Bigger on the Inside
Control had some work to do right out of the gate. Quantum Break
wasn’t exactly an unqualified success and Remedy’s relationship with
Microsoft seemed to disintegrate from it. Now back out on their own and
paired with 505 Games, Control is a bit of a return to form for Remedy. Smaller in scope than Quantum Break, but doing more with less.
Control is a third person shooter with mind powers. You play
as Jesse Haden, a woman who walked into the Federal Bureau of Control,
and assumed leadership by bonding with the weapon of the former
director. If that sounds weird, we haven’t even scratched the surface.
The FBC is charged with protecting the nation from supernatural threats,
and it’s been invaded by a threat called The Hiss.
Control is a pitch-perfect blend of creepypasta, Lost, and The X-Files.
There’s lot of talk in memos and audio logs about containment and
neutralization of Altered Items and Objects of Power. Jesse can bind
with some of these OOPs to get new powers, starting with the ability to
throw stuff with her mind. Littered all over this game are collectibles
describing the supernatural effects of these items and how the FBC are
working to contain them. There’s also a series of videos that look like
someone took the Dharma Initiative videos from Lost and made
their own. These all star the same guy who played Alan Wake. Speaking of
Alan Wake, there’s also a series of videos starring the guy who voiced
Max Payne. This whole game is stuffed with creepy fiction and Remedy
all-stars and I loved it.
The gameplay is also well suited to the atmosphere. This is no cover
shooter. Jesse has the archetypal shooter weapons: pistol, shotgun,
sniper, etc. Augmenting these are the mind powers, with the first and
most useful being Launch, which throws stuff. Essentially every piece of
set decoration can be picked up and tossed at the enemy. It does a
healthy amount of damage right out of the gate and it’s extremely
satisfying. More abilities trickle out later, but Launch is a mainstay
through out of the game. Both weapon ammo and mind powers are on a
delayed recharge, so combat is usually a matter of emptying one of those
meters, and then emptying the other while the first recharges. Enemies
also explode with health pickups when they die, so it makes no sense to
sit in one place and shoot things in the distance. Eventually you need
to get up close to heal. There’s a good variety of enemies, so the mix
of weapons and mind powers have plenty of uses and combat essentially
never gets boring.
There are two things that take away from Control, and that’s
the environments and difficulty spikes. The whole game takes place in
the same extradimensional building (think House of Leaves or the Tardis
from Doctor Who), and eventually I noticed that it’s an awful lot of
poured concrete. It’s good looking and well designed but there’s just so
much grey I can look at. Jesse is also fairly fragile, and I found
numerous points in the game where difficulty spiked really hard, to the
point that I sometimes just walked away from a mission and did something
else, or quit out of the game entirely from frustration. There’s a
brutal section near the end of the game that took me at least a dozen
attempts to get past, and required that I play the game differently from
how I spent the rest of the game playing it. It wasn’t fun. Even now,
there are a couple side missions I may not finish because I’m past the
ending and they’re annoyingly difficult.
Despite these fairly minor quibbles, I absolutely loved Control. It’s creepy, it plays well, and it looks great. Control is an excellent storytelling game.
Baseline Assessment: 9/10
Bonuses: +1 collectibles worth collecting, +1 gameplay that punishes inaction
Penalties: -1 same-y environments after a while, -1 brutal difficulty spikes
Nerd Coefficient: 9/10 (very high quality/standout in its category)
Reference: Remedy Entertainment. Control (505 Games, 2019)
POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014