System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch Publisher: 505 Games | Developer: Remedy Entertainment | Reviewed On: PlayStation 5 | Released: August 2019
Control is a third person action-adventure game by developer Remedy Entertainment, the game came out in 2019 and now the Ultimate edition is available for next gen consoles as well as the current gen. This is the version we will dive into; the ultimate edition comes with both DLC expansions. The game centre's around Jesse Faden, a woman trying to find her brother, after tracking him down to the mysterious building of the FBC, Federal Bureau of Control, Jesse soon discovers there is more to this building than meets the eye.
Control takes place in the one setting for the whole of the game, the building of the Federal Bureau of Control, but this building is more than a building as it can bend around reality. As Jesse, you find yourself quickly thrust into the story as the current Director kills himself and before Jesse knows it, she has replaced him and is now the head of the Bureau. With becoming the new Director, she has received a weapon only the Director can wield, the service gun, this gun however is not normal as Jesse soon discovers. With the Bureau now on lockdown, an enemy known as the Hiss seeping through into the building from their dimension, its up to Jesse to find out how to stop the Hiss, all while trying to find her brother she knows must be here.
As Jesse Faden you soon discover that she has an entity with her that guides the player and as the story progresses you see her talk to it, not even just in cutscenes but during gameplay, the entity called Polaris. Polaris helps as a marker if you ever get lost, as this entity, which shows like a circle constantly shape shifting, will show near a door or hallway to show you this is the way forward in your current mission objective. However, this does not always show up clear and you may need to run around to find Polaris, also the map is not the greatest either, as the map can be brought up in real time, so if you are getting attacked and you are in the map, you will take damage. The map can be hard to read especially with a game that has so many layers and levels to each section of the map, it is not always clear how to get to your intended destination so at times patience is required or the openness to enjoy the exploration. To be fair, the map issue I had with the game and Polaris not being clearly visible at times did not hinder my experience as the setting and story had its hooks into me that I enjoyed exploring the Bureau, or the Oldest House as some of the characters would call it.
The service weapon was a very cool weapon in this game, the gun which looks like an ordinary pistol when you first receive it at the beginning of the game, has five modes during the main campaign, a sixth is added for when you tackle the DLC, each mode has its own uniqueness, for example, Grip is the standard pistol like gun, or you can switch it up to Pierce, which acts like a sniper rifle. Each weapon has three mod slots to unlock, this allows you to add mods you collect off defeated enemies or chests, that add qualities such as Pierce Aimed Fire Boost, which when using Pierce adds extra damage to enemies when you shoot in aim mode. My personal favourite weapon was Shatter, as this is the shotgun like option, as enemies can quickly swarm you in this game so its great to have the power of a shotgun in this pistol to create some separation from you and your incoming enemy.
As well as weapon mods you also gather personal mods, which can add things like extra health or have your shield replenish quicker, so the mods always felt worthwhile to me and at times I would swap mods in and out depending on the enemy I was facing. The ability tree that is in the game is great as its simple and not messy like some games can be and you know exactly what you are upgrading. The other big thing in this game I have not mentioned is your powers, YES! Your POWERS! These powers are amazing to play with, they range from Launch, which is telekinesis, allowing you to pick up any object to throw at your enemies even bits of flooring or parts of the wall can be ripped off with this power and thrown. Shield is another power which lets you surround yourself in debris to add some extra protection if a battle becomes too much, Seize and Levitate are the others, with Seize you can take over an enemy that’s near death and the will fight for you and Levitate which grants you the power to stay in the air for a period of time allowing you to get to out of reach places as well as fight your enemy in the from above.
I had so much fun with all these powers and they made every fight seem different as depending on the environment depended on what power I favoured to get the best of my opponents. This did not make the game easy as there are a few enemy types that can counteract you, there are enemies that levitate in the air almost permanently they never seem to need to come back to ground like you do, there are enemies that will fire rockets at you, destroying your shield really quick, explosive enemies that fly to you and then explode and they can come out of nowhere if you are not constantly checking above you. There are also the basic enemies that will just fire at you and are no real trouble until there is a swarm of them starting to build as they appear randomly in a fight. I should say to unlock these powers you do need to find Objects of Power scattered around the Bureau, when you discover these, there is usually a little bit of a fight or challenge to reach them but once you do, with the help of Polaris, you will take away its energy to return the object to a normal state usually resulting in you being imbued with a new power. There are several boss battles in the game that are all very challenging to overcome, and you can stumble across them very easily as you are exploring, you don’t level up but it did encourage me to explore as much as I could as with every main mission or side mission I got ability points for my skills as well as getting ability points for finding hidden areas and the more points you collect the stronger you start to feel which can make some of these boss battles easier but the game is definitely designed to make you use most if not all of your abilities and weapons to come out on top of these tough fights. You definitely feel a sense of accomplishment overcoming the boss battles even though there was more than likely a few rage quit moments from myself.
There are a ton of puzzles and hidden puzzles for you to find and work out, there are many you will miss if you are not fully exploring, bear in mind you do have to track back at times, as you may not have some powers early on to get access to certain areas. I found these puzzles really challenging especially when the game hides the answers, sometimes you will see obvious hints to the puzzle’s answers in front of you, at other times you will really need to look around the area to try and uncover the answer.
Control’s environment is brilliantly created and at times stunning to look at, this game feels like it has been lived in and suddenly everyone vanished, which created a sense of mystic which made me want to uncover more in the story to what happened here as well as seek out as many collectibles as I could to get more back story. The environments really do feel perfect for the game and I loved the aesthetics the team has created here. The character models are great for the most part, I did have some lip-sync issues in my playthrough, which made the models feel off at points, but I was so engrossed in the story beats that it did not take me out of the experience too much.
The sounds throughout the game are I feel stellar, the sound effects that lets you know when enemies spawned were great at alerting you and being instantly on your guard, there is audio when wandering out of combat, this does so well at creating a sense of emptiness and yet keeping you alert at this hauntingly empty building, where you are expecting something to happen around every corner. My favourite part is the Ashtray Maze, once you hit this area in the story, the game plays Take Control by Old Gods of Asgard (great name) which made me feel like an unstoppable force of nature going through the maze which was constantly shape shifting and spawning enemies, having to utilize all my powers to keep me alive.
My playthrough of Control took about 30 to 40 hours to fully 100% complete the main game plus the two DLC expansions, this time flew in with how much fun I was having within the setting, the story had me hooked from the beginning with the mystery that surrounds the Oldest House, but at times even I could not follow what was going on. I feel the game wants you to investigate further by collecting as many of the collectibles and audio collectibles that are lying about for more context, but maybe they wanted to leave some things unanswered for a possible sequel who knows, this studio is not in a habit of making sequels. Even though I missed their game Alan Wake, I loved how they brought the Alan Wake universe into Control’s, it made me instantly curious and want to research the Alan Wake game as I found the character to be interesting and how it all emerges with this game was very well done. Even though the story is complicated and hard to follow at times I feel lends to possible replay value as you may find things you missed the first time round but overall, this story was excellent and I want more, if nothing else to answer the questions I still have. This game is definitely worth exploring if you have not already, the wave of enemies can grow tiresome at times but with the enthralling story, the excellent use of powers mixed in with the gun combat and excellent environments to boot, this is one house you will continue to explore again and again.