Remedy don’t create many games, but when they do come to the market, past history has proven they know what makes a gamer tick. With the brilliant Max Payne and Alan Wake behind them, and the stunning Quantum Break delivering one hell of an experience, there has been much hype behind their latest third person, paranormal, adventure. But does Control have what it takes to be mentioned in the same breath as past Remedy titles? Well, from the first moment to the last, and then beyond, it provides a stunning experience… but it doesn’t come without a few little niggles.
Control sees you stepping into the shoes of one Jesse Faden as she enters through the doors of New York’s most secretive organisation – the Federal Bureau of Control. From here what happens ahead is pretty much down to you as you attempt to follow a fairly strict path to become the new Director, gaining control on a world that has been infected by the Hiss. It’s not a massively open world affair, but it’s also not totally linear, sitting somewhere in between as the story unfolds to push you down the correct avenues. If you wish to ignore that and prefer to go off on a tangent to discover side quests and deeper narratives though, then you can do so.
The Oldest House is the setting for the action and this is the HQ for the FBC. This is however a building – and world – which constantly changes throughout your time with it. With the Hiss overpowering the land, seeping through at every opportunity, it’ll be up to you to chat to other members of the FBC, attempt to discover what is going on, and gain brilliant powers which open up a whole new landscape. Whilst the full tale is one of discovering your sibling, your mind and just what powers the Bureau, everything you touch, and everything you see, will bring all manner of oddities and mysterious goings-on to the fore.
It could be said that the story behind Control is right up there with the very best in the gaming scene, and it’s been a pleasure to take in the main tale alongside multiple side options. But there is no way on this Earth or Astral Plane will you find me divulging any more information on that side of things. It is the enjoyment found in unraveling the mysteries of Control which ensure it is a playthrough that all gamers should be taking in, and for that reason it would be completely wrong to spoil what is ahead. That, and the fact that even now, with the end credits having rolled, I’m not totally sure what is right, what is wrong, or exactly what the god damn hell is going on with the madness it brings.
Yet even though it’s a totally confusing tale which flips and flops throughout, asking you to define and then redefine what you know, Remedy have absolutely nailed things in terms of the narrative, the adventure, the paranormal and the gameplay.
That story is certainly one of the high points of Control, but it’s by no means the only thing you’ll become enthralled by; the actual gameplay is up there with some of the best.
Working as an open third person adventure, working your way through the unpredictable world is a joy, with areas mutating and opening up in a Metroidvania style the further you progress. This means that there is a ton of backtracking involved but never does that become a chore with action aplenty. Each of the areas are pretty unique too, well created with tons of secrets to discover. If you’re after depth, Control certainly provides it.
Thankfully Remedy have given you and Jesse the tools for the job with the early stages introducing you to your gun – the ‘Service Weapon’. It may initially feel that a standard pistol isn’t up for taking down the multitude of Hiss armies that you come up against, but very quickly you begin to discover that this gun is no standard fare. Much like everything else in Control, your Service Weapon is a completely interchangeable device, which through upgrades and skill trees morphs and melds its way to become part of you. Running through a variety of forms, no matter whether you are using it as a standard shooter, a devastating close range shotgun, an SMG-styled fast firer, a super-charged sniper or a rocket launcher, the Service Weapon will deliver on the damage front. And the smooth shooting mechanics which bring it into play compliment that.
Weapon mods can also be added and attached to each of the various forms too, improving the performance and capabilities. With these obtainable through either exploration or death and destruction, there are multiple mod types available. If you’re looking for faster firing weaponry, or something which can dish out a bit more damage to suit your playstyle, Control gives the options.
The abilities aren’t just limited to what you hold and fire though, and Jesse herself fast becomes a bit of a weapon of mass destruction. A simple melee attack easily pushes back even the most fearsome of Hiss foes, while dodging out of the way with a quick evade move is delightful. But as you progress through the Oldest House, and into the Astral Plane that much of Control focuses on, further skills open themselves up. It really isn’t long before Jesse is found picking up and flinging objects around the world, or protecting herself with a shield built up from discarded pieces of debris. It is however when the levitation abilities come into play when Control really gets going, with flight allowing you to not only reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible, but also let you get one up on the enemies ahead.
This is vital when you find yourself up against anything but the most standard of Hiss fighters, and with shielded opponents, huge bosses and flying enemies coming at you en masse, harnessing the power of levitation and working it with Jesse’s other skills are pretty much the only way you can expect to find success and development. They do however work brilliantly well in tandem with each other and utilising the Service Weapon alongside those powered by magical energy never fails to wow.
In fact, seeing and hearing all hell break loose is an utter delight and Control ensures that all aspects of the visual and audio side of things are nothing short of stunning. From the soundtracks, the scripted cutscenes and the mind-bending third person conversations, all the way through to the paranormal chatter and the sound of the fight, Remedy have nailed the entirety of what will be thrust towards your ears. It’s rare that a game will be found to have an audio detail that is as high as that of the visuals, but in Control that is exactly what we have been given.
This is enhanced by a system of collectibles which are huge in number. With each document, tape recording or conversation that you stumble upon, the lore of Control gets deeper, either hinting at why you are there, or divulving further information on the others that work at the Bureau. This may sound great, and initial temptation is to take in each and every collectible and wonder at what it brings, but 150 odd pickups later, it has to be said that there is possibly a bit too much going on. It’s lovely to see Remedy put so much detail into every aspect of this paranatural adventure, but sometimes less is more and that is certainly the case with the pickups.
Other than that slightly concerning issue, the vast majority of everything else included is what you would expect from a triple A title that has been years in the making, let alone a studio of the calibre of Remedy. So it’s a shame then that Control is slightly let down by a few little niggles
See, whilst the overall gameplay is fluid and smooth – even when you find yourself flinging objects at multiple enemies, dashing about in the air and utilising your weaponry – there are some majorly laggy moments, with near on all of them discovered when transitioning from menu screens back to the gameplay. It’s stuttery and drops frame rate for a good couple of seconds each and every time, and even though you learn to live with it, and a Day One patch has been promised, something of the calibre of Control shouldn’t be met with these issues.
It’s a similar story when bringing up a look at the essential map, with it failing to load correctly in multiple instances. In fact, throughout my time with Control and the tens of hours already put in, it’s probably bordering around the 50/50 mark as to whether the map has been of any use and whether it’ll provide the details required when it is asked to do so. This causes massive frustration as without some form of route guidance, navigating through the confusion is slow going, leaving you to note down in-game signage to discover the best way through the Metroidvania type exploration it brings. Yes the overall experience is helped by the cleansing of well placed control points which act as both fast travel portals and allowing for ability and mission amendments, but for a quick glance at your positioning in the world, immediate deployment of the map is essential.
There are also issues in the cutscenes and videos, with lip syncing nearly always off. Throw in multiple dialogues running over the top of each other should you dare action a voice recording prior to swiftly hitting a video sequence, and again Remedy have slightly taken their eye off the ball.
Thankfully though the pros far outweigh these small niggly problems and I’m sure the development team will be working great guns to get a patch out sooner rather than later – like I say, a Day One drop has already been promised. And with these mentions fixed, there is next to no reason to not consider spending time in the lunatic asylum which is Control. In fact, even with them in place, you should be dropping into Control on Xbox One at the very earliest opportunity as there have been many moments when Remedy have managed to leave me with a dropped jaw through astonishment alone, both in terms of story and gameplay. And even though it is massively intriguing from the get-go, it could well be said that there are some latter moments in this experience which are right up there with some of the finest ever gaming segments. Finnish heavy rock, anyone?
When you take into account the standout moments and combine them with brilliant visuals, some audio that is out of this world, a smattering of puzzles, a top drawer narrative and super intense gameplay, and yet again we find that Remedy have delivered the goods with their latest adventure. Granted everything they put their hand to are all pretty unique experiences, but in actual fact, Control really does take control, topping even their previous storytelling exploits.
The Director’s job is never finished, and in Control, you probably won’t ever want it to.