Release Date: August 27, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: 505 Games
Every so often a video game releases that make you question reality. The things you see happening in front of you are so tough to explain that you begin to think everything is a dream. Developer Remedy has brought this feeling into their newest game, Control, and through every scene, you find yourself deeper into the rabbit hole. The surprising thing about this game, however, is that you never want to return home because, in this world, you dominate.
Control introduces Jesse Faden, a girl who is looking for her brother, Dylan, with the help of a strange spirit-like voice that lives inside her head. At a young age, a supernatural event led to Dylan’s kidnapping by the Bureau, a top-secret organization stationed right in the middle of New York City. After years of searching, Jesse has found a way inside the Bureau as it enters lockdown after a being known as the Hiss was released into the building. After a series of events, Jesse finds herself assuming the role of the Director of the Bureau and lends a hand to stop the Hiss along with finding her brother. Agents who are wearing an HRA device aren’t affected by the Hiss, but others aren’t so lucky. Jesse must learn to fight against demonic-like enemies if she hopes to find her brother and make it out alive.
To put it simply, this story is insane. The first two hours of gameplay will have you asking so many questions about what the hell is going on that you lose track of them all. I mean, the opening moments here have you running through empty offices as a girl who likes talking to herself and you’re expected to just go along with it. However, the brilliant thing about Control is that you stop asking these questions after a while as the game makes all of these insane events feel normal. The reason for this is that everyone who works at the Bureau along with Jesse has each been exposed to supernatural events before, so while some things do surprise them, they are never left overly shocked about anything.
The storytelling in Control can be described as watching Twin Peaks or The Twilight Zone. The character interactions and visual presentation combined with supernatural items that allow you to travel to different dimensions force you to be as invested as you can be until the very end. Those who take their time reading documents, exploring, and speaking with NPCs will understand this world the most. Rushing through the game isn’t advised if you wish to have your questions answered. As messy as the story begins, it picks up the pieces over time and doesn’t rush anything to overburden the player with too much all at once. Trust me, you’ll appreciate it.
Surprisingly, Control is a Metroidvania, but it captures the brilliance of a game like Dead Space in its design. Throughout the story, players will receive missions to open up new paths to finding Jesse’s brother. Jesse must play along as the Director if she hopes to unlock paths to her brother and find his whereabouts. The Bureau is a fairly large place with many interconnected pathways and some beautifully designed rooms. I loved exploring the world of Control, every new floor presented something new to experience.
With that said, being a Metroidvania, players will spend a lot of time on the map. Luckily, the map can be pulled up and the player is still able to move around the environment. However, the map is a 2D design, which means things like second floors and obscured doorways are tough to distinguish. This added much to the confusion of trying to find my way around the game, but I found my way through, eventually. Still, nothing is more satisfying than finding a key card that opens a door that has been taunting you for hours and Control offers plenty of these moments. There’s alose a reliable fast travel feature that can quickly get you around the bureau.
Control isn’t all about running errands, there is a lot of fighting that will take place. Upon arriving at the Bureau, Jesse finds herself wielding a Service Weapon. This gun-like weapon has an ammo gauge that charges after a series of shots, which means exhausting it completely will have you running for cover as it recharges. Luckily, this isn’t Jesse’s only means of hurting enemies. Throughout the game, Jesse will come into contact with “Objects of Power”, items that teach her a new ability. Each of these abilities can be used in combat doing things like launching objects at enemies and even taking control of their minds. Probably the best ability would be levitation which makes using the stairs a thing of the past.
One would think all these abilities will make the game easier, but that just isn’t the case here. The game forces you to conserve energy and ammunition against large groups of capable enemies who will put your skills to the test. I never felt like SuperMan in this game and I was grateful for the challenge. Most of the larger encounters require you to strategize because running in guns blazing will only result in death. More importantly, each fight was presented in a glorious display of explosions and lights as you use every ability at your disposal to survive the encounter.
There is a nice upgrade system in the game that uses materials and points gained to craft stronger weapons. Additionally, completing missions will give Skill points that allow you to upgrade the abilities you’ve gained. It’s a slow grind for these upgrades, but it helps in the long run. After defeating some enemies, the player can pick up loot, which is graded on its rarity. These mods can be attached to the gun as well as Jesse and give her a small buff to her stats depending on the item.
The issues with the game are noticeable early on as the game’s framerate staggers in certain areas or when the player tries to pull up the map while running around the field. There are also lengthy loading screens, which become more annoying when you die multiple times during a boss and must suffer through the loading screen time and time again. At times, Jesse can feel a bit floaty with her movement which makes some of the precise platforming sections difficult to maneuver. However, these issues seem minuscule compared to the developmental achievements found in this game through its beautiful character designs and environments.
Control presents some excellent audio design work. Whether it’s the characters talking, ambient noises from a different dimension, or explosions and gunfire, this game sounds amazing. Interestingly, there’s not a lot of actual music in the game, but that didn’t stop the team from inserting some corny rock songs in the mix, which strangely work out quite well.
Other things to do in Control are side-missions and random missions. Side-missions are found through talking to NPCs or picking up documents. While these missions don’t need to be completed to get through the game, they do open up the game’s true ending as well as provide skill points and new abilities. Exploration will almost always provide you with rewards and additional things to do. Random missions are timed and require the player to travel to a location where a group of tough enemies has gathered to get rewards. These missions aren’t required, but they are fairly challenging and break up the flow of the game.
Control stretches the imagination of reality and takes the player on an unexpected journey. The developers took a huge chance on their approach to storytelling and their ability to navigate players through new and unique systems and it pays off. The gameplay here is thought-provoking and requires the full attention of the player if they hope to get the answers that they seek. This unapologetic approach to game design and storytelling also finds its way into the game’s puzzles, which tested my knowledge but were never unsolvable.
Control presents an excellent balance of challenging gameplay and upgradeable systems. I learned early on that even with all my powers, I could still be taken out by one of the weaker enemies if I wasn’t careful. I was invested in every moment of gameplay and immersed in this strange world. Those who take their time reading the materials and investing heavily in exploring this world will benefit the most from it. By the end of the game, nothing surprised me anymore and I found myself settling into the role as the new Director quite comfortably.
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