Control is far and away, the best game that Remedy has ever made. Without the foundations the studio established with Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break, Control couldn’t exist. But they do and so too does Control.
It is Remedy’s Magnum Opus.
Stepping into the shoes of new Federal Bureau of Control Director Jesse Faden, players are dropped into a bizarre, surreal and dangerous world. However, the skill with which Remedy tells this story never leaves you confused.
While nothing that’s happening in Control makes sense in terms of the real world, within the world of Control it’s all perfectly normal. You know what you have to do, why you have to do it and what will happen if you don’t.
The central mystery tugs you along, giving you just enough breadcrumbs to make the plot truly suspenseful and engaging. While you’ll learn more the more you play, the mystery is ever-deepening with no clear end in sight.
Even after the credits have rolled.
It’s this mystery, Control’s references to Alan Wake and the theories that you’ll develop that make it impossible to put down, impossible to get out of your head and the perfect Remedy video game.
Control is the very definition of water-cooler gaming.
Control is gaming’s equivalent of the great water-cooler TV shows of the past — LOST, Twin Peaks, Westworld — in that it goes beyond the experience of the game itself.
It demands to be discussed, dissected and theorised about ad nauseam. Being that we’re living in the digital age, the office water-cooler has been replaced with DMs on Twitter and Facebook. Judging by my frantic messaging to other reviewers prior to release, Control is going to have players talking.
And this is exactly what Remedy wants. Control is a game built on a mystery and like all good mysteries, you don’t get all of the answers. This leads to discussions with friends and going back and replaying again to see if you missed anything. These things will keep Control in the collective consciousness of gamers.
The Oldest House
As I discussed in my preview;
Knowing too much about Control’s plot would be detrimental to players so I’ll only repeat what is already known at this stage. Jesse is searching for her brother Dylan who was kidnapped by the mysterious Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) when they were children. Jesse and Dylan were responsible for an ‘Altered World Event’ (AWE) which resulted in the FBC descending on their home town of Ordinary.
As an adult, Jesse finally locates the ‘Oldest House’; the FBC’s headquarter’s in New York City. However, she arrives just as the building is put into lockdown due to the invasion of supernatural beings she calls The Hiss.
Finding the Director of the FBC dead, Jesse is chosen by ‘The Board’ to be the new Director and wield the Service Weapon. The Service Weapon is a shapeshifting firearm and an Object of Power (OoP) that dictates the Bureau’s leadership. The Board is an otherworldly presence that communicates to Jesse via a special telephone that is also an OoP.
As the new Director, Jesse works to clear The Hiss from the Oldest House, save the remaining FBC agents and find her brother.
This is all you need to know to go into Control. The story is so well told, so well crafted and so interwoven with the gameplay that the more you play, the better it gets.
Controlling Your Power
The building blocks of Control’s gameplay can be found in Remedy’s previous titles. Gunplay and abilities are ripped straight from its other games, except that Control goes a few steps further.
In the early hours, you’re able to blast enemies with the Service Weapon in a few different forms, melee and dash. These are all pretty standard mechanics for a third-person shooter in 2019 but Control quickly shifts away from the normal and turns to the paranatural.
Jesse gains the ability to ‘Launch’ items and enemies, create a debris Shield, Seize enemies minds and turn them into allies and, best of all, Levitate. Jesse’s Launch ability is pretty much just that Sith power that Darth Vader uses when he throws objects at Luke.
And because almost all of the environments in Control are destructible, you can pull objects from anywhere and hurl them at your enemies. You can even pull an item from behind an enemy, let it go when it has some momentum and watch as it smashes into their back, utterly destroying them.
Getting into a firefight against a dozen or more Hiss, each with their own unique and damaging abilities, while Jesse flies through the air, launches objects, fires her Service weapon and takes control of weak enemies is frankly, incredible.
Combat in Control is unlike any other game. Sure, it feels similar to quite a few shooters but it’s unique and interesting in unexpected ways.
Take the Service Weapon for example.
Instead of using ammo, the Service Weapon has an energy meter. Jesse is able to equip two Service Weapon forms at a time and is able to switch between them on the fly. However, switching forms doesn’t recharge the energy meter. So, when you’re out of shots, you’ll need to take cover or use abilities until the Service Weapon’s energy returns.
This balance is the basis for Control’s wonderful gameplay.
Bouncing between shooting and using abilities, while maintaining both the Service Weapon and Jesse’s energy meters becomes a delicate ballet of destruction.
Like the narrative and mystery in Control, the environment — The Oldest House — is constantly expanding, growing and changing. Both architecturally and in terms of your ability to traverse it.
Remedy isn’t shying away from calling Control a Metroidvania title and it’s apt. While playing, you’ll notice many areas and locations that are closed to you until you get a new item or ability. There’s always a reason to go back to an area after completing a mission, be it because you have a new keycard or a new ability.
Once you unlock Levitate, the Oldest House really opens up and exploration can be seen in a whole new light.
Finding a brand-new area that you never knew existed is a real joy especially when it comes with new lore.
And speaking of lore, Control is packed to the gills. There are notes, recordings, videos and story hidden behind every desk and in every corner. It behoves players to read these notes and listen to the recordings as it makes Control an even richer experience than it already is.
Diving into this rich library of lore gives you a greater understanding of this world as well as giving clues for other locations to visit in the Oldest House and possible hints about what’s to come in the future.
Control is the culmination of Remedy’s many years making cinematic, narrative-heavy action-shooters. It flawlessly blends story, gameplay and progression and leaves you wanting more, even after you’ve finished.
The mystery is impeccably drawn and will keep you coming back to Control over and over. It’s impossible to play this game and not develop your own theories and obsess over them relentlessly.
At least it was for me.
Control is a game that so masterfully drew me into its web of intrigue and still hasn’t let me go. It’s impeccably designed, masterfully executed and an absolute must-play.
Remedy has outdone itself. Control is a masterpiece.
Control was reviewed using a digital copy on PS4 provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Control