Developed by Remedy Entertainment
Published by 505 Games
Available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC (Reviewed on Xbox One X)
While I have been aware of Remedy’s previous work – Alan Wake in particular – I have never gotten around to playing them for myself. Control looked really appealing to me, the trailers promised an unnerving story with brilliant graphics and that’s what we got. It looks at the idea that supernatural/otherworldly occurrences are common place, where in America, the Federal Bureau of Control works to research and contain these mysterious and dangerous phenomena.
You play as Jesse Faden, who investigates the Old House, which is headquarters for the FBC. She wants to find answers to an event that happened in her childhood, resulting in a mysterious being that follows and guides her, and her brother being taken by the FBC. When Jesse arrives, we soon encounter the enemy and alien presence known as the Hiss, which infects and takes control of the people it comes into contact with. For the most part, the story excels in gradually teaching the player about its world and lore. However, it can often be quite confusing to fully understand what is actually going on, especially in the first half where the use of its own jargon can be difficult to follow. Terms such as ‘AWE,’ ‘objects of power’ and ‘astral plane’ can lead to story beats missing their impact and meaning. If you do not read most, if not all scattered documents, then you will have a hard time understanding what’s going on. But by the end, despite some unanswered questions and muddled revelations, I thoroughly enjoyed my time and left wanting more.
One issue I had was that the only really interesting characters were Jesse herself and the enigmatic Doctor Darling, who we only see in live-action clips throughout the game. The other people you meet along the way fail to leave any sort of impact. Jesse is very compelling, we get to understand her feelings in every situation, including her relationship with the entity ‘Polaris,’ by hearing her very thoughts. She may seem stoic at first, but I warmed up to her soon enough. However, the very building itself is a brilliant character that deserves mentioning. It will move, expand and change depending if Hiss have control, imbuing the traditionally dull grey surroundings with an intense, creepy red hue.
The maps are surprisingly large, with hidden/secret areas for you to discover while completing a mixed bag of side quests, ranging from dull to brilliant. Combat is always satisfying, where it isn’t viable to play like a normal 3rd person shooter. Enemies are aggressive and will seek you out if you try hiding behind cover, you need to stay on the move and make the most of your supernatural abilities. Her telekinetic power which allows her to pull and throw objects and parts of the environment at enemies is the most useful. Others I hardly touched, where the shield was really the only other power I used. Jesse’s gun, which can take a variety of forms can be upgraded with a number of buffs and its versatility blends well with her powers. Enemy variety is good, at least for the small, common ones, but bosses are a bit disappointing and frustrating at times.
Overall, I did love Control, where the brilliant atmosphere and complex narrative worked well in keeping me on suspense throughout. Visually it was stunning, from the normal office spaces, to the more supernatural areas, everything looked well designed and realistic. The lighting was a particular standout. Performance in general is good, although it could drop quite heavily in certain situations, mainly large combat scenarios with lots of effects happening. Following Jesse on her investigation was an unnerving and gripping adventure that I won’t forget for a long time, and look forward to the Alan Wake dlc next year.
Score = 8/10
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