Remedy Entertainment is back with Control, their latest game being one of the best things the Finnish studio has released in years. Granted, I liked Quantum Break and loved Alan Wake, but those games never engrossed me as Control has from the start. Remedy’s brand of weird, pulpy sci-fi is on full display here and for the first time in ages, benefits from the outside the box mentality the studio is known for and for that, I’m extremely excited that Control exists as it does – an extraordinary romp through one of the most interesting locations in ages.
Control takes place with the Federal Bureau of Control in New York. The building itself is little more than cookie-cutter design from the outside and for most people, doesn’t particularly stand out against the cityscape. Within the walls of the Bureau though, the building is known as The Oldest House – a Place of Power. See, Places of Power do not follow the rules and follow their own logic, effectively operating outside what we understand. In some cases, the layout of a dwelling physically changes depending on the state the building is in expanding its own spatial limitations due to its paranormal properties.
Playing as Jesse Faden, the newest Director at the Bureau of Control and someone who has spent her life looking for the Bureau of Control. When Jesse was a child, she came into contact with an Object of Power – an Altered Item which resembles an ordinary item like a television or projector. These items possess unique attributes that often resonate in inexplicable ways. In the town of Ordinary, Maine, the Faden siblings came into contact with a projector that opened doorways to another dimension, throwing the city into chaos. After this, Dylan was taken by the Bureau and she’s been looking for him ever since.
And so, once Jesse finally discovers what she’s been looking for, she discovers the corpse of Zachariah Trench, the former Director. From there, Jesse is quickly initiated and granted the title of the new Director, leading us to the opening moments of Control.
The items you’ll find over the course of the game each come with an unlockable power. One object offers the ability to Launch enemies similar to the Force from Star Wars. Another object unlocks a Dash ability viable in most combat scenarios against The Hiss and so on.
Enemy encounters offer versatility and difficulty. I learned the hard way that rushing into battle leads to death, so take cover and use your abilities to navigate the terrain. Overwhelmed? Use Launch to grab an oxygen tank and toss it at The Hiss for a nasty explosion to take a few of them out. Or grab a chunk of concrete and drive it into a group for best results. Staying in cover and continually moving around are the best pieces of advice I offer you. Jesse’s Service Weapon, in particular, is one of my favourite weapons in recent memory as you unlock several iterations throughout the campaign. A simple press of a button allows for on the fly transformations and unlimited ammo, which recharges instead when depleted.
Every hour spent inside The Oldest House unveils more questions about where you are and what you need to do in order to get there. At first, I was frustrated because I often found myself wandering in circles looking for some navigation marker pointing me in the right direction. That isn’t the case here though because quite literally the place you’re exploring as Jesse is known to shift its appearance and leave you at a loss.
The Oldest House offers several sidequests that shouldn’t be ignored if you want a better picture of the world you’re in. Some of these sidequests are as good, if not better than the main campaign and offer a deeper insight into the surrounding lore. As an added bonus, some of Control’s best boss encounters are found around the middle of the campaign. This is the first game from Remedy offering sidequests and as it stands, these moments shine and compliment the story, offering optional powers for Jesse to use against The Hiss.
Visually, Control is stunning on PlayStation 4 Pro and while we know that developers confirmed no HDR support at launch, that tidbit shouldn’t factor into enjoying what Control has to offer. There is a ton of detail tucked into the world and each area offers enough variety to keep your eyes invested. Enemy encounters, for example, include some of my favourite animations. When fighting The Hiss with The Oldest House, the way they dissipate when defeated leaves a somewhat glitchy look to them. Other instances include the red-hued areas covered by the corruption of The Hiss, and diving into the Astral Plane.
My only gripe is how uncanny each model looks when talking in a cutscene. The performances, namely Courtney Hope, stand out for being really good but the end result doesn’t translate well to cutscenes, leaving an eerie, android vibe due to the mouth movements.
As it were, I’m finishing up my review on a new pair of headphones made for PlayStation 4 and PC, so I decided to test them out with Control. I’ll give it to Remedy on sound design because you hear everything crystal clear. The whispers are you move through hallways, the music disconcertingly shifting between my ears and keeping me on the edge of my seat – all these little things come together, adding a new level of intimacy.
Performance-wise, Control is capped at 30 frames-per-second on a console, but that framerate takes a hit when dealing with several enemies at once while using Jesse’s abilities. Other instances are when navigating the menu and returning to the game where minor freezes cause some hindrance. I can’t imagine these issues being any better on the base PlayStation 4 or on Xbox One, but these issues persist on the Pro. Granted, Control offers environmental destruction and does so exceedingly well – often it’s really enjoyable plucking a piece of a wall and throw it at an enemy.
Control is an exceptional game from Remedy. The wholly-engrossing world full of paranormal phenomena is my favourite kind of sci-fi and seeing the idea utilized so well offers an expansive world full of possibilities. Jesse is a good protagonist and the exciting gunplay spliced with thoughtful powers make for some exciting encounters against The Hiss. Exploring The Oldest House is another thing that surprised me by how much I enjoyed it, even after a rocky start that left me downtrodden. Control is a step in the right direction for Remedy and offers the studio’s most engaging game in years, and I can’t wait to see if and when we see more of this supernatural world.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]