Horror comes in a lot of different flavors. Perhaps you like psychological horror or quiet menacing villains that chill you to the bone. However, no matter how much tension you build up, it has to burst eventually, and when it bursts, it should be an explosion of blood and guts. As we saw in our The Callisto Protocol preview, this game has a firm grip on how to make horror, but it knows that when it comes to gore, more is more.
To dive into the specifics of it all, we spoke to Striking Distance Studio’s character director, Glauco Longhi, who was more than happy to talk about all the horrifying details. Longhi’s had a great career, working on both movies and video games over the years, most recently working on God of War Ragnarok before moving to Striking Distance and coming back to horror.
The Callisto Protocol feels like an evolution of the original Dead Space – the game that Glen Schofield is most famous for. Anyone who played it will remember the joy of being able to lop off the limbs of enemies, turning them into nothing but powerless torsos for you to stomp into the ground. This new game won’t have you chopping enemies to bits quite like that, but you’ll find that these creatures do start to fall apart as you attack them.
As you journey around the prison colony on Jupiter’s Moon, you’ll be faced will all sorts of twisted creatures that attack you from all sides such as rushers, flankers, and fodder.
“The way we designed these creatures was mainly based on different needs,” Longhi explains. “So for example, we may need to have a character that runs around on walls. So then we gotta come up with a cool design that allows the creature to climb up the walls and run faster. Some creatures came from the art perspective, though, like, ‘Hey, let’s just do something that is very crazy looking.’ And then we put that in the game and find a way of making it work.”
Unsurprisingly, many of the inspirations for creatures in this came from horror icons like Event Horizon and Alien, but there were a few shocking sources too.
“Even some cartoons, like Spongebob,” Longhi says. “We look at cartoons on the stylization and movement because, although it’s super real and immersive, we stylized a lot of things to make them more appealing. So some of the movements, and in the case of the gore, the blood, and how we remove the limbs, there’s a push of style to emphasize some of these actions. Cartoons do that very well. Disney, Pixar, or whatever – they give you the message right away. If there’s a fast character, you get it right away [from the] strong silhouettes.”
The research for these creatures wasn’t about secretly slicing meat to get realism, instead, video games, movies, and artwork were used to work out how the limbs and flesh of these aliens should react when shot with a gun or clobbered with a steel pipe. Interestingly, it’s more about making your actions feel meaningful and responsive, rather than making you want to hurl.
“We want the player to be able to hit the enemy and have the proper reaction to those hits,” Longhi says. “And also at the same time, if the enemy hits you, we also want the player to feel that the same will happen to them. So it’s more like enhancing real life in a way. It’s not real life because we’re not fighting, but if someone hits you in the head, we expect you to feel the same type of reaction. Maybe he can rip your head off too. Maybe he can rip your arms off the same way you can to the enemy.”
It’s not just the aliens that can be bashed about and sliced to bits either. Your squishy human body is just as susceptible to horrible bludgeoning and dismemberment as your foes’.
“That system was built in a way that gives animators the freedom to dismember the limbs and give designers the ability to dismember the limbs, it gave environment artists the ability to dismember characters,” Longhi explains. “So for example, you might face areas where you have these environmental hazards, and you could step on them, and you die. We can add things very easily now. So it’s basically if you have an idea – yes, we can do it. There are no limitations anymore.”
How and where you strike your enemies matters too. If you repeatedly shoot the same spot, the bullet wound will grow as the alien’s innards begin to spill out, letting you see all the detail underneath. It goes one step further too, as you might find some tentacles bursting out of the wound you made, ready to mutate the creature into something much stronger.
Then, of course, there’s the blood – dark and sticky, glistening in the prison’s emergency lighting. “If you shoot an enemy, you would expect that blood to hit walls, you expect that blood to hit other enemies,” Longhi says.
It’s no pre-set visual effect either, the blood that spills out acts with disturbing realism. Splattering onto anything nearby, running down walls, getting scraped along by your boots as you trudge through it. Push an enemy into a spinning fan blade and it will do exactly what you’d expect it to. It’s a mercy that the prison’s janitors won’t live to see the mess you’ll make.
“It’s very directed,” Longhi says. ”Whatever happens on screen, we wanted to get a proper visual response to it.”
The Callisto Protocol is out on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC on December 2.
Written by Ryan Woodrow on behalf of GLHF.
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