As the saying goes, If it ain’t broke…. When it comes to Finnish developers, Remedy Entertainment, and the fundamentals of their previous titles (Alan Wake, Quantum Break), that would be absolutely true. Control, their latest project, gives us an interesting universe in which an engaging and intriguing tale is spun, coupled with amazing action in combat and traversal, and a hell of a ride in a way only Remedy can.
Placing players in the shoes of one Jesse Faden, trying to find out what happened to your brother, Dylan. Arriving at the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), a secretive government organisation that is dedicated to paranatural objects and phenomena, Jesse takes on the role of Director upon obtaining the Service Weapon, the same firearm used by the ex-Director, Zachariah Trench, to take his own life in one of Control’s many mysteries.
Awaiting is an expansive Metroidvania-type third-person action-adventure that will have you exploring the depths of the Oldest House (the headquarters of the Bureau), meeting colourful characters, and uncovering the mysteries of other dimensions, your past, and the encroaching enemy, the Hiss.
Control offers a unique perspective into the unknown unlike any other game to date, with the lore and development of a universe that begs to be explored and continually fleshed out. Despite the genuine excitement that comes with every combat situation, it is the twists and turns in the story that truly strings you along.
Visually, the world of Control is a joy to look at, especially through Remedy’s lens of film grain and an art style that is truly unique to the studio. The lighting is simply phenomenal, and the sound design complements the world perfectly, especially in some of the more quiet moments, offering adrenaline-pumping moments to upping the sense of fear when exploring the unknown.
Susceptible to other dimensions seeping in and creating what is known as Thresholds, the Oldest House changes at a whim, transforming as alien properties seep into our world.
It is also through one of these Thresholds that the Hiss has invaded the Bureau, a collective being that takes over the minds of the employees and granting them powers beyond comprehension. The Hiss can strike at any time, and it is Jesse’s job to contain and eliminate the threat.
Otherworldly transformations are but a tip of the icebergs, the overlapping dimensions also can create Objects of Power, seemingly innocuous objects now imbued with power that can be harnessed if you can bind them. The Mannequin and Anchor were two standout encounters with such objects, and these encounters provide plenty of opportunities to solve puzzles and help players understand the full potential of Jesse’s powers.
Even the dead are still alive in Control, with the deceased ex-Director and the strange Board of the FBC speaking to you telepathically, and occasionally transporting you into the Astral Plane, a separate dimension of great importance to both Jesse and the FBC, that takes some understanding.
Exploration is one of the core tenets of Control, with side missions easily missable if you overlook certain areas, even abilities that can be obtained by Jesse can be missed. It pays to examine every nook and cranny in the Oldest House, especially once you are fully powered up.
While it is hard to talk about the story without significant spoilers, Control has plenty to dive into for mystery buffs, creating a believable world full of paranatural events and phenomena that peel back the more you learn. On its own, the HQ of the FBC is already sprawling, but dig deeper and the Oldest House becomes a character of its own.
World-expanding collectibles like dossiers and recordings lend even more life into the going-ons in the Bureau, and a bizarre children’s TV show that feels right at home in a Remedy game has to be seen to be believed.
The plot of Control, thankfully, moves at a brisk pace, stopping only when you are dabbling in side missions or a curious expedition to undiscovered locations. At every important juncture, there is enough to hook one along to continue the ride, and although the ending of the game was somewhat predictable, it was still undeniably satisfying and set things up perfectly for more to come.
The environmental storytelling in Control elevates most of the places you will step into in the game, and asides from helping you solve puzzles and such, provide interesting tidbits on the inscrutability that surround the FBC.
Jesse’s supporting cast does a great job in helping realise the world of Control. From the ever-helpful Emily Pope, the no-nonsense Helen Marshall, to the enigmatic janitor, Ahti, it all feeds into an addictive feedback loop that drives your thirst for knowledge of the Oldest House.
The performances of both Courtney Hope as Jesse, and Matthew Poretta as the morbidly curious Dr. Darling are definitive highlights, accentuated by the live-action scenes that held the attention whenever they are on-screen.
At the heart of Control lies third-person action that involves both gunplay and supernatural abilities in a reactive world. The satisfaction and the power at your hands is a sweet nectar that Control dishes out generously at every turn. The Service Weapon, an Object of Power bound to the Director, has five forms meant for every combat scenario.
The Grip form is good for every situation, the Shatter provides devastating power at close-range, the Spin gives you an unparalleled rate of fire, the Charge is great at area-of-effect damage, while the Pierce is a powerful and piercing weapon meant for priority targets. The different forms can be crafted and upgraded, enhanced further by various weapon mods that can be obtained from enemies or Item Containment Boxes.
Even better than the Service Weapon is the abilities that Jesse can obtain and upgrade with Ability Points only available through completing missions.
A telekinetic Melee is a great equalizer when the Hiss rushes you, or use Launch to pick up objects as makeshift missiles and fire away.
Jesse can protect herself with Shield, picking up objects and debris and forming a protective cocoon or take over the minds of weakened enemies with Seize. Evade lets you perform a quick dash in any direction while Levitate gives you an elevated view of the battlefield, great for combat and exploration.
Control also throws in occasional Bureau Alerts that signify a timed event that needs the Director’s involvement in parts of the Oldest House, providing more loot and Source (currency used for crafting and upgrades) as you complete various objectives, There are also random Board Countermeasures, which often requires you to defeat the Hiss in certain ways, that can be rewarding as well.
All of these will be for nothing if the enemies were pushovers, but the Hiss is a force to be reckoned with. Not only will Jesse face a variety of the Hiss, but each variant also comes with its own powers and tendencies.
The Rangers and Guards feel like fighting standard soldiers with firearms, but there are also enhanced beings like the Distorted and Warped that bring their supernatural powers into play. It is easy to overpower enemies with just firearms, but when they can do the same thing as Jesse, a layer of strategy is needed.
Taking out the Hiss Cluster that heals enemies should be your utmost priority, followed by taking out the Charged or Elevated in the air. It is this constant changing of the combat scenarios that help make Control an enjoyable romp throughout.
Not to mention the named Enemies and the optional, unique bosses, that can range from a humanoid foe to gigantic beasts that are as imposing as they are dangerous. It is highly recommended that you seek these battles out, not only for the rewards, but also the shock and awe.
Combining your powers as well as the various forms of the Service Weapon will be key to victory, especially when both your ammo and energy are limited and require cooldowns. Learning what certain Hiss will do and countering them will make your life in the Oldest House much easier.
However, Control is not without its issues, especially in performance. Loading times can be a tad long, and if you die often, that is a major annoyance.
Framerate slowdowns can occur when battles get overly chaotic, with the camera getting stuck behind environments, and there seems to be a persistent visual freeze when missions are completed, but the audio continues to be heard. Audio can cut in and out during cut-scenes, and is even more prevalent during videos of Dr Darling.
A patch released during review helped alleviate some of the issues, and will also be available at launch, but hopefully, Remedy will continue working to eliminate these issues completely in the near future.
When everything falls into place, Control is a fine wine that is meant to be enjoyed for a long period, immersing yourself in all of the layers that Remedy has painstakingly put into it. Following Quantum Break, Remedy has built upon the studio’s unique identity and has honed their craft further, resulting in an awesome game that has exhilarating combat, demands curious exploration, and a universe that is ripe for even more tales of the unknown.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Control draws you in with its wonderfully crafted world, and never unhooks its claws of fun combat and a tremendous Metroidvania experience.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 9/10