When Dead Space first released in 2008, it was widely well received as a great work of horror/sci-fi storytelling that had players assuming the role of an everyman engineer trapped on a ship infested with Necromorphs. The game spawned two sequels before Visceral Games, the original developer, was shut down by EA in 2017. But Dead Space co-creator and his new studio Striking Distance are looking to resurrect the spirit of the horror/sci-fi series with their new game, The Callisto Protocol. The strong fan and critical acclaim of Dead Space means that the new IP has a large legacy to live up to.
Announced at The 2020 Game Awards Show, The Callisto Protocol's first trailer immediately highlights some similarities to Dead Space. An inmate aboard a prison transport ship receives a scrambled and cryptic message before power is lost, and then the inmate moves toward the cell door to try and ascertain what's happening, calling out to a cellmate to wake up. The cellmate is seen transforming, Necromorph style, into a hideous monster before attacking the inmate. Disgustingly, interested The Callisto Protocol players see tendrils extending from the creature down the inmate's throat and into his eyes during the attack.
The visual similarities to Dead Space are immediately apparent. The color palate is dark, stark, and foreboding, punctuated with bright blue light from the hologram message and the other technological pieces in the scene. The cell is almost dripping wet, a visceral visual harkening back to the damp corridors Isaac explores in Dead Space. And as the inmate climbs out of his bunk, there is what seems to be a holographic health indicator hovering over the back of his neck. This is a clear parallel to the HUD system used in Dead Space that prioritized player immersion by having all elements of the HUD like health or ammo displayed holographically behind him or on his weapons. This hints that the gameplay of The Callisto Protocol will also draw heavy inspiration from its predecessor, hopefully for the better.
The influences of classic horror/sci-fi like Event Horizon, Alien, and The Thing that were on full display in Dead Space are definitely still impacting the design of The Callisto Protocol as evident in the grotesque transformation seen in even more brutal detail in the red-band Callisto Protocol trailer. The overtones of paranoia and fear seem as though they will remain relevant in the new IP. The transformation of the cellmate is very similar to the Necromorphs from Dead Space, although the source of the mutation has yet to be revealed.
It isn't quite clear what is causing the mutation in the short trailer, but the creature's tentacles forcing their way down the victims throat seem to lend more toward a physical plague or an egg implant akin to Alien over the more occult style influence of the monoliths from Dead Space. However even in the short trailer there are some allusions to mythology that might hint at more mysterious influences yet to be revealed.
In the trailer, the prison transport ship is named Charon, a direct reference to the Roman figure that guided the souls of the dead along their journey into the afterlife. That allusion and the shadowy figure navigating the ship having almost no reaction to watching the brutal attack on security cameras lend to there being much more left to discover. The Callisto Protocol has a lot to live up to in the shadow of Dead Space but so far it seems clear that they intend to reanimate the success of their predecessor.
The Callisto Protocol is set to release in 2022 for PC and unspecified consoles.