Review – Control
One of my favorite games on Xbox 360 was Remedy’s Alan Wake. It didn’t have the same gameplay and action as a Max Payne, but I was drawn into the character and the world almost immediately. Both the protagonist and myself trying to piece together the sci-fi mystery of the game. Admittedly, Quantum Break was not the next step I was hoping for, but its use of supernatural powers was a very fun mechanic and made it feel fresh.
Control looks to be the end result of Remedy’s experience with all these titles. You have the sci-fi mystery with an unknown entity, you have the extremely fun and satisfying gameplay and action, and you have masterful control over a number of supernatural powers and abilities. In a world where many times, you get a lesser version of all its sums, Control feels like you got the best of what made each of their past games stand out.
Playing as Jesse Fadden, you are the new director of the Federal Bureau of Control; an agency that investigates supernatural Altered World Events (AWE): events causing, or being caused by, the creation of an Object of Power (OoP). As you dig further, you unravel more and more of the mysteries behind the bureau and of the supernatural enemy, the Hiss. Not to mention, revealing the mysteries of your own true intentions.
You wind your way through the bureau building, known as The Old House, in a metroidvania manner looking for your brother, Dylan, seemingly with the help of some unknown and unseen advocate. As you do make your way through levels, fighting to get closer to what happened to your brother, you come across many different forms of The Hiss that you need to fight your way through. Making full use of your Service Weapon, your own very powerful OoP pistol that can be upgraded throughout the game.
Finding and unlocking additional OoP’s is how you progress through the game. Not only from a story standpoint, but also from a gameplay standpoint. Releasing the energy of an object results in you gaining a new ability, be it the ability to throw objects with telekinesis, raising objects to form a barrier, or levitating yourself far off the ground. This, to me, is the real gem of Control.
It was a pretty safe bet that Remedy was going to deliver in the story and the lore department, but the ease of swapping and combining your shooting mechanic with your abilities is just so fluid and fun. In fact, I had to change my way of thinking and trust in the games design. Rather than to stay hidden in the doorways and hallways, Control invites you to run straight into the combat, trusting in your abilities. The gameplay rewards a combination of attacking rather than relying on one weapon or ability of choice. It is easy to fall into the habit of gun/telekinesis, but you will have far more success the more aggressive you battle the Hiss.
The metroidvania style of the game is nice, but it seems to be metroidvania in a very loose sense of the word. It requires you to back track, if you wish, to unlock certain rooms you previously couldn’t, but to unlock required levels. I only came across one section of the map that truly benefits you from returning at a later time, and it was only after finishing the main mission I was already on when I stumbled across it. Most everything else is simply to unlock more documents or currency you use to upgrade your weapon and abilities. The main story moves on regardless of side missions.
It can also be annoying that each save point before a major encounter seems to require you to first travel through an enemy congested area. You clear a Hiss entry point and that acts as a fast travel hub between other control points, while also acting as a save point. Very nicely, there is always one soon before a major mission end or boss, but it tends to be just far enough away that it makes you fight through an enemy hoard first. It got to the point that I simply ran past those enemies.
Control is a beautiful looking game, no doubt about it. Remedy is known for making beautiful games and this is no different. The Hiss aren’t particularly difficult renders, but the cinematic scenes are gorgeous, as is the design and look of the Old House as well. Every now and again, you hit an uncanny valley where a face just doesn’t look right, but that is far fewer times than the moments I am left impressed.
The sound department is top notch as well. The voice over work is done extremely well across the board. There is little more unnerving that walking into a room and seeing a bunch of floating humans, hearing them chant in some unknown language. The only negative I had was, unfortunately, with the main protagonist. Sometimes Jesse’s speech or thoughts came off as extremely scripted.
Control is a game that, with no hyperbole, I needed. Thinking back on 2019, I would struggle to come up with a game I truly loved this year. Lots of B+, a ton of B+, but I was unable to find an A. That is, until Remedy took back Control.
Remedy makes beautiful games and Control is no exception. Other than a few Uncanny Valleys here and there, the game is stunning.
Control shines with its easy to grasp gameplay that makes you feel like it is way more complicated than it is.
The voice acting is fantastic, other than some times where I felt the main protagonist came off as scripted.
Some pointless metroidvania and some save points that require a pre-battle before the battle you died in are the only two hiccups I found in an otherwise incredibly fun title.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Control is available now on PS4, Xbox and PC.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro.
A copy of Control was provided by the publisher.