The Callisto Protocol Titled Key Art

“It’s Hard as Hell, But It’s Fair”: The Callisto Protocol Gets a Free Hardcore Mode

The Callisto Protocol was already an unforgiving experience, tasking you with escaping Black Iron Prison amid an outbreak that turns its denizens into horrific biophages – but now it’s offering its sternest challenge yet. As part of a free update, Striking Distance Studios has introduced Hardcore Mode – and I caught up with Creative Director Ben Walker to dive into the new horrors it brings.

“It’s right there in the name – Hardcore Mode is just plain hardcore,” Walker begins. “We designed The Callisto Protocol to be tough, and with this new mode, we’re giving fans of really brutal gameplay a whole new level of challenge to master.

“We’re dramatically lowering the number of enemy drops, giving enemies more attacking power, shortening the time it takes for creatures to mutate, and giving items less resale value at the Reforge to make resources even tighter.  We’re also reducing the damage doled out by the Stun Baton while making GRP charges more expensive.

“We’re also adding three new achievements for players who have what it takes to survive Hardcore Mode.  But don’t say we didn’t warn you.”

Hardcore modes are a big part of the survival horror scene – in a genre all about getting through the experience against all odds, it’s perhaps no surprise that the most committed players want those odds made even harder. But even Striking Distance was surprised by how proficient those players could be:

“Hardcore Mode has been on the roadmap for a while,” Walker says, “but after launch, we were blown away by the number of people that were actually beating the game on the Maximum Security mode [previously the toughest difficulty level] – it validated the concept, and we’re thrilled to give it to players.  We didn’t pull any punches here, so we think it’ll offer our hardcore players a hardcore challenge.”

The Callisto Protocol screenshot

But that’s not say this was simply a case of making the game a one-death game over experience. Striking Distance concentrated on how to make this notably different to Maximum Security mode, without simply adding a more artificial barrier. That means fewer ammo and health drops, reduced contraband value, and enemies even more keen to take you down:

“A lot of other hardcore modes are focused on permadeath,” Walker explains. “We wanted to lean more into the turning and creating scarcity for items.  This mode is all about pushing players’ skills to the limits […] It’s hard as hell, but it’s fair, and it’s a pretty awesome accomplishment for those that can get through it.”

That begs the question: how many people at the studio have actually managed to beat their own Hardcore Mode?

“We’ve spent hundreds of hours playtesting the game, so lots of people around the studio have beaten the game on Hardcore Mode,” says Walker, “but I’ve still found myself sweating during some of the encounters.  Especially with Two Head. I haven’t thrown my controller yet, but I’ve come close once in a while. Beating it always feels like an accomplishment.”

But one key question remains: will you be able to beat it? Find out today.

Hardcore Mode is a free update, available today, for The Callisto Protocol on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One. Also out today is the Outer Way Skin Collection, the first of four DLC drops, available as part of the game’s Season Pass and sold separately. The Callisto Protocol Season Pass is on sale, with 20% off, until February 13.

Xbox Live

The Callisto Protocol™ for Xbox Series X|S – Digital Deluxe Edition

KRAFTON, Inc.

1319
$89.99
In this narrative-driven, third-person survival horror game set 300 years in the future, the player will take on the role of Jacob Lee – a victim of fate thrown into Black Iron Prison, a maximum-security penitentiary located on Jupiter's moon, Callisto. When inmates begin to transform into monstrous creatures, the prison is thrown into chaos. To survive, Jacob must battle his way to safety to escape Black Iron Prison, while uncovering the dark and disturbing secrets buried beneath the surface of Callisto. Using a unique blend of shooting and close-quarters combat, Jacob will need to adapt his tactics to combat the rapidly evolving creatures while scavenging to unlock new weapons, gear, and abilities to outrun the growing threat and escape the horrors of Jupiter's Dead Moon. HORROR ENGINEERING The Callisto Protocol is a next-generation take on survival horror from the mind of Glen Schofield. Blending atmosphere, tension, and brutality with terrifying moments of helplessness and humanity, The Callisto Protocol immerses players in a pulse-pounding story where unspeakable horrors lurk around every corner. UNCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNITED JUPITER COMPANY Set on Jupiter’s dead moon Callisto in the year 2320, The Callisto Protocol casts players as Jacob Lee, an inmate in Black Iron Prison. When a mysterious outbreak throws the moon into chaos, Jacob must face his darkest fears to defeat the bloodthirsty creatures that stalk him as he unravels the dark mysteries at the heart of the powerful United Jupiter Company. MASTER BRUTAL, STRATEGIC COMBAT The Callisto Protocol challenges players to master a thrilling blend of hand-to-hand and ranged combat, including a unique gravity weapon once used by Black Iron guards to control the prison population. Players will be forced to get up close and personal with their grotesque opponents, hacking off limbs, blasting off legs, and getting creative with whatever is at their disposal to survive each life-or-death encounter. EXPERIENCE THE ISOLATION OF JUPITER'S DEAD MOON One of the most hostile, isolated environments in the universe, Callisto looms large over Jacob’s desperate struggle to survive. Players must not only contend with the horrors of Black Iron Prison, but also the centuries-old secrets that plague Jupiter’s long-dead moon, both above and below the surface. Pre-order now to get the following digital content: – Retro Prisoner Character & Weapons Skin – Season Pass The Season Pass includes: Outer Way Skin Collection: Bear the armor of the Outer Way, an underground insurgency pitted against the UJC, as you fight to survive the horrors of Callisto. Contagion Bundle: Discover the ultimate survival horror experience with a new mode, Contagion. With reduced ammo and health drops, a customized difficulty and permadeath – there are no second chances to escape Black Iron Prison or the horrors lurking beneath the surface of Callisto. The Contagion Bundle also includes thirteen new Jacob death animations and the Watchtower Skin Collection. Riot Bundle: Venture into a previously undiscovered area of Black Iron Prison and battle through waves of brutal enemies. Gather credits to upgrade your weapons, or forge new ones, and survive the onslaught as long as you can in Riot, an all-new mode. The Riot Bundle also includes twelve new enemy death animations and the Engineer Skin Collection. Story DLC: Dig deeper into the horrifying secrets of The Callisto Protocol.
Xbox Live

The Callisto Protocol™ for Xbox Series X|S

KRAFTON, Inc.

1351
$69.99
In this narrative-driven, third-person survival horror game set 300 years in the future, the player will take on the role of Jacob Lee – a victim of fate thrown into Black Iron Prison, a maximum-security penitentiary located on Jupiter's moon, Callisto. When inmates begin to transform into monstrous creatures, the prison is thrown into chaos. To survive, Jacob must battle his way to safety to escape Black Iron Prison, while uncovering the dark and disturbing secrets buried beneath the surface of Callisto. Using a unique blend of shooting and close-quarters combat, Jacob will need to adapt his tactics to combat the rapidly evolving creatures while scavenging to unlock new weapons, gear, and abilities to outrun the growing threat and escape the horrors of Jupiter's Dead Moon. HORROR ENGINEERING The Callisto Protocol is a next-generation take on survival horror from the mind of Glen Schofield. Blending atmosphere, tension, and brutality with terrifying moments of helplessness and humanity, The Callisto Protocol immerses players in a pulse-pounding story where unspeakable horrors lurk around every corner. UNCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNITED JUPITER COMPANY Set on Jupiter’s dead moon Callisto in the year 2320, The Callisto Protocol casts players as Jacob Lee, an inmate in Black Iron Prison. When a mysterious outbreak throws the moon into chaos, Jacob must face his darkest fears to defeat the bloodthirsty creatures that stalk him as he unravels the dark mysteries at the heart of the powerful United Jupiter Company. MASTER BRUTAL, STRATEGIC COMBAT The Callisto Protocol challenges players to master a thrilling blend of hand-to-hand and ranged combat, including a unique gravity weapon once used by Black Iron guards to control the prison population. Players will be forced to get up close and personal with their grotesque opponents, hacking off limbs, blasting off legs, and getting creative with whatever is at their disposal to survive each life-or-death encounter. EXPERIENCE THE ISOLATION OF JUPITER'S DEAD MOON One of the most hostile, isolated environments in the universe, Callisto looms large over Jacob’s desperate struggle to survive. Players must not only contend with the horrors of Black Iron Prison, but also the centuries-old secrets that plague Jupiter’s long-dead moon, both above and below the surface.