and frustrating overall. Users sharing their thoughts on Metacritic came to a similar conclusion, with a host of folks finding fault with the combat in multiple enemy scenarios in particular. As Kirk McKeand wrote for Sports Illustrated, "It doesn't matter how gorgeous it looks, how thick the atmosphere is, or how weighty and impactful the weapons feel – the combat design is borderline broken." This proves especially prevalent later on in the game due to flaws with switching between weapons, as well as the aforementioned issues with groups of enemies and an overall sense of repetition.