Dead Space Remake – 6 Ways It Is Better Than The Callisto Protocol
Fans of EA’s Dead Space franchise were starved for a long, long time, but not too long ago, two announcements broke through the thick clouds like brilliant rays of hope. First came the announcement of The Callisto Protocol, a new sci-fi survival horror IP billed as a spiritual successor to Dead Space, led by the people who created EA’s franchise in the first place. Not long afterward came the announcement that Dead Space itself was also coming back, courtesy of a ground-up remake of the first game. With both announcements, it was clear that our long-suffering itch for space survival horror was finally going to be scratched.
Both games are out now, and it’s fair to say that both have gone in very opposite directions. The Callisto Protocol, though a decent enough game, turned out to be a big disappointment by and large, while the Dead Space remake may very well be one of the best survival horror games ever made, and up there in the upper echelons of the history of remakes with the likes of, say, 2019’s Resident Evil 2.
Why exactly is that? Well, there’s several reasons- which is exactly what this feature is about. Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the biggest ways Dead Space proves to be a significantly better game than The Callisto Protocol.
Let’s start with the most obvious point first, because the quality of combat in both games is diametrically opposed. Dead Space’s combat is one of its biggest strengths, while The Callisto Protocol’s combat is one of its biggest weaknesses. In Dead Space, the combat homes in on everything that makes the game tick – the overwhelming tension, the formidable threat of the Necromorphs, a constant feeling of vulnerability – and highlights every single one of those things. All of it is in service to heightening the survival horror experience at the game’s core. In The Callisto Protocol, on the other hand, the combat actively works against so much of what the game is trying to do. The Callisto Protocol tries very hard to replicate the scares and atmosphere of its spiritual progenitor, but its combat, which is surprisingly melee-focused and action heavy, sucks out all of that tension. It doesn’t help that it tends to be quite clunky where the actual mechanics are concerned.
The survival horror genre has owed so much of itself to its love for gore over the years- it’s no coincidence that some of the best and most memorable games in the genre tend to be delightfully grizzly gorefests. For all of its deficiencies, this is an area where The Callisto Protocol, with all of its explosions of blood and viscera and horrifying death animations, doesn’t disappoint. Even so, Dead Space is a cut above it. Not only does it pack just as much of a visual punch in this area, the gore also plays an important mechanical part in Dead Space’s gameplay, thanks to its central dismemberment mechanics, which are made even more delightfully visceral thanks to the remake’s new peeling system. Not only do you get to watch Necromorphs gradually disintegrate and diegetically show more damage with each successive hit, you also get to work it into your strategy in the heat of gameplay in a meaningful way.
It’s ridiculous how much better Dead Space is than The Callisto Protocol in this aspect- but then again, it’d be hard to find many decent survival horror games that don’t have better exploration than The Callisto Protocol. Striking Distance Studio’s title is an extremely linear experience- almost shockingly so. There’s little to no room for exploration, and the branching paths and optional rooms you come across are threadbare and have almost nothing interest to reward your curiosity with. Hell, the game doesn’t even have a map that you can use while you’re making your way through Callisto- though on second though, given how little the game lets you explore, a map would have been almost entirely useless.
Dead Space, on the other hand, is set aboard the USG Ishimura, which is one of the most iconic survival horror settings for a good reason. Trudging through the crumbling ship and slowly bringing it back to life was a captivating experience in 2008, and it’s even better in 2023. Not only is the core level design inherently excellent, it’s even been improved thanks to new rooms and areas, some alterations to the layout, and, most significantly, the fact that the entire ship is now a single, seamless map with zero load screens.
The Dead Space remake is, of course, a pretty linear game, but it’s not one that isn’t meaty. In addition to its densely packed main story, the game lets players engage in plenty of optional content- there’s obviously all the aforementioned exploration, but the remake also adds plenty of new content that the original didn’t have in the shape of several new side quests, which, thankfully, are excellently designed, and enrich the experience even more. The Callisto Protocol’s hyper-linearity, on the other hands, works against it in this area as well. There’s not much to do in the game beyond sticking to the strictly defined pre-determined path, and it ends up feeling a little too lean for its own good as a result.
It’s no secret that Dead Space ranks as one of the scariest horror games out there, and all of those scares are cranked up to eleven in the remake. Where its visuals, audio design, and production value are concerned, Dead Space leaves no stone unturned in crafting an unparalleled atmosphere and sense of place. The Callisto Protocol certainly tries to do that- but it does so on a very superficial level, and is hardly ever the sort of game that will make you sit on the edge of your seat.
Even where the gameplay is concerned, Dead Space is significantly better at invoking a palpable sense of dread. We’ve touched on how The Callisto Protocol’s action-heavy approach and melee-heavy combat heavily undermine its horror tendencies, and the exact opposite is true of Dead Space. From the pacing to how the game balances combat with puzzles and exploration, from the variety of enemies you face and the threat they pose to the finetuning of things like ammo and health drops, Dead Space absolutely nails the core tenets of the survival horror genre.
This is almost an unfair comparison, seeing as Dead Space is one of the best stories we’ve ever experienced in a survival horror game. Even in its 2008 form, this story ranks up there with the best of the best the genre has had to offer, but the remake elevates it even further. It makes the smart decision of being a very faithful remake and not changing the large story and its main beats- nothing is radically altered, and nothing is removed. It does add a lot of new details though- new lore bits, added screentime for characters, rewritten cutscenes that flow much better, voice lines for Isaac, all of which adds even more meat to the bones of an already excellent story.
The Callisto Protocol is… well, it’s not terrible, but it’s nowhere near on the same level. The story it tells is, for the most part, cookie cutter stuff that uses one trope after another. To its credit, it uses those tropes well enough to keep you at least passingly invested in the proceedings while you’re actually playing the game. None of it makes any impact or leaves any impression whatsoever though, which is the exact opposite of one would say about Dead Space’s story.
Comments are closed.