What is Control? What makes Control different from other Remedy games? What does it mean to control? Is controlling enjoyable or just another meaningless task? Would you dare to control? Do you like power over others? Do you believe in destiny? Would you attempt to kill yourself for answers or power? Well… Remedy did and they’ve done it gloriously. So did I and so will you. It’s the only way through.
You are a worm though time. The thunder song distorts you. Happiness comes. White pearls, but yellow and red in the eye. Through a mirror, inverted is made right. Leave your insides by the door. Push the fingers through the surface into the wet. You’ve always been the new you. You want this to be true. We stand around while you dream. You can almost hear our words but you forget. This happens more and more now. You gave us the permission in your regulations. We wait in the stains. The word that describes this is redacted. Repeat the word. The name of the sound. It resonates in your house. After the song, time for applause. We build you till nothing remains. The egg cracks and the truth will emerge out of you. You are home. You remind us of home. You’ve taken your boss with your boss with you. All hair must be eaten. Under the conceptual reality behind this reality you must want these waves to drag you away. After the song, time for applause. This cliché is death out of time, breaking the first the second the third the fourth wall, fifth wall, floor; no floor: you fall! How do you say “insane”? Hurts to be happy. An ear worm is a tune you can’t stop humming in a dream: “baby baby baby yeah”. Just plastic. So, safe and nothing to worry about. Ha ha, funny. The last egg breaks now. The hole in your room is a hole in you. You came and we let you in through the hole in you. You have always been here, the only child. A copy of a copy of a copy. Orange peel. The picture is you holding the picture. When you hear this you will know you’re in new you. You want to listen. You want to dream. You want to smile. You want to hurt. You don’t want to be.
Story-telling for the Mentally Insane
Before I explain what the hell is going on with the psycho bumble above, let me throw some story over you. You play as Jesse Faden, who visits a building – named “The Oldest House” – of the Federal Bureau of Control (F.B.C.). Soon after your arrival, you find the Bureau director dead with the murder weapon right beside him. Instead of running out of the room in panic, Jesse picks the “service weapon” and attempts to blow her brains out. Instead of the weapon killing her, however, she becomes the director. Just like that Jesse Faden is the newly appointed director of the F.B.C. and all the hanging portraits of the director are swapped with her face.
“They call me the director, but that’s not me.”
Jess after everyone accepts her naturally as the new director.
If you guys played any of Remedy’s games before, you should know how it tends to create complex stories. This time, the story of its latest game even more complicated. Actually… it’s bat shit crazy. My favorite game is probably Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and, in my opinion, the Max Payne games changed the third-person shooter landscape. Alan Wake was also pretty damn good; I loved its combat mechanics and its story was engaging. As for Quantum Break, there is only one thing to say… “mediocre” (insert Immortan Joe’s voice from Mad Max).
The SCP Foundation
None of these stories can even scratch the story and lore of Control, which are balls to the wall insane. Control’s story is heavily inspired by the SCP Foundation (Secure, Contain, Protect). If you got some time to spend you should read some of their stuff as they are quite good. Basically “The SCP Foundation is a fictional organization documented by the web-based collaborative-fiction project of the same name”. The amount of stories is crazy and many of these little stories are exceptionally good.
Jesse Faden the New Director of the Nuthouse
Jesse Faden is the only playable character, unfortunately, and let me tell you she is not that interesting. The voice actress is perfectly fine but her performance did not convince me, at all. Jesse has a very basic backstory and nothing in that story is convincing enough to make me believe how cool she is, especially when faced with the unknown scary and insane world she is in. In my opinion, she should be losing her mind from the second she arrived at the Bureau.
“A carousel horse, why kids stuff always so creepy?”
Jess trying to make sense of what the hell she’s actually seeing.
As I said, everything in “The Oldest House” is completely bonkers and Jesse’s behavior seems completely out of place. No sane person would react so logically in a situation like this. Do you remember Alan Wake? That guy was losing his marbles, as he should, in an incident which – compared to Control – feels like a walk in the park. Still, there were some rare and specific occasions when Jesse expressed her feelings by simply saying a “what the fuck”. Unfortunately, these parts are late in the game and also completely optional, so my point still stands.
Visuals & Controls
In case you don’t already know, I care very little about a game’s visuals. Thankfully John has already posted his performance analysis so I don’t really have to go into more technical details. I’ll just say that the game performs great on my system and that it looks pretty. I do not own an RTX card so I cannot comment on the ray tracing effects. But anyway, I had stable 60fps with everything on high and a couple of options like reflections on medium. I lowered those settings only because the visual difference did not justify the performance hit. Many players have reported several issues with the game, however it appears that I was lucky. The only issues I encountered was a teleport (which is not an obtainable skill) bug and an infinite loading screen, and both of them occurred only once.
Thankfully, the game’s controls were great. Imagine if a game called Control controlled badly. With a bit of remapping it plays wonderfully but why on God’s green earth there is no key for walking? Why oh why Remedy? An area movement restriction in specific locations, where you can bypass it with the sprint key, would be enough. Lastly, it’s unbelievable that there are no settings for motion blur and depth of field. Seriously now?
Audio, Music & Facial Animation
The audio in Control is superb on every level, and all sound effects have been masterfully implemented. Hell, I did not even get the usual audio glitches which I usually get from games by using earphones. The in-game music is minimal as you can only listen to music through radios or in a very specific room. There is only one scripted sequence with music and all the rest is ambient sounds with some very basic music tracks during fights. The voice acting is pretty good; not great, but good enough. Most of the voice actors are pretty convincing with some exceptions. One of these exception is Jesse; I really don’t like Jesse as I explained before. I like the facial animations overall but there were some dialogues, especially at the beginning, that didn’t impress me. On the other hand, Remedy emphasized Jesse’s lip movement to stand out, which looked really nice.
The Heart of the Game
The gameplay in Control is so – god – damn – good. Seriously, these kind of games are very rare these days. The only ones that come to my mind are Second Sight and, of course, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Those games did psychic powers justice but they got nothing on Control. Control is all about the gameplay, as all games should.
Mental Abilities & Destruction
You start with some basic abilities and along the way you get more and more (obviously by completing missions). There are several psychic abilities and some of them have secondary functions. The game features five such abilities; telekinesis, mind control, barrier (shield), melee (force push) and levitation. For example you can unlock an ability that lets you control two minds at the same time or move larger object like forklifts. You can literally grab and throw almost everything you see in the environment and even if there is nothing around you can still rip a concrete junk from the environment and throw it to someone’s face. It is so much fun. Now if I had to choose one power, that would be levitation. I loved levitating above the battlefield and raining destruction upon my enemies; it felt so satisfying. There is also a dash/evade ability (no roll thank god) but, sadly, it is not upgradable.
“Quack if you understand my words.”
Random Bureau agent contacting an interview with a subject.
Now regarding destruction… holy crap, it’s phenomenal. These might be the best destruction mechanics I have ever seen in a single player game. You can literally destroy almost everything and most destroyed objects stay there until you leave the area (something you rarely see in other games). Unfortunately, the bodies do disappear, however they disappear in a cool way. They do not vanish in a lame way as in other games, like Mass Effect: Andromeda for example. The bodies, kind of, evaporate and there is a believable reason behind that phenomenon. To be honest, I’d prefer if they stayed because without them you lose the feeling of success. At least the destroyed environments are still there to remind you of what just happened.
Something I really loved in Control was dashing and watching everything around Jess getting pushed or destroyed by the “movement force“. When you hold an object with telekinesis you can see little pieces of the environment getting pulled in by the telekinesis force, which is super cool. Same goes for when levitating close to objects or structures.
The “Service Weapon”
Regarding the game’s arsenal, there is only one weapon and it is kinda of overkill since Jesse is already a weapon of annihilation. The “Service Weapon”, as it is called, is an Item of Power. These Items can only be used by specific individuals, like the director of the Bureau. Any other person who attempts to interact with such an item will most probably seize to exist in an instant. In the beginning, the weapon acts as a revolver. As you progress, though, you can give it other weapon forms with different characteristics.
“Yes yes, easy peasy!”
Ahti the janitor before sending Jess to lift the lock-down.
Just like the upgradable powers, the Service Weapon has five different forms; revolver, shotgun, machine gun, rifle and grenade launcher. While I tried all of them, I eventually settled on the machine gun and shotgun. Like I said, all of these are upgradable through weapon modifications and by crafting better versions of them. As such, the grenade launcher – for example – can be modified to have larger blast radius for instance. All mods have rarity levels and can be found in the game world. You can also craft mods but they are very expensive in rare resources and the same resources are used for upgrading the weapons.
Shooting Mechanics, Movement & Cover
If there is shooting involved, I always prefer playing in FPP (first person perspective). I am not a great fan of third person shooters, unless of course they are actually good. Thankfully, Control excels on this area, especially when there is no cover and the game pushes you to move around. All guns feel great and unique in terms of handling. If there was something I did not like, it was the shoulder swap; it’s different from what other games do and, unfortunately, it’s not that good. Still, and since this is not a slow paced shooter, I rarely used it. And while there isn’t any cover system, you can still take cover and crouch behind things (you cannot “hug” a wall like Gears of War though).
Standing still is not advisable, something that is also hinted during the loading screen tips. Enemies will rush you and they will use explosives in order to make you leg it. Of course you can play the game as you please. Personally, I used every tool in my disposal and tried to mix different powers which sometimes left me astound. The flow of the combat is amazing as you can shoot an enemy, dash and melee him, levitate and power slam to another, throw a forklift to someone else and use the shield to get some distance while you regain energy. All of these feel natural and blend in amazingly. Hats off to the people responsible for this combat system.
Perfect Balance with No Restrictions
Control does not have any ammunition for your weapon. Instead, every type of weapon has a fixed number of shots. The weapon recharges while not in use and if you use all shots there a slight time penalty (reloading). Same goes for your powers; there is only an energy gauge and nothing more. Just like the weapons, the energy bar replenishes while not using them and there is also a time penalty for using all your energy. The game is forcing you (in a good way) to use both your powers and weapons, without making it impossible to do as you please.
Location (s), Exploration & Collectibles
There is only one location, “The Oldest House”. From start to finish you will be confined in that building. Of course this building is gigantic and you will venture into many different areas, where in many of them the rules of physics make no sense whatsoever. This might make the game a bit monotonous for some people but I did not mind that at all.
“I never liked flamingos, too..pink.”
Jess before facing the..latest pink epidemic
Exploring the federal building is fun and rewarding, even if the game never forces you to do so. There are tons of stuff to find and many of these are cleverly hidden away. There are even hidden places filled with easter eggs. You can find many collectibles that will give you a better insight into the game’s lore and you should probably read these if you want to understand what is going on. After all, the story is not straight forward and can be very complicated at times. Quite frankly these might be some of the most interesting collectibles I have ever read. I usually don’t like reading stuff when playing a game as I prefer something like audio logs. However, all it takes in Control is to read a couple of the documents; after that you will probably be hooked.
Side Missions, Enemies & A.I.
There are three types of side missions: missions given by specific characters, missions found by picking collectibles and time based missions with a random objective. None of these missions are mandatory; most of these missions are pretty basic, however, they give you the chance to obtain valuable resources. I did them all just because I couldn’t get enough of the combat. Now if you don’t fancy that, you can simply rush forward and only do the main missions. If you choose not to complete some of the side missions you might lose some important stuff. Some of these missions even hide a boss battle and believe me you will want to meet these “bosses”.
Speaking of bosses there are not many; if I remember correctly you only face one true boss in the main story but I do not want to give more details as we’ll be entering a “spoilers” area. The regular enemy (HISS) variation is not bad, but it could definitely be better. There is even one enemy who I did not manage to destroy no matter how hard I tried.
“Do you feel it? Something is coming.”
Jess getting the “feeling” while she walk into a dark corridor.
Remember that paranoid second paragraph of the review? Well, there are people floating all over the place, chanting that incantation all the frigging time. And I loved it. If you shoot they will stop for a second. If you shoot them, they will disappear but they will eventually re-appear. Whoever thought of that has my respect, because it changes the perspective and feeling of each room.
Unfortunately, the A.I. is nothing special. You can lure enemies in a corridor or you can bait them through corners. The A.I. is designed to challenge you when you are on the move. When things work as intended, the combat feels great. Still, the A. I. could be way more advanced than what we got.
I will be honest; I adored this game even though it is not perfect. Jesse is totally unlikeable… at least until the very end. The voice acting is not always great and the facial animations of Jesse lack emotion, especially when you compare them to Emily’s (except the first time you meet her; she is a bit creepy and not the good kind of creepy).
The map is very Metroidvania and may not be very accessible to people that are not familiar with these type of games. There is also backtracking and I know that some of you hate that. Still, the good news here is that there is a fast travel mechanic. Moreover, you cannot manually save as the game saves automatically and every time you die you have to start over from the last checkpoint, which might be troublesome for some players. Lastly there is no difficulty levels and the game can be a bit hard at some points, especially if you haven’t upgraded your powers and weapons. On a side note, I would really love if they added a new game+ mode with increased difficulty in a future patch.
“Finally! No more quacking.”
Jess after she’s done with..it.
There are several things I did not fully explain or even mentioned in this review in order to avoid spoilers. There are many parts of the game that will probably surprise you or even leave you speechless, so I don’t want to take that away from you.
I also don’t know if you guys watched the promotional videos of the game but most gameplay videos did not represent the actual quality of the final game. My initial thought before playing the game was “god damn it this is gonna suck”. However, I am glad I was wrong because Control might be the best Remedy game to date.
- Awesome weapon designs
- Hundreds of collectables
- Fitting music and sounds
- Memorable boss battles
- Superb psychic powers
- Fluent combat system
- Destruction & physics
- Hours of exploration
- Great performance
- Compelling story
- Interesting lore
- Level design
- Unlikable Protagonist
- No difficulty setting
- Some backtracking
- No manual save
- Map design
Computer Specs: CPU: i5 4440, GPU: Palit 1660Ti OC 6GB, RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws X 16GB HDD: Crucial 275GB MX300, OS: Win7, 1080p
Playtime: 20+ hours total. That’s a guess by the way, since Epic’s launcher has no timer.