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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.