When I first saw a trailer for Control I was immediately intrigued. The mysteriousness from a total lack of information certainly piqued my interest, and knowing it was being made by Remedy, the people behind the extremely weird Quantum Break I was hyped to see what this game was going to be with as little information as possible. My eagerness to go in blind was rewarded.
Note: If you want to avoid spoilers then avoid the next two paragraphs, because while I won’t spoil the game, the first couple of hours is way better not knowing what is going on.
Control kicks off with the protagonist, Jesse, in the foyer of a mysterious building which is the Federal Bureau of Control under confusing circumstances. She talks to someone you can’t see as she makes her way through this abandoned building looking through offices until she finds herself in the Directors office to find he has committed suicide. Picking up the gun she has some flashes of images, then the plot starts to thicken.
The story devolves quickly into a strange supernatural thriller where Jesse, who is now the director for some reason, must try to purge the massive building of the Hiss which is a supernatural energy that is invading the premises. As she clears areas of this mysterious energy, people come out of their bunkers, and she uncovers items which unlock supernatural powers to her. It’s a story that has taken from so many sources but is bizarrely unique in a genre where it’s hard to be unique these days. I won’t touch on the story anymore because it keeps getting better, and if the above intrigues you then I suspect you will enjoy the ride.
Gameplay wise the game is a solid and enjoyable shooter. Early on Jesse is armed with only a gun with regenerating ammo which takes time to regenerate once emptied, so it is important to try to manage it carefully as to not run out. Every time it was reloading, I kept hitting a shoulder button to reload, which took a long time for my brain to stop doing. As you advance this is easier to deal with because you unlock supernatural powers which you use interchangeably with your gun to create fluid strings of attacks.
I won’t touch on the powers too much because again these are spoilers that you should unlock as the game goes on, but the earliest one is the ability to lift objects up and fling them at enemies. This comes with a cooldown after so many flings, so switching between attacks is crucial, and so damn fun. What’s most impressive is the way the game provides you with stuff to fling. You can fling physical objects, but also chunks of the scenery, and nothing is more satisfying or fascinating to watch than when Jesse rips chunks of concrete out leaving holes in the room around her.
The whole game gives a vibe that reminded me of Resident Evil early on. The feeling of being in one big building, defeating the enemy within is so uniquely RE, and Control takes this idea but makes an entirely different game. This game also gives some scary moments which are more about making feel more uncomfortable than scared. The mysterious thing working with you that Jesse talks to, responds by manipulating your vision slightly which is just the right amount of creepy showing that when they are onto something, Remedy can be the best in class.
One of my favorite parts of one of the best games in the last few years, Senua’s Sacrifice, is the game’s use of live footage overlaid in the game world which was constantly unnerving, and Remedy has taken this idea for Control, using it to extraordinary effect. This as well as camera angles at certain moments made me so uncomfortable exactly the way I like thriller games to make me feel. It’s unnerving because it’s supposed to be, not because you are waiting for a jump scare, and with its excellent quality aesthetic, it’s a treat in every way.
Control is a game that I hope gets a lot of attention because it is truly something special. It borrows from so many other sources but is totally unique in the way it uses them to tell a creative and interesting story that is a lot of fun to play. I even found myself reading documents to unravel the story more which is a rarity for me. Now, go play Control and thank Remedy later.