Article written by a guest writer, J.Hill.
Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment is best know for their moody, character driven cinematic games like Max Payne and Alan Wake. For a studio whose slow trickle of titles seems rivaled only by the likes of Team Ico, waiting for the next game can feel an interminable wait.
Thankfully, I can say Control is well worth it.
In Control, you take on the character of Jesse Faden, a no-nonsense redhead out to discover the whereabouts of her missing brother. She tracks a lead, or rather her intuition leads her outside the doors of a semi-secret government organization known as the Federal Bureau of Control. They don't purposefully try to hide their location, but the building they are housed in makes sure only the right people can find it.
Think X-Files, if Fox Mulder had been given an entire organization to run. With a David Lynchian aesthetic.
Early on, due to the strange, shifting nature of the Building, a character in its own right, and the powers that operate within and around it, Jesse is made Director of the Bureau on her first day. Because you see, the building houses supernatural Objects of Power (hilariously called OoPs) and perhaps the most powerful OoPs, a gun referred to as the 'service weapon', has appointed her so. Jesse begins to
realize maybe she didn't find this place so much as it found her.
You are thus thrust into an interesting narrative where Jesse, who has no knowledge of this place, has to simultaneously learn all that she can about it, while running it. And oh yeah, there's an invasive parasitic force taking over parts of the building and many of its agents as well. And you thought your first
day on the job was rough.
The agents of the Bureau of Control seem all too happy to have Jesse running the show, newcomer or not. You get the idea none of them would want the job, and they respect the authority of the service weapon. If it chose her, its because she was the right candidate for the job.
In an early example of the world's strangeness, the moment Jesse is appointed and emerges back into the building, all the pictures of the old Director have already been replaced by a very official looking photo of Jesse with an American flag in the background. A picture Jesse did not take, wearing a suit she
does not own. There's also a bizarre janitor character that befriends her, who feels like he walked straight out of a Twin Peaks episode.
The game unfolds much the way the original Resident Evil did; you explore a finite space, that has certain sections closed off until you get the corresponding item or key. There are bits of lore and OoPs scattered everywhere, along with the parasite controlled enemies, and the mystery and intrigue of the story had me wanting to try and uncover ever bit of lore I could. Like with some of their other titles, they use some real world media in video clips. The actor who plays Dr. Darling in these is an absolute delight.
Overall its a solid design to base your game around, and it's put to good use here. You don't ever feel like you are backtracking so much as finding new things about old places. Plus you can use the elevator and save points to quick travel between different parts of the Bureau.
The combat is broken into two parts; your service weapon, which you can mod into 5 distinct weapons types, two of which you can have equipped at any time, and the powers you accrue from discovering OoPs. These range from telekinetically being able to fling objects at people, to creating a sort of force field barrier for shielding, to the ability to flat out fly. These are fun, dynamic, and acquired slowly against increasingly challenging bad guys so that you don't ever feel op.
The gun on the other hand I was less enthused about. Try as I might, I could never get the settings to where the primary gun mode felt natural. I always felt like I was fighting to get it to highlight the enemies before firing. For a game called Control, the lack of control I felt on the gun was ironic. The other modes are better, but I found the sniper mode, called Pierce, almost too easy. It had a much larger reticle, a bit odd for a sniper gun, and was so powerful it dropped enemies before they could even get a shot off.
That's not to say the game itself was easy. Far from it. It provided a nice challenge as they rely on different armor and shielding types to force you to switch weapon types and powers. But for a game that has all the tools to allow the player to play the style they want, it felt a little imbalanced towards sniper + telekinetically chucking anything you can fine from afar. The combat never grew stale, and the powers were undeniably fun, but I think they could re-balance things across the board and make the gun more responsive in possible future installments.
The enemy designs could also use a little more variety. They mostly revolved around how much shield/armor they had, or whether or not they could fly (flying enemies can dodge your telekinesis power). I came across one enemy that could fade in and out of existence, thought he was one of the coolest mobs I'd seen in awhile...and rarely saw him again the rest of the game.
Another minor quibble I had was with the repeatable side missions. These were actually really fun and challenging fights. A sort of 'zerg, see how long you can survive' wave of enemies that really force you to exhaust your options for powers, and try and fine good, defensible positions. ...but these mission popped up in the middle of other missions, and were timed. A horrible design decision that left me almost never accepting them because to do so would mean abandoning my current quest to race to a save point so I could then travel all the way across the Bureau.
Still, overall these issues were minor compared to the overall quality of the game. Remedy presented a highly engaging, atmospheric world that left me returning to it again and again. They really hit the weird meter dead on, and created a universe ripe for sequels that could go in any direction, and that left its mystery and intrigue largely intact. With a little more polish on the combat side, this game would
have been perfect. It still nearly was. 9/10.
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