The Callisto Protocol and Aliens: Dark Descent were both shown off at Summer Game Fest 2022, but the former’s approach to the horror genre significantly outclasses its counterpart. After years of anticipation, The Callisto Protocol’s gameplay trailer gave players a first look at how the game will actually feel, only immediately after the world premiere of Aliens: Dark Descent. Dark Descent offers an isometric take on the Aliens franchise, showing just how far the series is from recapturing the atmospheric heights of Alien: Isolation, and the fact the trailer followed The Callisto Protocol hammered that home even further.
The Callisto Protocol is an upcoming third-person survival horror game directed by Glen Schofield, co-creator of the Dead Space franchise. The game takes place in a prison colony located on Callisto, one of Jupiter’s moons, in the year 2320. In it, players must defend themselves from the brutal, monstrous aliens invading the colony. Such a premise might sound familiar not only to Dead Space fans but to Alien fans as well. However, from what little was shown of Aliens: Dark Descent’s gameplay, it could be difficult for it to live up to the likes of Alien: Isolation’s classic horror aesthetic. Creative Assembly’s Alien game proved to be a surprise hit of 2014, but strangely, no further horror-oriented Alien titles have emerged in the years since.
Horror games are most effective when they’re immersive. Watching a horror movie can be scary, but there’s always a layer of separation between the viewer and the characters on-screen. That disconnect doesn’t exist in horror games, as the player and the protagonist are essentially one, and the player has to actively face the horror in order to progress the story. That tension is what makes horror games extraordinary within the medium, and it’s unfortunately what Aliens: Dark Descent appears to lack. The announcement trailer for Aliens: Dark Descent had terrifying elements, cinematically showing off the Xenomorphs in all their glory and a squad of doomed soldiers attempting to survive. In the trailer’s final moments, however, there is a glimpse of gameplay, revealing the game to be an isometric, squad-based shooter. Compared to The Callisto Protocol’s visceral, intimate third-person camera, Aliens: Dark Descent’s overhead view only serves to further separate the player from the horror they’re meant to experience, rather than closing the gap.
Attention to detail is a hallmark of the Dead Space franchise and a significant factor in its legacy as peak video game horror, and the brutal gameplay of The Callisto Protocol appears to offer that same level of dedication and immersion. Dodging and disfiguring enemies in dark, confined spaces from such a tight angle behind the player character is bound to be heart-pounding, to a degree that Aliens: Dark Descent could be unable to match. While isometric games such as the XCOM series can be intense, that intensity often comes from difficulty or stress rather than actual fear. Such a genre may lend itself well to an Aliens game inspired more by James Cameron’s sequel than Ridley Scott’s original – as was seen last year in Aliens: Fireteam Elite – but considerably more buzz has been generated by Dead Space successor The Callisto Protocol than Aliens: Dark Descent.
The hype and horror that The Callisto Protocol’s gameplay demo brought with it immediately after Aliens: Dark Descent’s reveal highlighted the difference between promising horror in cinematics and delivering horror in gameplay. The Alien franchise is no stranger to action, whether that be on the silver screen or indeed in video games, but horror games are experiencing a resurgence and no studio has developed a worthy follow-up to Creative Assembly’s acclaimed Alien: Isolation. The Callisto Protocol, meanwhile, seems to be tapping into some of the same elements that made the original Alien so terrifying to begin with, showing that the wider Aliens franchise is sorely missing a devoted horror title.
Alex Chapman is a Gaming writer for Screen Rant. As a lifelong fan of video games and tabletop games alike, Alex loves writing about them almost as much as he loves playing them. When he’s not writing for Screen Rant, Alex makes content for Dungeons & Dragons and plays with his dogs.
source: Screen Rant