Control

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games

This is a game that has seemingly flew under the radar for many people. Coming out in the summer of 2019, Control ended up on a LOT of ‘best of the year’ lists.

I had zero expectations, which is the best way to wade into a game that turns out to be truly amazing.

At it’s core, Control is a third person action/adventure shooter with heavy emphasis on level exploration. Most every mechanic presented in this game has been done before, so there is nothing particularly groundbreaking.

What makes this game excel is the brilliance in which the developers utilized the tools and mechanics from other games that ‘work’ and wrapped it up into their own style backed by a thick, deep story.

The entire game takes place within the confines of the FBC building (Federal Bureau of Control). This is the government entity in charge of investigating paranormal events, and more importantly, OOP’s (Objects of Power). Basically, everyday objects imbued with paranormal abilities.

Kind of a Frank Lloyd Wright meets 7th layer of Hell vibe…

And because you and your missing brother were part of a large scale AWE (Altered World Event) when you were children, your destiny is intertwined with the FBC.

The building itself is referred to as the ‘Oldest House’, a location empowered with its own inter-dimensional abilities.

The story revolves around two points: Finding your missing brother that the FBC has caged to protect himself/themselves and solving the mystery of the building itself, which is stuck ‘mid-phase’ from an experiment gone wrong. Parts of the building are given an ‘Inception’ treatment that can only be cured by your characters ability to ‘cleanse’ sections and put them right (typically opening new paths that were previously blocked). The bureau’s many staff can be found everywhere floating above in the air, gently chanting some weird mantras that can barely be heard, but are ever present. Occasionally, these doomed souls are viciously re-animated into possessed demon-like beings who present you with the obligatory ‘bad guys’ to mow down as you progress though the levels of the game.

We all float down here, Georgie…

Not a ton of variety in weapons, in fact, all you get is a few different pistols, but they are all Objects of Power with their own special up-gradable abilities. You are also infused with a ‘launch’ ability that lets you fling pieces of the environment around at deadly velocities. It’s used as a mode of attack as much, if not more, than your guns. And it’s extremely fun turning enemies into paste with a chair or chunk of concrete flung at homicidal speeds.

Have a seat…

The level designs are intricate, and to the games credit, has very little in the way of ‘indicators’ of where you should be going. You will always have a ‘level/section’ tip as the goal for your current mission, but aside from a yellow dot on the map that is roughly in the right area, there are no other guides to help you around aside from the basic map. Which is… competent, but also involved and a bit complex due to many paths being blocked initially and opening up with new powers or progression through the game. There are no ‘arrows’ or ‘glowing dots’ that float around your HUD to guide you. Just a destination and a map. It made finding some areas and paths rather troublesome, forcing the player into a more exploratory style of play to try and stumble on the right direction. While it made for some inefficient traveling around, especially in the beginning when the bulk of the map is unfamiliar, I applauded the decision to just let players figure it out. Too many games error on the side of holding your hand and doing all the thinking for you. Control… does not.

This game will mess with your head…

The other highlight of this game is the sheer amount of brain-fuckery they lay upon the player. From the very involved story, to the inception-like building designs, there are MANY points in this game that illicit that ‘whoa’ factor as the visuals on screen do something completely unexpected. Little joys of surprise mechanics and level designs keep the game fresh from start to finish.

Control should be credited for its length as well. It took me a little over 30 hours to finish this game (doing all the side missions, of course). Considering the entire game pretty much takes place within one building with a handful of floors, the level designers crushed it.

This game is just chock full of surprise all around. Story, graphics, game-play, mechanics (especially), and even voice acting is all top notch.

My biggest ‘squee’ fanboy moment was when I realized the ‘Director’ who gives edgy, gravel voiced communications throughout the game is none other than James McCaffery, best known as the voice of Max Payne (also made by Remedy so there is the connection). If you’ve ever played any of those games, you know he has a distinct, crime noir quality to his voice, which fit the Director of the FBC perfectly.

It’s hard to find any serious faults in Control, but there are a few minor quips. There is a need for a wider variety of enemies. As the game is very long… the list of enemies is pretty limited and you’ll have seen most of what the game is going to throw at you before you are half-way done. By the time you finish, there is a sense of ‘I’ve smashed, shot, blown up, and eviscerated this bad guy every way possible, many, many times’. There are MANY collectibles in the way of readable ‘files’ that give a richer backstory to the games objects and events, as well as a lot of inter-department chatter that reflects the bureaucracy of working within the constraints of a government building. While they do add a layer to the game that I would recommend wading through, it does result in a steady stream of dropping out of the game to read something, which is rarely that much fun. And while I did applaud the lack of hand holding when it came to navigation, it does force the player to be constantly checking the map. So between the more than average amount of text to read and map checking, the player is always popping in an out of menus, which considerably breaks up the ‘flow’ of the game. Same with managing the many mods to upgrade your guns and personal powers. You can only use three per weapon and three for your person, but are offered numerous combinations with varying degrees of ability buffs. And since you are always picking up new ones, managing and swapping these in and out becomes a chore by the end of the game. A few missions could have used a better explanation of what the goal was and how to accomplish it, but that can be chalked up the developers decision to just let you figure things out. All of these are minor issues that would hardly take any points away from an overall score.

Verdict: It’s a must play. Simple as that. One of the best games I’ve played in years. Amazing story, intricate and challenging level design, mind-bending graphics and cinematic sequences, solid voice acting (Max frickin’ Payne!), solid shooting and paranormal powers… everything clicks to deliver a unique experience.