Normally, I have one huge pet peeve when it comes to games, and that is to be thrown in the deep end with little to no context about what’s happening. Especially if that game has an open layout, because that means on top of not getting what’s happening, I get lost a bunch, because as in life, my sense of direction is pretty terrible. Control, from Remedy Entertainment, does both of these things. But, you know what? I love it.
Control puts you in the shoes of Jesse Faden, a woman who’s on a search for her missing brother Dylan. Years ago, they were both caught up in a mysterious event in which they encountered some wild supernatural occurrences, after which the mysterious Federal Bureau of Control took over, taking Dylan with them and leaving no trace.
Now, Jesse has tracked the Bureau down to their mysterious headquarters, The Oldest House only to discover it’s under attack by a mysterious and malevolent force known as ‘The Hiss’. A supernatural force that burrows into the minds of whichever poor office worker in the Bureau, which otherwise functions like any old Government department, it can, causing them to do one of two things: Float around and cause indistinct voices to echo throughout the area, or become very, very nasty toward you.
And, to add to all the weirdness, in the first 10 minutes of stepping into The Oldest House, you’re very suddenly appointed Director of the whole place and given the duty of figuring out what the heck is going on. And also fixing it. Naturally.
Other than this, I won’t really say much more because the joy of Control comes from wandering the halls of The Oldest House, which eventually become completely open to you to explore, and discovering its mysteries. And this is a game that absolutely delights in letting you explore, littering various files, audio diaries and videos around that can be found and give more context to just what’s going on. Some of which are actually pretty funny.
For those of you that are familiar with the SCP Foundation, you’ll find a lot of familiar elements here. Redacted files, poor assholes who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time (and it’s hilarious), and genuinely unsettling occurrences that make you want to solve the mystery, but also get out of that particular area very, very quickly.
Just throw a [redacted] at them
While Control is an adventure game that encourages exploring, it also absolutely does not let down on the combat side of things. Initially, players start with the Service Weapon, a gun that can be upgraded to include all kinds of forms, like a hand cannon or a semi-automatic style rapid-fire. Though, of course, that’s not all. As the game progresses, Jesse gains access to a wide range of telekinetic powers.
These include your basic telekinesis, throwing literally anything from the environment around in a fun use of the physics engine. Though all kinds of powers are quickly added to your arsenal, shields made from rubble in the environment, a dash that lets you evade all that nasty gunfire and more abilities that can all be used to wreak havoc on the many, many enemies you’ll encounter.
The missions themselves are varied, with main missions allowing you to explore and unlock new areas of the facility, while the side missions encourage exploration and reward you with more points to upgrade health, energy and the like, as well as shiny new outfits to make Jesse fashionable for this horrifying scenario she’s been put in.
The one thing the game does lack, however, is a difficulty setting. Which, for the most part, isn’t an issue, but there are moments here and there which a difficulty setting would come in handy for people who are just looking to enjoy the story, or who might need it for accessible reasons. It does seem like a bit of an odd choice in modern times not to have a difficulty setting like that for a story-focused game.
Though this is only one flaw in an otherwise amazing game, and it’s easy to underestimate the difficulty and go in all guns blazing only to be very quickly put in your place. The combat requires figuring out the best and most strategic use of skills for a given situation, with different enemies taking a different approach, such as enemies with shields that require a well placed telekinetic throw of an object, or flying enemies that can dodge anything you throw at them. Except for bullets. Almost every enemy is pretty susceptible to a bullet to the face, thankfully. But that isn’t as fun.
I give it a [redacted] out of 10
Control is a game that absolutely delights in confusing the player, but instead of this being a frustrating experience, the story and context of the world is instead drip-fed to the player just enough to make them want to continue exploring and uncovering the secrets of The Oldest House, as well as Jesse’s secrets and just what in the heck is going on with All That anyway.
It’s masterful story-telling blended with often-times frantic gameplay that will probably leave you dying a lot if you’re anything like me, but the amount of questions that need to be solved always makes sure you keep going back for one more try.