Anyone who is telekinetic, please raise my hand.
Platform: Playstation 4.
Available on: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows.
Genre: Third-person action adventure, shooter.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment.
Publisher: 505 Games.
Released: August 27th, 2019.
The better part of a year since the games release people kept telling me, “you should play Control you’ll really like it”. I would just agree and tell them it's definitely on my list knowing full well that I may never get to that ever growing tome of games that I said I wanted to play. However, unlike most of the games on that list Control always seemed to be in peripheral vision. Whether another friend had just played it or it kept popping up in sales on PSN. I just could not stop running into it in my gaming circles. Eventually as if by some kind of divine intervention the planets aligned just as I had some time between games I decided to give Control ago and it was on sale for €19.99.
What better time to try it. If I hated it, I was only out twenty quid. If I loved it, I would get to play a great game for an absolute bargain. I don't know if it was the fact that the game was so cheap or that my positive assertion to play the game helped me overlook some of its shortcomings but the latter of my previous statements is very much true. I got to play an excellent game for a bargain price and that's a win all round even if it had a few issues here and there.
The men in black.
The story of Control revolves around a clandestine government agency known as the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC). A branch of the government tasked with the study and containment of objects and events that break the natural laws of reality. These events known as altered world events (AWEs) are considered to be intrusions upon reality manifesting themselves in everyday objects such as a videotape or fridge referred to as altered items. You play as Jessie Faden, a young woman who arrives at bureau headquarters looking for her missing brother and answers to an event that they both witnessed as kids. Upon arriving at the bureau you find it's locked down due to an AWE affectionately dubbed the Hiss. Without wanting to give to of the plot away, after a few minutes wandering around the buildings empty halls you find the director dead in his office and after interacting with his gun you become the new director of FBC and it is up to you to use your newfound position to stop the AWE and save the bureau using your wits and your supernatural abilities of course.
Control’s story is strong and engaging for the most part. They do a good job of giving you just enough information to keep you asking questions about where the plot is heading and enough answers to keep you asking more questions. During most of my play through I could not stop thinking about how Control would make an excellent 8 or 10 part television series. This to me is a complement to Remedy’s ability to craft a narrative. Every time I got a new major plot development it felt like the end of an episode and that my next quest would be spent processing the information I just learned while moving deeper down the rabbit hole. However I did say the story was engaging for the most part.
I found that in the parts the acting was weak. It felt that dialogue had been recorded in individual sentences and then knitted together later in whatever the devs saw fit. It was nowhere near as bad but it reminded me of that episode of south park where after the voice actor for Chef quit they just used his old dialogue and stitched it all together. That coupled with poor facial animations and lip sync did take me out of the story from time to time. Especially when the camera would cut to Jessie for an internal monologue and her eyebrows would just kind of dance around trying to act emotive.
That's telekinesis Kyle.
At its core Control is a third-person shooter and a solid one at that. Your weapon of choice is the standard issue director of control pistol. What's so special about a standard pistol you may ask. Well, in control when unlocking a new weapon type let's say a shotgun you don't actually get a new weapon. Instead when you switch weapon type your pistol just morphs shape and fire shotgun shells. It's not a huge deal or even the first time a game has had transforming guns but I thought it was a nice touch to further add the cool government sci-fi conspiracy style the game is going for. As you progress through the game you unlock new modes for your weapon that each have different uses. Things like charge shot or rapid fire. You can however only have two modes equipped at a time. That meant depending on the threat I was facing I would sometimes find myself having to pause the game to equip a type more suited to fighting a particular enemy. You can get all the usual upgrades you would expect with these weapons, increased fire rate, more damage and the like. Although I liked the guns and you use them a lot as your primary offensive attack, where the gameplay really shone was in the use of your telekinetic powers.
Jessie having been involved with some sort of AWE as a child gained special abilities which you get to take full advantage of throughout the game. They start out basic enough, you can lift objects and throw them at enemies or a wall whatever floats your boat. As you progress further through the game and deeper into the FBC you unlock more which shake up the game play in fun ways. Like with the gun the varying enemy types require you to attack or defend yourself in certain ways. One enemy likes to fly through the air throwing projectiles at you. I admit they gave me a lot of trouble at first as their projectiles did huge damage but then I unlocked the power to pull objects around me like a shield and they didn’t seem so tough anymore.
This is a pattern with Control. At first parts of it can seem quite difficult and feels like you are doing something wrong but then you get a new power and it clicks.
Towards the end of the game you end being quite powerful especially once you have upgraded a lot of your abilities. That doesn't mean you are impossible to kill. Control does a good job of balancing your super powers by having a meter that depletes as you use them and has to then charge back up. The same can be said of your health bar. You might think that with all these powers you can just stand still, block incoming damage, fire your bullets and all is well but you will die pretty quick with that approach. Enemies hit hard and the only way to gain back health is grab it from fallen foes. This forces you to keep on the move which makes the action in Control feel more impactful. It’s simple, keep moving and dodging attacks or die. This made moments where I was low health and had to run through a hail of gunfire to pick some up really exhilarating.
Home sweet home.
One stand out part of Control is the world itself. The entire game takes place in the Oldest House, the headquarters of FBC. This government building designed in the brutalist architecture style like so many big government buildings of the time is very much its own character. This huge maze of offices and maintenance halls which often changes and transforms due to the paranormal events taking place there. As you get deeper into the Oldest House you start to learn more about the FBC and much really goes on the secret government organisation. Much of this is told through collectable items such as memos and files which often have huge parts redacted giving you even more questions to add to the mystery. These collectables also brought some humor to the game like one heavily redacted memo mentioning a shark that escaped and was armed. These humorous collectibles reminded me of portal and the announcements you would hear from wonderful Cave Johnson and just as ludicrous.
Traversing the Oldest House is very much in the metroidvania style of gameplay. Parts which have been taken over by the Hiss are inaccessible until you find the source as well as areas that require a certain clearance level. This makes the Oldest House a place that encourages exploration and returning to areas will often net you with rewards that you may not have access to upon your first visit. As you open up more of the FBC you can fast travel using checkpoints called control points. These also act as re-spawn points if you die. While they are very plentiful throughout the world in some areas they can be a little far from your objective. Meaning if you die which I found happened to me a fair bit with some bosses you can have a long trek back. This can become tedious after repeated attempts especially hearing the same lines of dialogue as you make your way back to your goal.
After the 13 or so hours it took me to finish Control’s campaign I can say that the people who recommended the game to me were right. I had a great time working my way through the paranormal maze that is the Oldest House. Fighting enemies, reclaiming parts of the building, solving puzzles and most of all using kick ass telekinesis to fly, push over bad guys and throw desks around. The fully realized world of the FBC was a delight to rummage around in, finding memos and letters that ultimately left me with more questions than answers, but gave me deeper insight into the goings on of a secret government agency.
That's not to say that Control is perfect. The suspect facial animations often disconnected me from caring about the characters. Coupled with the not always but often poor acting there were several occasions where I was taken out of the story. Add the fact that checkpoints can sometimes be far from objectives and you will end up hearing this poor acting on repeat. However, none of these issues were so bad as to stop me having a blast playing the game and Control is not the first game out there to have these issues nor will it be the last.
I have yet to play the DLC the game has to offer but if they are anything like the main campaign I know I will have a blast. Especially with its latest one tying Alan Wake into the same universe. Remedy has built a cool paranormal, sci-fi world for the player to explore and discover new secrets and feel like a badass doing it.
Play this game if…
You like cool super powers.
You like solid 3rd person shooters.
You enjoy exploring and finding collectibles.
You enjoy environmental design.
You like super secret government agencies.
All images taken from the Control press kit here
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