Review – Control
Control, the newest game from Remedy Entertainment, drops gamers into the boots of Jesse Faden as she blasts her way through the shifting interiors of The Oldest House, headquarters to the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), using a handgun called the Service Weapon that has some shifting powers of its own, and an array of supernatural powers gathered along the course of the game’s campaign.
The Service Weapon is itself an Object of Power – an everyday item that’s imbued with supernatural energies, items that often have a life of their own. Tied to the Black Pyramid that controls the FBC, the weapon confers Directorship of the Bureau to its wielder and shortly after she arrives at the building in search of her brother Dylan, Jesse gains control of the weapon and becomes the Director.
The shape-shifting firearm starts out as a standard revolver, albeit one with regenerating ammunition, but can be upgraded to have four alternate forms: Shatter, which stands in for a shotgun; Spin, the submachine gun form; Pierce, a sniper-like round that uses big chunks of your ammo meter with each shot; and Charge, which allows the player to charge up to three shots of explosive rounds.
Jesse can set two forms to swap between, and for most of the game I stuck with Grip and Pierce to balance out the quick shooting and quick reloading of Grip with the stopping power but heavy ammo cost of Pierce. Each form can be upgraded, allowing up to three weapon mods to be slotted in to provide stat bonuses. Mods can be found while playing, either dropped from enemies or found in storage chests, and a crafting menu allows for the creation of randomized mods. Jesse can also equip personal mods, unlocking up to three mod slots by spending points upgrading her powers.
Jesse, courtesy of a run-in with a supernatural event when she was younger, can learn new abilities from Objects of Power and The Oldest House luckily happens to be a repository of quite a few of them. Launch is hands-down my favourite power, allowing her to seize objects telekinetically and fling them around. Upgrade the power and you can throw weakened enemies, creating a ridiculously fun daisy chain where you shoot one enemy to put them in the vulnerable state, then grab and throw them into another, weakening the second enemy to the point you can repeat the throw at another enemy, etc…
By comparison the rest of the powers are downright pedestrian: a shield wall that can be used offensively if it’s upgraded enough, a telekinetic dash that’s handy for evasion and long distance jumps, a levitation ability that comes fairly late in the game and opens up a considerable number of previously unreachable locations, and Seize – a short-term mind control power that I probably should have used more than I did.
Combat ran very smoothly as a rule, but there were exceptions – especially prior to the pre-launch patch, so those using a disc to play should make sure they connect online and update the game prior to play. Some minor framerate hitches were the worst post-patch issues found, surprising considering the amount of objects and particles being thrown around by the engine.
The campaign revolves around Jesse’s goal to find her brother, who was taken into custody by the FBC after the same run-in that left her able to withstand the effects of Objects of Power. It’s hardly a straight-line run to finding him, as she also needs to deal with an invasion by the Hiss – a hostile force from another realm that corrupts everything it touches. If that seems familiar to Alan Wake fans, rest assured that’s addressed in the game.
Control’s storyline runs a winding path, and players who want to get the most out of it will need to pay attention to the wealth of lore items scattered around the environment. It’s these heavily-redacted official papers, informal memos, and audio recordings that piece together much of the supporting story and help make sense of the twists that occur along the way. I finished the game in just a shade over 10 hours but had several side missions still left undone and some optional boss encounters to take on.
The game allows you to keep playing once you’ve finished the final mission, so don’t worry about cleaning everything up prior to seeing it through to the end.
I had a blast with Control. The gameplay reminds me a lot of Psi-Ops: the Mindgate Conspiracy, an older game that was the first I played with telekinetic powers as a gameplay mechanism. Likable characters and a plot that didn’t go where I expected make this a game I have to recommend.