The Final Transmission DLC is The Callisto Protocol’s Death Knell

The Final Transmission DLC only damages the already tattered reputation of The Callisto Protocol ...

The Callisto Protocol has been installed on my PlayStation 5 since launch, sitting there, taking up precious space on the limited SSD, all because of the promise of story DLC. Come June and the long-awaited DLC was quickly announced and then released, and I took it as an excuse to dive back into the game proper. I platinumed it at launch but a new game plus playthrough was an enjoyable experience. I feel the game is overly maligned, somewhat underrated. It’s a solid game, the likes of which I miss. A linear, brief, contained narrative that feels like a holdover from fifteen years ago. But completing this very 2008 experience in the worst way possible was the Final Transmission DLC: an ending to the game that had to be bought separately. Much like the ending of the core game, this two-hour final chapter eliminated most of the good will I had for The Callisto Protocol.

Final Transmission is a barebones release, offering very little new. Despite being set in a prison, it doesn’t feel as such. The base game had distinct locations from the cell blocks, the sewers, the old colony, the high-tech tower, etc. The DLC instead takes assets from all these areas and stitches them together into a geographical Frankenstein’s monster. A series of rooms to navigate just because. A greatest hits compilation not all that great, just to offer one final fight with every opponent. Some of these make very little sense. Those blind enemies that detect sound (that you could kill very noisily with no repercussions) now patrol an area submerged in ankle-height water but conveniently don’t detect the splashing of the player.

The two new aspects introduced are the biobot enemies and the kinetic hammer weapon. Strange that the kinetic hammer is named a kinetic hammer as if not all hammers are kinetic. But wielding it can be fun. It’s incredibly powerful, bashing regular Biophage baddies into pulp with just one or two hits. But the player doesn’t receive the hammer until right near the end, with around 20 minutes of the DLC left. It also can’t be upgraded so I was lugging around power converters to buy upgrades for it, taking up inventory space, for no reason.

The biobots are stated to be “indescribably dangerous” early in the DLC and the first fight with one of them is appropriately tough. It’s also the only fight with them before getting the kinetic hammer. With the hammer, these ultimate bosses become spare parts very easily, posing little threat. The robot enemies throughout the whole game are wasted. I remembered encounters with them being rare but on my new game plus run I was shocked that there were only two in the entire game, both which could be avoided. The only time during Final Transmission I actually felt threatened was when the trusty stun baton broke. I felt naked without it. Scared, with no melee strike option. But it was only a couple of minutes until I found the hammer, with only one enemy encountered in that perilous time.

Protagonist Jacob Lee’s story, to be a little generous, is Campbellian in nature, as the DLC sees him literally travel down into the dark abyss in search of, if not redemption, then penance. He’s wrestling with his guilt over his role in the Europa disaster, Callisto being a prison of the mind now as much as a prison of the body. He hallucinates over the course of the story but I wish these visions were more interesting. Like with the core game, the hallucinations are limited in scope. A door will open and Jacob will find himself in the same room as the one he just left. How many times have we seen that? The corridor is also clearly modelled on the L-bend from the PT demo. Enemies will turn out to be false visions, which is more irritating than anything. Although the scare with a Two-Head was effective.

I struggle to see how the events of Final Transmission was the story the developers had in mind for the DLC when the end of the game was written. They just don’t line up. Ferris doesn’t feature and Mahler doesn’t actually have a way of escape. Instead of a further expansion of the story, a tease for the future, it feels like a purposeful nail in the coffin. A quick coda for a failed franchise starter. There are data drives dotted around that act as lore dumps to answer any unanswered question before the credits roll. And then the DLC ends, in a roundabout, weird kinda way, how the main game should have ended.

Jacob gets what he deserves. The fate he chose when he let Dani take the escape pod and condemned himself to Callisto for his past deeds. Whether instantly or delayed, he was going to die. It’s what I wanted to see happen but I would have preferred it to happen at the end of the base game. Now we just get two hours of additional content with no narrative drive to get to the same endpoint. For a story DLC there was no real story. Head towards some nebulous escape ship that clearly doesn’t exist while collecting data drives that were hidden along the way for no reason other than to give the player something to do. And then in the final moments it is revealed the entire DLC has been an hallucination anyway, that Jacob is limbless and strung up as a living meat puppet with Mahler using his neural link to send the data drives to Dani. It’s hard not to be disappointed in the ‘it was all a dream’ ending but it doesn’t really matter. The end is the same either way.

As soon as the DLC ended and I checked the trophy list to make sure I had unlocked everything, I quit the game and deleted it from my PS5. I doubt I’ll ever reinstall it. Which is a real shame because I’ve been a low-key quiet defender of The Callisto Protocol. It’s a flawed game, undoubtedly, but an enjoyable experience, and not to mention a pretty one. But the Final Transmission DLC wasn’t a bold statement on the game’s potential longevity, or even a good time for a couple of hours. It’s The Callisto Protocol’s death knell, marking its passing. I, a fan of the game, was much less enthusiastic on The Callisto Protocol as a whole after playing it, which is very much the opposite of what this final DLC for an already troubled game needed to do.


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