Revealed last week at The Game Awards 2020, The Callisto Protocol is an upcoming single-player survival horror game from the original creators of Dead Space, and the brand new extended red band trailer makes those inspirations very clear. The new trailer follows the original reveal with a few added scenes, showing the prisoner gruesomely infested by this alien zombie parasite, and then concluding with his husk of a bloodied corpse reanimating. Check it out below (or on YouTube, since apparently age-restricted trailers showing bloodied alien zombies can’t be embedded).
Along with the new trailer, Striking Distance Studios’ Glen Schofield and Steve Papoutsis, longtime industry veterans, friends, and creators of Dead Space, took to The Callisto Protocol’s Discord channel to answer a few of the community questions about the game. Schofield reiterated that the intent of the team was to make “games that leave a mark on the industry,” and with the enormous portfolios of massive titles they have under their belt, it’s certainly not too ambitious a goal for this studio.
Asked about the premise of the game, they gave a very high level overview. You are a prisoner (probably not the dead one in the trailer above) on the dead moon of Jupiter, Callisto. As you work to escape the prison, you’ll discover the dark secrets of the United Jupiter Company. Schofield says the setting of Callisto makes it relatable, plausible, and believable, which are all the hallmarks of good sci-fi.
He also reiterated that this is a single-player, narrative-driven experience. There’s a specific story they want to tell, and there is no multiplayer or co-op. They wanted you to be alone. That’s at least part of what makes it scary.
The prison setting—particularly when paired with the vast emptiness and relative unknowns of outer space—is used as a scary terrifying place. Prison gives the development team a great starting point for good horror. Claustrophobic spaces, lighting and audio design opportunities, and an ominous loneliness escalate the fear. You have nothing but the clothes on your back, creating an air of vulnerability, another core horror element.
The game will be in third-person, and that choice is about seeing your character to connect with them better. Papoutsis says that the spatial awareness component is important. Seeing hits, reactions, enemies grabbing you, and the progression of your character elevates the overall fear factor. It also creates an interplay of the shadows in ways that first-person can’t necessarily convey as well.
When asked about film inspirations, Schofield started spouting a long list of films including Alien, Prometheus, Life, A Quiet Place, Pandorum, Train to Busan, The Grudge, Saw, Descent, and Hereditary. Papoutsis stepped in and added The Thing, Event Horizon, An American Werewolf in London, and A Clockwork Orange (which he says has great horror moments from a story perspective).
In gaming, Papoutsis clarifies that the team’s has an incredible amount of inspiration from a variety of games based on their specific discipline (ie. lighting from one game, or a mechanic from another, etc.). Papoutsis says every game he plays, he tries to learn and be inspired, whether it’s finding elements he really likes or learning from things he doesn’t. As far as specific titles, the original Resident Evil is a really big one. Schofield adds Resident Evil 4, Silent Hill, FEAR, Condemned, Alien Isolation, Outlast, and even brings up PT. “We’ll look for even just one scare moment and how they used that or how they approached it as inspiration for our games.”
Coming in 2022, the game is being designed around the capabilities of the new generation of consoles. Lighting advancements help the world and environments feel more believable and real. Papoutsis says he’s excited about audio advancements for tension, not specifically mentioning the PS5, though the powerful capabilities of the Tempest Engine are surely being utilized. He goes on to clarify that the console capabilities are the tools used to unlock the concepts they have in development. There has to be a synergy between what the platform can do and the experience they want players to have.
Finally, asked about how the develop a scary game when fear is subjective, Schofield said they approach it from a personal perspective and evolve it from there. They will storyboard out those moments and work with the full team to see if and how it will work in the wider scope of the game. Papoutsis adds that fear comes from connecting with the story. You have to care about the protagonist, which amps the tension. Relatability and believability are core elements. It has to be grounded in a way that feels plausible, which makes elements of fear, tension, or gruesomeness really hit harder because you care.
Understandably, the team is still holding a lot of their cards close to the chest. There are undoubtedly some deeper mysteries at play on Callisto, but part of that scariness is the unknown. We also don’t know what Striking Distance will unveil additional information about The Callisto Protocol, but with release scheduled for 2022, it could be a while, so let that fleeting image of an alien parasite zombie corpse haunt you until then.