The Callisto Protocol's devs want you "constantly worried" about fans

By Lee Brady,

Striking Distance Studios, the devs behind PS5, PS4 survival horror game The Callisto Protocol, want you "constantly worried" while you traverse the game's hazard and enemy-riddled environments.

The Callisto Protocol, set to launch on PS5 and PS4 later this year, will feature an "adaptive, interactive" environment — one in which a single wrong step will see your player character Jacob Lee torn to shreds in a myriad of M-18 rating-worthy ways. To get a better sense of what we're up against, we talked to Striking Distance Studios CTO Mark James about The Callisto Protocol's deadly environmental hazards and intelligent enemies.

callistoYeah, you gotta watch out for these things.

The Callisto Protocol environmental hazards can kill you and your enemies

We talked to James at Gamescom 2022 about a whole bunch of topics — from The Callisto Protocol on PS Plus, to the game's use of PS5 audio, to plans for the upcoming DLC. Yet, while talking to James, it was clear he was most passionate about discussing the game itself, particularly when it comes to the design choices used to bring The Callisto Protocol's environment to life.

"We spent a lot of time making sure our environment is adaptive," James said, when we asked what he was most keen to glean from watching players enjoy Callisto at Gamescom. "We have this phrase: ‘every step is different.’ It means that every time I walk through the world, I know I'm progressing, I can see the destruction and the biophage influencing the world more and more as I go. So it's really important to put that environmental storytelling in, and we also make that adaptive and interactive."
As an example of environmental storytelling, James detailed the vent system in The Callisto Protocol, comparing it directly to another influential survival horror game of the last ten years — Alien Isolation. "The enemies use the vents, and we’ve got a full vent system throughout the game. They can drop into a vent much like in Alien Isolation and they can move through the world outside of your visual world. I’ll walk into a corridor and I will see a vent plate on the floor that wasn't there before. Now I know something has gone through that vent. I don't know where it is. I don't know where it's going to come out. I don't know if it's waiting for me when I walk underneath that vent, but that's a piece of interactive environment storytelling."

Despite allusions to Alien Isolation, the ears of fans of another survival horror franchise, Dead Space, should be burning right now. The Callisto Protocol gets compared to Dead Space rather frequently on social media — which is absolutely fair. Aside from the game being created by Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield, and that Callisto's debut is only a few months ahead of the Dead Space reboot release date, fans of EA's long-dormant franchise will fondly remember moments from the series that played similar tricks, leaving stray vents and recently locked doors ajar to ratchet up the tension as you manoeuvred Isaac Clarke through the Ishimura.

callistoA legacy of torn limbs.

Also similar to Dead Space is The Callisto Protocol's hazardous environments — however, Striking Distance Studios seems to want to go some ways further when it comes to the savage tearing about of their lead hero Jacob Lee. James warns: "the prison was a dangerous place, even when it wasn't filled with the infected — there's no health and safety protocols in the prison, there's no one there saying “don't step into the grinder.”

"You can just as easily be killed by an environmental hazard as you can be killed by an enemy. We can also turn those hazards on and off, so if you switch a machine on, you might open a door in another environment, but it will also turn the fan system on somewhere else."

callistoNo... NO!

That would be what James meant by 'interactive' and 'adaptive' then, and where we see The Callisto Protocol also channelling the iconic Prince of Persia The Sands of Time by letting us play a character who, in trying to navigate a particularly hostile area, accidentally activates every trap and saw blade in the building. "We want you to be constantly worried about how the environment is changing," James adds, and we believe him.

If your The Callisto Protocol-tinged curiosity has not yet been sated, we also talked to James about the game's upcoming trophy list and what we can expect there. For more Gamescom 2022 revelations, read our Hyenas preview, our Mount and Banner II Bannerload PS5 impressions, and our interview with Tunic's lead developer — plus, let us know what you think of these details in the comments below.
Lee Brady
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Shadow x Sonic Generations), one eye on the past (PS Plus Premium games), and his secret third eye on junk he really likes (Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games). Then he uses his big mouth to blurt out long-winded opinions about video games.
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