Remedy Games is known for the weird and bizarre stories they tell in their games, while also being known for some great and interesting gameplay mechanics, and I’m happy to say as a fan of Remedy; Control is no different.
Control is a third-person action game with some nods to RPG elements along with some slight metroidvania ones. As mentioned previously, the story of Control is weird, creepy and will have you scratching your head for the majority of it wondering what is really going on. You play as Jesse Faden, a woman who has been gifted these supernatural abilities from an event in her childhood and has been looking for her brother that was taken at that very event. Her search leads her to The Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), which is a secret government building that studies ‘paranatural objects and phenomena’, as she somehow becomes the new Director of the FBC.
The game begins as she walks into the FBC for the first time and immediately there is some weird shit going on, so she knows this is the right place. I won’t speak much more about the story since the entire purpose of it is to discover for yourself what is going on in this building through the campaign missions, but it’s great, even if it doesn’t stick the landing.
The story doesn’t really end well. I was asking myself “that’s it?” when the credits rolled in because it ended in such a weird spot and didn’t feel rewarding, but the journey to get there was excellent. I finished the story about in about 10 hours, which includes some side missions, so it’s a pretty short game. Some of my favourite parts of the game were reading all the documents scattered around the FBC which acted as collectables. They just gave you so much more information about the FBC and what is really going on in this building along with what they’ve been doing for the past years. Those, as well as Dr. Darling’s videos – the head scientist at FBC – that are also all around were always fascinating to listen to/read.
Since Control takes place in a building, you’d think it would be a small area to play around in, but the FBC is massive and has multiple floors that kind of have their own style to them. Since you can go wherever you want, this is where the slight metroidvania elements appear as some doors early on are locked until you can get a high enough key card clearance later in the game. There are also Control Points throughout each floor that act as fast travel beacons once activated.
After beating Control, I still have places I haven’t been yet, but that’s probably because of their weird side mission’s system. Instead of picking up side missions from NPC’s or a mission board you have to find them around the FBC, and so far, there have been quite a few of them. Side missions, along with main missions, will give you ability points and sometimes weapon/player mods, but the game doesn’t really handle the latter all too well.
As the Director of the FBC, you get a gun called the service weapon, which can only be used by the Director. This service weapon can shift into different forms that end up becoming different types of guns with the original form being Grip, which fires like a normal pistol. There are four other forms that can change the service weapon to a shotgun with Shatter, an automatic pistol with Spin, a charged up precise shot with Pierce or – the least used in my playthrough – a rocket launcher with Charge. The service weapon is awesome and so much fun to use, but instead of having a reload function, it has a charge bar and each form uses more or less than the other. This became pretty annoying quickly because I’m so used to reloading a gun with Square, but in Control, Square is to change weapons. So, whenever I’d run out of charge on my service weapon and wanted to reload, I’d end up changing forms instead and still wasn’t able to shoot since it was still recharging.
The service weapon has mod slots as well and each form has mods exclusive to them that you can get from missions, enemies or crates around the FBC. You get these mods before the game even tells you what they are and I was confused on what to do with them at first, but I just put the pieces together in my head and the game eventually told me. These mods can increase damage output, increase headshot damage, use less charge and more. The more you upgrade each form the more slots you have for mods. There are also player mods that can be equipped which can increase health or can make your abilities stronger and usable more frequently.
Control just reeks of Remedy’s previous game, Quantum Break, especially with the gameplay, which looks similar even though it feels quite different. The abilities you obtain are awesome in combat along with just overall traversal in the FBC, and just like Quantum Break, they make you feel badass. Throughout the game, you’ll get up to six abilities which all help you survive in their own way. There is a powerful melee attack that can knock someone back and daze them. Launch lets you pick up basically anything in the world and throw it at someone. Evade allows you to dash to another spot. Shield brings pieces the floor from under your feet in front of you to block incoming shots. Seize lets you make enemies fight for you. Lastly, levitate can allow you to float for a certain amount of time. These abilities are also based on an energy bar and they can be upgraded to use less energy or be stronger at control points.
Dying in Control can get maddening after a while or if you’re stuck on a certain part because instead of respawning you in the room you were, they respawn you at the closest control point which could be a good distance away. The enemies you killed may also respawn sometimes, making it even more annoying when you die continuously at the same spot. The only times I really died a lot was when I was fighting these mini-bosses in some sections, but the mini-bosses are just not fun to fight against regardless. They do an extreme amount of damage to you if they hit you, so instead of having fun and using my abilities like a badass, I was forced to hide behind walls and peak until he reloaded so I can get a few shots in then repeat until dead. It slowed down the gameplay loop significantly whenever they would appear, but luckily there aren't too many.
Visually, Control is stunning. There are some sections where I thought the facial animations didn’t look the greatest or I thought the lighting was overwhelmingly bright, but overall, it’s an impressive looking game. There are so many weird and crazy looking things happening all around the FBC involving characters and just the building itself. I also loved the huge fonts that hard cut on the screen when you enter a new room for the first time. There is one part in particular that might be one of my favourite moments in a videogame ever and I wish there was much more of that in the game, but it’s better for players to go in blind for when it happens. Unfortunately, Control has quite a few performance problems that even follow through with the weird theme since I haven’t seen performance issues such as this before.
Control plays well when you’re playing, but the things around it have been causing problems for the game’s performance. Every time I finished the main missions the game would freeze for about five seconds then resume as normal. Every time I paused and unpaused, it would have framerate issues for about five seconds and then resume as normal. These are very weird performance issues considering the game runs very well when actually playing it, so we could see a patch later on that fixes them.
Control shows everything that Remedy has learned throughout their years of making videogames in one – short – package. It has the weirdness of Alan Wake/Max Payne in the story, the crazy action-packed combat of Quantum Break all while letting you explore this bizarre, beautiful building with so many secrets to uncover. There are a few strange decisions for some of the mechanics and the story doesn’t quite stick the landing, but it doesn’t take anything away from what makes this game one of my favourites of the year.
Control (Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
It has the weirdness of Alan Wake/Max Payne in the story, the crazy action-packed combat of Quantum Break all while letting you explore this bizarre, beautiful building with so many secrets to uncover.