When you are making a follow-up to a highly acclaimed title, what is the best approach to take? Do you make a spiritual successor to the series that lost its flourish? Or do you remake the original that so many people fell in love with? This is the question proposed when we consider the recent releases of The Callisto Protocol and Dead Space (2023).

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

The Callisto Protocol

The Successor

In one corner, we have The Callisto Protocol: A game developed by Striking Distance Studios and directed by Glen Schofield, the man who both directed and was a co-creator for the original Dead Space. After parting ways with EA, Striking Distance came to be in 2019 and their first game released three years later: The Callisto Protocol.

Set to be a callback to Dead Space with a whole new setting and new dangers lurking in a prison facility on Jupiter’s moon. The game came a long way from being a horror game set within the PUBG universe before becoming its own IP.

Dead Space

The Remake

In the other corner, we have the Dead Space Remake released in 2023 by Motive Studio in Montreal (otherwise known as EA Motive). After helping to develop Star Wars: Squadrons and Star Wars Battlefront 2¸ Motive got the opportunity to work on remaking the first Dead Space title.

While the series lay dormant for more than a decade (with Dead Space 3 coming out back in 2013 by Visceral Games), the challenge would be difficult to not only reimagine the series many fell in love with, but also to modernize it for this day and age.

With both games properly introduced, let’s see how they measure up to each other.

Round One: Visuals

When it comes to remaking a game, one key issue is how do you approach the look and feel of the game. Yeah, you could take the Resident Evil approach with the original and enhance the visuals and keep the gameplay as is, or you can take the Resident Evil approach with the 2 and 3 remakes (or Final Fantasy 7 Remake) and recontextualize the game while keeping the feel of the story intact.

The Dead Space Remake certainly does a fantastic job capturing that feeling that you are playing the original again while updating the look and feel of the game. Dead Space looks just like the original with a fresh coat of paint.

We hope you enjoy your stay at Black Iron Prison.

And that’s where Callisto Protocol takes full advantage of this round. Because Dead Space is recapturing the magic of the original game, it can feel like it’s limited in what it can showcase. It still looks amazing by all means, but when you look at Jupiter’s Moon and the setting, you can tell there is a stark difference.

Notice the details in the characters, enemies, and the environment everywhere you go, and just how much work there was involved to make it truly stand out. If there is one thing Callisto Protocol got right, it was certainly the visual presentation.

The point goes to The Callisto Protocol.

Round Two: Weapons

Before we get into combat, let’s look at the weapon lineup for both games. After all, what’s the point in fighting these monsters if the weapons themselves aren’t fun to use? Also, we won’t be comparing the Gravity Restraint Projector and the Kinesis/Stasis Modules since they pretty much cancel each other out.

One slight edge The Callisto Protocol has over Dead Space is the ability to use a melee weapon. While this might change around a bit at the start, the Stun Baton does allow Jacob to clobber rampaging monsters in the face while also providing some protection for him to block and counter.

You can do melee in Dead Space too, but it isn’t really meant to be an active means to kill enemies other than curb stomp to finish them. It also helps Jacob where if he does land a few good hits, he can also quick-shot enemies to put them down fast.

The Callisto Protocol would take the point easily if we were talking solely about melee combat. However, we still need to talk about guns, and this is where Dead Space does take the edge.

Gun Play is Fun Play

The Callisto Protocol does have a nice range of weapons and you can have a primary and sidearm to use in fights. They are your run-of-the-mill weapons and will get the job done well enough.

For Dead Space though, the weapons there aren’t necessarily weapons. Yes, you have your standards like a Flamethrower and Pulse Rifle, but the good majority of weapons in Dead Space are tools for mining operations. Tools players can use to blast off limbs, chop up enemies, and send them flying.

When in doubt: Plasma Cutter

It adds to the overall worldbuilding where it feels like you have to use whatever you can get your hands on to survive as opposed to a prison where these guns are on standby in case a riot breaks out and they decide to start shooting inmates. There is still more creativity in the weapons seen in Dead Space, and because of it, it takes the round.

The point goes to Dead Space.

Round Three: Combat

So unlike the other rounds, combat actually differs quite a bit between these two games. As mentioned during the Weapons round, The Callisto Protocol focuses on close-range combat while Dead Space chooses to hang back with long-range.

You could shoot enemies from far away in Callisto Protocol while punching and stomping enemies in Dead Space, but this is what would be the optimal approach for both games.

One person's final message to those who wish to survive
You might want to take the advice of the blood-stained technical plan.

For those who don’t know Dead Space combat, Necromorphs are not your standard zombies. While you can shoot their heads off, the optimal approach is to take off their limbs and keep shooting until they eventually stop moving. It can lead to intense moments since it can feel like you aren’t stopping them if you suddenly see a creature regrow an appendage in a place where you clearly shot something off. It can also lead players to be smart with their shots too since you don’t want to burn through your entire stock of ammo if the enemy is still able to charge at you.

In a way, The Callisto Protocol does operate within a similar circumstance as Necromorphs. You can shoot off limbs, but they can regrow them. But there is one glaring issue brought up by so many about the combat in Callisto Protocol.

Weave to the Left! Weave to the Right!

Blocking can be important if you want to survive. But if you can dodge out of the way, that probably will be better.
Why block if you can weave through the attacks?

The Callisto Protocol makes the change to emphasize the threat as close as they can get. Yes, you can bop them over the head with your handy dandy Stun Baton, but the idea is that you need to weave between enemy attacks as well. Eventually, you’ll have the chance to get a shot in or smack them with your baton in order to take them down and move on. The only glaring issue with the combat in Callisto Protocol is when you crack the code about weaving.

Because enemies love to swing back and forth, as long as you are holding left or right as you should (and not consecutively) you can basically kind of dance around enemies with no issues. Doesn’t work with all enemies, but when you can basically do this with bosses, you can’t help but feel sorry for the giant fools as they helplessly try and slap you. It is good to have this mechanic in place if you are putting in Melee Combat into your game, but when it gets simplified to this degree, players are going to look at this as repetitive rather than innovative.

As such, the preference for combat for most would be to just bypass the melee and stick to shooting. And if that is what we are looking at, Dead Space does take it hands down.

The point goes to Dead Space.

Round Four: Environment

A question I have for you friend: If you had to be stuck on a Flagship or a Prison on Jupiter’s Moon, where would you like to visit?

If there is one thing a horror game needs to get right, it is the setting. It can make the difference between feeling helpless and feeling some guy called in to shoot everything on sight. And while we can go into great detail about both locations, let’s just cut to the chase:

Environment is important.

When we look at The Callisto Protocol, we do have a wide variety of threats in the environment, but when it comes to the monsters you are taking down, they can be… JUMPSCARE!

Want to explore the environment? Well, better be ready for something to leap out and try and choke you out. Constantly. This doesn’t help to build the environment if it feels like enemies are just randomly wandering around until you show up and they find someone to punch to death (or jumping out of a locker while looting supplies).

While the environment can lend itself to some creepy moments, you can’t help but question whose bright idea it was to have spinning blades of death and no guardrails in a high-security prison. Perhaps it lends itself to the true secrets of Callisto, but it can leave some asking why someone would design a prison like this.

What kind of prison has a Giant Industrial Fan/Meat Grinder combo?!

Meanwhile, Dead Space has you exploring a ship that is falling apart. You know things aren’t working the way they are and the threat of the necromorphs can appear out of nowhere. The threat isn’t just them running at you, but they could be hiding anywhere and ready to attack at any moment.

To make things worse, you get to enjoy watching other people bite the big one! Whether they die by Necromorphs, putting a gun to their head, or taking each other out, you realize the USG Ishimura has completely fallen apart and you need to get the hell out before you’re the next person dead.

You either see yourself massacred or survive long enough to leave on your own terms.
“If it’s alright with you Isaac, I’ll see myself out.”

Needless to say, Dead Space knew how to build the Environment and thrive in it.

The point goes to Dead Space.

Round Five: Story/Enemies

For the final round, let’s take a look at probably the most important aspects of both games together. While we can look at story and enemies separately, it only feels right to put the two together since in a way, the monsters you fight off in both games do help to tell the story.

In Dead Space, we follow Isaac Clarke as he travels to the USG Ishimura as a part of an emergency response unit in hopes to find his girlfriend Nicole. What started off as a hopeful rescue mission suddenly turns into a game of survival as Isaac realizes what happened to the ship.

Meanwhile, The Callisto Protocol follows Jacob Lee as the cargo ship pilot finds himself getting falsely imprisoned in Black Iron Prison and when all hell breaks loose, he might find a way off the moon.

There is a lot to compare between our two protagonists and the plots of both titles. Both men have their own secrets to discover but the overall goal is to survive and escape. While there are differences in the storytelling and the characters, there is one key item we can look at to help settle the dispute. And that would be the beings that wish to mutilate our protagonists in the biggest over-the-top way imaginable.

Biophages vs Necromorphs

The Biophage Pathogen and The Markers: The causes of the outbreaks in these games. What is fascinating about the two is how they operate since the Markers can send out an electromagnetic signal to reanimate dead tissue while the Pathogen was able to spread among colonists and turn the mutated into mindless brutes.

Of course, there is also the slightly concerning part in the latter where labs were set up to try and harness the power of this pathogen in order to accelerate human evolution and the end product eventually led to the Black Iron incident.

And to think this isn't even its final form yet.
Human Evolution results may vary.

We can assume the Biophage are still alive in some capacity, but it is clear that they have lost their mind and have gone into a murderous rage. The majority will try and rush you down, while other smaller organisms will pop out of hiding to try and crawl down Jacob’s throat. But no matter what form they may take, there is still some kind of resemblance that they were once human (until they move so far into the mutation that they turn into nightmarish monsters).

A Double Threat

Although the enemies in Callisto Protocol do have their own threatening factors to them, there is one last thing that causes Biophages to slip up just slightly in comparison. When we look at The Markers, it can affect anyone regardless if they are alive or dead. Yes, it can reanimate dead tissue and have them come back as deformed monsters with sharp appendages, but they can cause dementia-like symptoms in intelligent life forms as well (some of which include homicidal and suicidal actions). In a way, one can argue that the physical threat is clearly there, there is a mental threat that many in the story don’t realize exist until it is probably too late.

Nothing says intimidating like a giant wall of Necromorph blocking your way while you drift in space.
Meet the Leviathan. Have fun fighting it with a limited oxygen supply.

While we could say the weak-minded might succumb to suggested thoughts, there’s no denying the Necromorphs in Dead Space can range from literal extremes. You might see a limbering corpse slowly walk towards you in one area, but then see a giant tentacle creature grab hold and start dragging you away. And if that wasn’t a big enough threat, there is a giant wall of death outside in space to deal with.

In a way, Biophage monsters might still have some resemblance to once being human, but Necromorphs can look downright demonic. In the end, if you had to pick which monstrosities you’d have to go up against, the Biophages might seem like the lesser of two evils.

The final point goes to Dead Space.


Dead Space wins!

If you did play both titles, you likely got to the same conclusion as well. For a game that is more than a decade old, Dead Space definitely did some truly astonishing things that it can still hold up to this day and was masterfully brought back in the remake.

Now, this isn’t to say The Callisto Protocol did not stand a chance, but it would be fair to say that there are aspects to the overall design that they got right. Chances are if we were to see a sequel to The Callisto Protocol in the future, they can tighten up the controls and gameplay and truly make something extraordinary next time. The foundation is there, but now we just need to see it brushed up (if there is a next time). I’m sure fans will be ready and waiting for whatever Striking Distance comes up with next.

As for the Dead Space Remake, there is one question left to answer. Will we see the other titles get the “Remake” treatment too? If they do, let’s hope they follow the formula from Dead Space 2 and not Dead Space 3. Capturing horror for a long-running series can be difficult if the horror suddenly takes a backseat to action (such as Resident Evil 6 and the Resident Evil 3 Remake). No matter what, I’m sure fans will be watching with great anticipation for what comes next from them.

So what do you think?

Do you agree with the results? Was there one round that didn’t go the way it should have? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Strangely Awesome for more articles on great horror games and other things happening in the gaming world.

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