Benchmark: The Callisto Protocol on PC

The Callisto Protocol is a survival horror game that delivers graphically impressive visuals. For example, the facial animations are highly regarded, making the story more convincing. We recently discussed the content side of the game; You can read more about the performance of the PC version in this article.

The Callisto Protocol revolves around the planet Callisto and space pilot Jacob Lee, played by actor Josh Duhamel. Set in 2320, the game begins when Jacob and his partner are attacked while transporting a mysterious, dangerous substance. The attack causes their ship to crash on Callisto. To his own surprise, he is handcuffed there and taken to the Black Iron Prison. He tries to explain that he is innocent and that he does not belong there, but that is of no use to anyone. Then it turns out that a mysterious disease is circulating in the prison, which turns both prisoners and guards into zombie-like creatures. In the game, you try to escape from the prison complex and learn more about the outbreak and who is responsible for it.

The Callisto Protocol runs on the Unreal 4 engine and uses FSR 2 for possible upscaling. DLSS is not supported, but since any video card can use FSR, no group of PC gamers will be left out. The game runs on both DirectX 11 and 12, but only with the latter can the supported ray tracing be enabled. The Callisto Protocol was developed primarily for the latest generation of consoles but is also available for the previous generation Xbox and PlayStation. So while the game runs on nine-year-old hardware, the PC version isn’t exactly a light game, as we’ll see in the following pages.

System requirements and test methods

The system requirements for The Callisto Protocol are divided into minimum and recommended specifications.

The minimum specs consist of a GTX 1060 6GB or RX 580 as a video card, which happens to be the cards I’m using for the entry-level PC in this comparison. The required Core i5 8400 from Intel’s Coffee Lake generation has six cores and threads, while the alternative in the form of the Ryzen 5 2600 has twelve threads, although that Ryzen processor is usually a bit slower in games. The required 8GB of RAM is modest at the end of 2022. The quoted 75GB storage space is no exception for modern games either, and considering the quality of textures and overall graphics quality we discuss later, the compression is almost impressive.

The recommended specifications are really only noticeable because of the mentioned video cards. Nvidia’s GTX 1070 is of an older generation than AMD’s RX 5700, and the latter GPU is about 20 percent faster on average.

The Callisto Protocol PC Specs Minimum Recommended
GPU GeForce GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 580 GeForce GTX 1070 or Radeon RX 5700
CPU Core i5-8400 or Ryzen 5 2600 Core i7-8700 or Ryzen 5 3600
random-access memory 8GB 16GB
operating system Windows 10 64bit Windows 10 64bit
Storage 75GB HDD 75GB SSD

Our new testing systems

We recently developed a new setup for running game benchmarks. Instead of testing and comparing a range of video cards of various performance levels on a very high-end system, we will now measure performance in PC games against four reference systems. The processor, graphics card, and memory of these systems have been selected based on what are popular and common configurations, according to the Steam Hardware Survey, among others. That includes older hardware, such as the GTX 1060 that came out in 2016, but is still very popular according to Steam numbers.

For the video cards, we use GPUs from AMD and Nvidia of the same generation per system, which are very close to each other in terms of performance, so that we can also compare the ratios of these manufacturers. The generation of the graphics chips differs per system, which gives us an idea of ​​the game performance on various GPU architectures. In the processor selection, we have primarily aligned the computing power and average gaming performance with the other hardware, instead of an extremely fast model that PC gamers with the video cards below do not easily have in their own PC.

The Callisto Protocol has been tested with the December 15 game patch. The video cards use GeForce driver 527.37 and Radeon driver 22.11.2, with the RX 7900 XTX being the only exception that was tested on 22.12.1. The game’s built-in benchmark was used for comparison. With the current patch, the frame rates in the built-in benchmark are about 10 percent higher than the graphically heavier parts during actual gameplay.

The achievements on the following pages are divided into three parts. First of all, an overview is given in a table of the average frame rates, together with the 95th and 99th percentiles of the frame times . For a more extensive analysis, the complete log of frame times is visible below in a time graph. And finally, there is a percentile graph that gives an overview of the consistency of these frame times.

Test systems for PC game benchmarks “Entry Game PC” (1080p) “Midrange Gaming PC” (1440p) ‘High end Gaming PC’ (4k) “Ultra High-End Gaming PC” (4k+)
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 3600X AMD Ryzen 7 5700X Intel Core i9-13900K (@5.5GHz allcore)
Graphics cards
  • GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • Radeon RX580 8GB
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super
  • Radeon RX5700XT
  • GeForce RTX 3080 10GB
  • Radeon RX6800XT
  • GeForce RTX 4080
  • Radeon RX7900XTX
random-access memory 16GB DDR4-3200CL14 16GB DDR4-3600CL16 32GB DDR5-7200CL34
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4 Alphacool Eisblock XPX, Alphacool XT45 480mm radiator, Alphacool D5 water pump, be quiet Pure Wings 2 fans
motherboard MSI MEG X570 Godlike (Agesa 1.2.0.7) MSI MEG X570 Godlike (Agesa 1.2.0.7) Gigabyte Aorus Z790 Master
Nutrition Seasonic Focus GX-650 Seasonic Prime GX-750 FSP Hydro PTM Pro ATX3.0 1200W
Storage Samsung 970 Evo Plus 500GB Samsung 970 Evo Plus 500GB Silicon Power XS70 4TB
operating system Windows 11 Pro Windows 11 Pro Windows 11 Pro

Comparison screenshots

In the PC version of The Callisto Protocol, a whole range of graphical settings can be adjusted to your liking. These settings are adjusted together with the various presets. With all presets, the game automatically activates FSR 2. For the benchmarks of this article, we tested FSR 2 both on and off with the presets, but with FSR enabled, Quality Mode was selected. The game uses Balanced Mode with the medium and high presets. It is striking that the high preset with FSR on Quality Mode is the same as the ultra preset.

Relatively little difference in graphic quality can be seen in the comparisons between the presets. The step from medium to high provides even better textures, but there are barely visible differences between high and ultra. Enabling ray tracing also only produces a modest extra reflection in most scenarios, but that is mainly due to the largely dark environments in the game.

The final set of screenshots at the bottom of this page was taken during the game’s intro. As a player, you have to try to reach the cockpit in the crashing ship. The image moves very erratically during this piece, and these screenshots give the impression that FSR doesn’t always produce consistent results with these fast movements. For example, on medium the quality of textures is comparable with FSR switched on and off, while at ultra less detail is visible with FSR. However, the high preset without FSR shows the same limited quality, which means that the problem comes from the game itself. Loading a level several times will eventually go well, but it can still take a while before the higher-quality textures are actually visible.

Entry-level PC performance

On our entry-level gaming PC, we test at 1080p resolution, using both the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and Radeon RX 580 8GB. We run this in combination with a Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB DDR4-3200 memory.

Average frame rates at presets

In The Callisto Protocol, the RX 580 is clearly faster than the GTX 1060. On all tested presets and settings, AMD’s card is the winner, with the RX 580 taking advantage of FSR much more than the GTX 1060. of FSR out the Radeon card at a 38 percent higher frame rate, while Nvidia’s model here is limited to a 10 percent performance gain. On ultra, the profit is smaller in both cases, but here too clearly larger for AMD.

Frame times

If we take a closer look at our frame time log, it is noticeable that the GTX 1060 on ultra and high suffers from significant stutters, which is not the case with the RX 580. The GeForce card doesn’t run very well even at medium settings, although it does run a lot smoother for a larger part of the benchmark than on the higher presets. In the higher percentiles, the gap of the GTX 1060 to the RX 580 remains significant in all presets.

Performance mid-range PC

On our midrange gaming PC, we test at 1440p resolution, using both the GeForce RTX 2070 Super and the Radeon RX 5700 XT. We run this in combination with a Ryzen 7 5700X and 16GB DDR4-3600 memory.

Average frame rates at preset

Between the RTX 2070 Super and RX 5700 XT it is quite a draw in The Callisto Protocol. Both cards perform almost the same on the different presets, except with FSR enabled. In that case, the AMD card wins more frames than its Nvidia counterpart, just as we saw with the RX 580 and GTX 1060 on the previous page. On the medium preset without FSR, we see the RTX 2070 Super as the only time with a noticeably higher average frame rate than the RX 5700 XT.

Frame times

Looking beyond the average frame rate by taking a closer look at the frame time log, we see that the RX 5700 XT without FSR suffers from a series of stutters around ten seconds in the benchmark. The RTX 2070 Super is also not completely insensitive to this, but the stutters are slightly less pronounced on Nvidia’s card. On the other hand, AMD’s card with FSR enabled makes a significant gain, also in terms of frame times. They are suddenly a lot tighter on the RX 5700 XT, while the RTX 2070 does not take much advantage of this.

Performance high-end PC

On our high-end gaming PC, we test at 4k resolution, using both the GeForce RTX 3080 10GB and the Radeon RX 6800 XT. We run this in combination with an overclocked Intel Core i9 13900K with 32GB DDR5-7200 memory.

Average frame rates at presets

In contrast to the previously discussed video cards, the battle between the RTX 3080 and RX 6800 XT in The Callisto Protocol is consistently narrowly won by Nvidia. The RTX 3080 is marginally faster than Nvidia’s competitor, even with FSR enabled. Where the GTX 1060 and RTX 2070 Super saw relatively little performance gain with the use of FSR, the RTX 3080 is different. Just like the RX 6800 XT, the average frame rate clearly increases. Both cards deliver decent frame rates even on ultra settings with FSR.

Frame times

In the frametimelog it seems especially dramatic for AMD, but Nvidia shows similar scenes behind the red lines. Based on the percentiles in the table above, we can say that the graph below suggests that the stutters are more frequent than the actual experience. It is also noticeable here that the difference between the high and ultra presets is negligibly small, and that FSR is clearly preferred on the higher setting.

Performance ultra high-end PC

Finally, we also ran tests on the GeForce RTX 4080 and RX 7900 XTX combined with an Intel Core i9 13900K with 32GB of DDR5-7200 RAM.

Average frame rates at presets

The performance of the RTX 4080 and RX 7900 XTX is very similar at higher presets and settings. As with the RTX 3080 and RX 6800 XT, we also see here that on the highest quality FSR the frame rate pushes well above 60, while without that upscaling the 50fps is not even reached. Because we also test with ray tracing here, the video cards have even more work to do. Thanks to FSR, the frame rates in combination with ray tracing are almost on par with ultra settings without ray tracing. On the lower presets, Nvidia manages to squeeze out a few more frames than AMD.

Frame times

Both the RTX 4080 and RX 7900 XTX benefit from FSR to keep frame times low. We see frequent outliers a lot less with this upscaling enabled, which pays off, especially on the highest preset with ray tracing. Without FSR enabled, Nvidia comes out more favorably; with FSR added, the Radeon card stays closer to its counterpart.

Conclustion

The Callisto Protocol is a graphically impressive, but therefore also heavy game to run on the PC. Especially with older hardware, you run into frequent stutters faster than with the latest components. These problems can be largely mitigated by using FSR 2, which automatically turns the game on with every preset.

The advantage of FSR is that it can be used on any video card, so it does not prevent players from using this technology. It is noticeable that the upscaling technique on AMD video cards usually works better. Especially on the RX 580 and RX 5700 XT, the performance gain turned out to be higher than with the GTX 1060 and RTX 2070 Super respectively. With the video cards of the current and previous generation, that difference is a lot smaller, and camp green and red perform much more similar.

In terms of graphic quality, the available presets do not differ that much from each other. Especially high and ultra are almost on the same level, with the pre-chosen FSR quality being the only difference. Even at medium settings, the exposure is still impressive, and the detail in the textures is the main limitation. Because large parts of the game world in The Callisto Protocol are mainly dark, the subtle use of ray tracing is not even noticeable. What will catch the eye is that it can sometimes take a while for the higher-quality textures to load, which the developer will hopefully fix with a patch in the future.