With today’s launch of The Callisto Protocol, a consensus across the games media is that this is a decent PS5 Dead Space-like, but a terrible PC game. The reason being, the game is grimly stuttering, even on top-end machines. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to stutter, but you do need to switch off some bells and whistles.
This morning, Rock Paper Shotgun said that it could be a fun game “if it ran on PC,” Eurogamer suggested that “PC is almost unplayable,” while PC Gamer called it “a stuttering nightmare.” This is all reflected by The Callisto Protocol’s Steam page, which currently has the game sporting the deathly orange epithet “Mostly Negative,” based on over 4,000 player reviews.
The issue is, beyond anyone’s specific complaints about the game itself, that it runs like absolute garbage when you run it at settings your PC should happily support.
The Callisto Protocol launched on PC today with some pretty hefty spec requirements to see it running at its peak. While it purports to be able to run on graphics cards as low as a GeForce 1060 or Radeon RX 580, when you get to the top-end, it’s eye-watering. For what it weirdly calls “Max” settings (despite there being a level above that), it asks for a Radeon RX 6700XT or GeForce RTX 2070, running on either Ryzen 7 2700X or an i7-9700. For the beyond-maximum “Ultra” level, it suggests a rig running a Ryzen 9 3900X or i9-9900K, with either a Radeon RX 6900XT or a GeForce RTX 3080. It’s just, it seems that people who can match these requirements are not getting the performance they bargained for.
My PC, an increasingly modest Ryzen 5 5600X with a GeForce RTX 3070, comfortably meets the game’s “Recommended” specs of a Ryzen 5 3600 and GTX 1070, which would have me assume I should be able to enjoy some of the fancier options. For instance, I’d expect a bit of ray tracing action to be available, and to be able to reach beyond “Medium” in the default settings. Hey, my computer almost hits “Max”—this is not an unreasonable position!
But bloody hell, it doesn’t. If I switch any amount of ray tracing on, or put the basic specs to “High,” the game runs at a very unsteady 12fps. It’s laughably bad, and it’s very easy to see why people are immediately upset about their $60.
The good news is, I’m pretty certain anyone meeting those Recommended specs will be able to run the game, if they’re willing to make some fidelity sacrifices.
Now, I absolutely must stress that PC launch days are always a clusterfuck of fury, because given the near-infinite permutations of PC hardware, there will always be a sizable contingent of players who hit upon a setup a developer didn’t test for. So, I’ve no way of being certain if my (admittedly fairly generic) machine might have just lucked out here, but I suspect not. More significantly, I’ve no way of knowing if your setup is one that will hit a glitch until patches are out. That all said, try this out:
On the main menu (and note: you can’t access most of the options while in-game), select Options, then Graphics. At the bottom of the list is Run Benchmark, which will stress-test the game against your PC. Mine, no matter how much it should have done better, told me it recommended I “enable FSR2 Performance mode.” Again, it’s Options - Graphics, and then Advanced. In there, at the top of the list, is “Upscaling.” Mine was set to “Temporal,” which I assume stops the game from traveling through time. However, it’s this I needed to change, to “AMD FSR 2.”
With that done, I could then change the next setting, “FSR 2 Quality Mode,” down from the pleasing-sounding “Quality” to the much more disappointing “Performance.”
That done, the game transformed. I’m now able to play it at a pretty steady 60fps, occasionally dipping to 45 for a glitchy couple of seconds when entering a new area, but then quickly bumping back up to 60fps.
Honestly, it still looks pretty great. I mean, if you like grim, grimy spaceships splattered in mutated corpses and viscera. I really wasn’t aware what I was missing, although I expect it was better reflections in the pools of human blood, and maybe more bristles on the rugged faces of the ship’s frantic crew.
That said, no, of course this isn’t good enough. Either the specs were wildly inaccurate, or the game is in desperate need of a huge amount of patching. Which is always especially frustrating when there’s a PS5 version out there, running without any of these issues.
We’ve reached out to publishers Krafton to ask when we might expect a patch.