Ever stepped into a building that you’ve been searching for your whole life, only to find the Director’s dead and the murder weapon is somewhat alive? Well, that’s what we’ve got with Control, the latest game from Remedy Entertainment (creators of Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break). This is a game that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, for all the good reasons.
The game opens up with our heroine Jesse Faden, you walk into a typical New York City skyscraper called the Federal Bureau of Control. This is a place that Jesse has been searching out for a long time. Somewhere in this building are the people responsible (or Jesse believes) for kidnapping her brother 17 years ago, and she’s here to find the truth. However, the building is seemingly empty other than a caretaker who seems to think Jesse is here for a job interview.
Jesse makes her way through the ominous building, which gives off Shining vibes. It doesn’t look like a hotel, no, but this place has energy. Jesse makes her way up to the Directors Office, and the former director is on the floor with a single gunshot wound to the head. Next to him lying on the floor is a gun called the Service Weapon. Jesse looks down and picks it up and as soon as she places her hand on the weapon she’s transported into another dimension.
Upon finding the Service Weapon again and taking out a few bad guys, Jesse is installed immediately as the new Director, as only the Director can wield this weapon. The Federal Bureau of Control’s HQ, known as The Oldest House, is in a mess as it’s being invaded by creatures from this other dimension called The Hiss. Confused? You probably will be. But don’t let this deter you. Control is a fantastic game which sends tingles down your spine as you explore the FBC, using your Service Weapon to dispose of enemies.
Control is a third-person shooting, puzzle-solving with elements of Metroid and Zelda. There’s a great action in using the Service weapon to dispose of mob enemies and bosses as well as unique puzzles and backtracking to find power-ups to help you progress through The Oldest House and uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago.
The shooting is one aspect of the game. Another is the psychic powers Jesse has and develops throughout the game. Since that day her brother was kidnapped by FBC, Jesse carried in her head something called Polaris and this helps her develop mental superpowers such as the ability to pick up and throw objects at her enemies be they chairs, concrete from the wall etc… anything that’s not stuck to the ground, and sometimes the ground and walls itself! Later in the game, Jesse develops other powers allowing her to progress through the Oldest House.
The game is contained in the FBC’s headquarters with the occasional visit to other dimensions. The building is huge, with multiple floors and it’s our job to rescue the employees that managed to somehow survive the attack from The Hiss and restore order to the Oldest House and resolve the mysteries of the past. Even though Jesse is immediately confused by the events, she takes to her new job of Director immediately working with staff to uncover the clues as to what happened and why. There’s a running internal monologue in Jesse’s head throughout the game as she tries to figure out what’s going on, who to trust and ultimately what happened to her brother all those years ago.
The seemingly simple Service Weapon is your main focus for the gunplay in Control, however, this can be upgraded much like your powers throughout the game. It starts out like a pistol, then a shotgun, sniper and eventually a rocket-launcher. The variety of guns is just enough and coupled with your psychic powers makes Jesse a formidable protagonist. There’s a variety of enemies in the game from your zombie-like employees who have been taken over by the Hiss to flying types and bigger enemies still.
The shooting reminded me of the Division in some aspects, taking down the shield of enemies, ducking behind cover and picking up health. You have to take care and think about how you’re going to attack for sure, running in all gun-ho isn’t going to get the results you want. Enemies can heal one another and coordinate their attacks so planning out your route through a gang on enemies is a must in Control.
The game looks fantastic, it’s one of the most beautiful games we’ve seen. The textures and character models, together with great cut scenes will have you emersed in this world from the moment you step into the game. The grey, white and dark areas are in stark contrast to the deep, swirling reds and oranges when enemies attack. The bold typographic entrances to new areas pop from the screen coupled with the atmospheric soundtrack will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I played this in the dark with headphones on and in parts this was truly terrifying. Control has the amazing ability to make you feel very tense as you play, and any game that can grip you by the emotions like this is a winner in my books.
Throughout the game weapons and abilities can be upgraded to make Jesse more powerful than before. Use new powers to get to an area you couldn’t get to before much like the Metroidvania of the past and present, and add new mods to your array of weapons to kill a boss that’s stopping you from progressing. It’s all put together really well in a beautiful package.
Remedy has put together some fantastic games in the past but this might be their best game yet. The exploration of the Federal Bureau of Control, the story, gunplay and abilities all come together in a perfect package complimented by the gorgeous visuals and audio design. This is certainly one of 2019’s best games, and if you missed it, it’s one to pick up as soon as you can.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Release date: August 27th 2019