Control is a crazy race, full of intense action, mysterious environments, supernatural events and many paranormal abilities that will undoubtedly stimulate your emotions. The game was developed by Remedy Entertainment, known for its work on Alan Wake and the recent Quantum Break. Master a power fantasy that seems to improve as the game progresses, but does not immediately become a classic in the end because of the confusing and extremely silly story, small performance problems and some strange design possibilities.
You play Jesse Faden, the new director of the Federal Control Bureau, a fictitious government organization specializing in the study of supernatural phenomena. When you arrive, you will notice that the building is blocked due to a new threat – known as Hiss – which has begun to conquer the entire area. The game is played entirely in the Oldest House, the name of the Presidium’s headquarters in New York. But the Maison des Aînés isn’t just any boring office building, it’s a character in itself who reacts to the space around him and transforms and changes as the game progresses. It’s one of the most unique settings I’ve seen in the game since BioShock was released.
What makes the senior citizens’ home so attractive is the general sense of grandeur it offers. As you go through the 12-hour story, you come across different situations and often wonder how they fit into this one skyscraper. At the first entrance to some places, they are captured by the enemies of Hiss, who must be carefully cleared away. Once everything is clear, you can clean the room, which will launch a series of visually stunning events. The walls around you begin to move and rotate with different geometric patterns, creating a completely different atmosphere that doesn’t seem so claustrophobic and allows you to explore more freely and calmly.
In between these epic battles you run around – usually lots of glass offices, office space, meeting rooms, etc. – and you’re not alone. – Collecting files, audio recordings and small updates which we will come back to later. The game has an unnecessary amount of collectibles that are so important that they actually begin to distract attention from the overall impression. I’m all for games that allow you to immerse yourself in the story and clutter in the surrounding space with small objects that contribute to the legend, but the number of objects you can read in this game is exaggerated. The stage isn’t okay either. The game forces you to constantly move forward to eliminate this inevitable threat, but it also wants you to stop and smell the roses. With the constant tension created by the environment, it seems a mistake to even stop reading a meaningless memo.
General history also seems to be a missed opportunity. The story begins when Jesse receives a distress call to take him to the Old House. She finds out that the previous director apparently committed suicide. By lifting a weapon, called a service weapon, it is transported to another dimension, known in the game as the astral plane, where it must pass through the glove to learn a certain skill. These astral planes have been reviewed over the course of history and serve as mini-tutorials that let you get used to every new skill you learn. They were among the best stories in the game because they looked like little sandboxes that could be approached in a different way. But as history evolves, it begins to overlap with ever more complex things until it becomes a confusing fusion, full of power objects, changed things, places of power, changed world events and other confusing jargon, which after a while will hardly be understood anymore. Worse, the optional legendary items you can find all over the world won’t take the confusion away. Instead, they add something that makes me wonder why they are registered in the first place, if only to give you a purpose between battles and during searches. I realized I was only playing to experience the battle without paying attention to what was really going on. It is disappointing, because history can become something very special and unforgettable and it can eventually stop being grand.
Fortunately, the battle is not limited to history. During the game, use only one cannon, which you bought at the beginning of the story. But just like in the old house, service weapons can change shape, so you can switch to different types of weapons efficiently and quickly. These include the Standard Handle, the Standard Side Handle, which fires like a pistol, the Shatter, a shotgun form that fires scattered projectiles, the Spider, a fully automatic form that fires a large amount of bullets, the Pierce, a range form that fires a single powerful, loaded shot, and the Charge, which fires a series of rocket shots that explode when touched. As you defeat your enemies and explore your surroundings, collect materials to improve your service weapon and Jesse’s psychic abilities.
Speaking of psychic powers, this is one of the most exciting battles I’ve ever experienced. With so many different skills at your disposal, it’s hard not to fight with a smile on your face when you’re tearing your enemies apart in different ways. One of my favorite skills is launch, a telekinetic ability that allows Jesse to remotely grab any object around him and throw it at the enemy with incredible force. Another feature you’ll get later in the game is levitation, which, as the name suggests, allows you to float through the air by firing your weapon and using your full arsenal of telekinetic abilities. When levitates are upgraded, you can even jump into the air and deliver devastating blows to enemies that cause a massive blow on landing. I loved every moment of that fight at Division, and I wish there had been more. Instead, the combat sequence seemed to be very short, and it took only a minute before exploration resumed.
Unfortunately, intelligence can also be disappointing. The oldest house is a maze of labyrinths, consisting of an entrance hall, offices and many other similar spaces, located between historical sites. The playing card is confusing and often causes more disappointment than it helps to guide you. There are no waypoints, so you have to explore most of the time without a clear direction. I understand that many modern games are too practical, but it looks like a deliberately poor design, because the layout is not something you can easily remember. You will often drag the card up (which unfortunately forces you to open a menu because your HUD does not have a mini card), resulting in more frequent pauses. This game benefits a lot from constant movement, as evidenced by the exciting battle, and the need to stop and take a break to see if you’re going in the right direction limits the experience even further. Moreover, the checkpoint system is highly unforgivable. After falling into a battle that will befall you at many points in the game, you’ll often be minutes away from your original location, so you may have to fight your way through the crowds of enemies before you reach your original goal. Another solution of dubious design that distracts attention from the game as a whole.
During your research, however, you will be accompanied by an incredibly exciting soundtrack with many different scores, which creates an atmosphere that fits in perfectly with the surroundings. There is also a choir of voices that regularly whispers fast phrases in the background, which makes the whole performance even more frightening. We don’t know if this incessant chatter is really happening or if it’s happening in Jesse’s head, but it’s worth wearing headphones, because it will definitely straighten the hairs on his neck. The voices are very similar to Hell’s Blade: Sacrifice Senua – a game in which a young girl deals with fear and other mental illnesses, expressed in a series of disturbing voices in the head of the main character, which the player can hear throughout the game.
Visually, control is nothing but wonder. The game is at the cutting edge of graphics and new technologies, pushing the boundaries of my newly built PC with its high precision and stretching capabilities. Even with the boring interior of the former office building, Remedy has managed to make it fascinating through the exciting interplay of light and colour effects. Above all, I found some of the final stages of the game, which spanned an entire career, and the Ashtray Labyrinth, which contained one of the coolest sequences I’ve ever seen, in any medium, breathtaking, even at the beginning.
In general, control is a game that I will never forget, even if the story is not particularly memorable. The game has a lot of content, including many side quests that have slots, collectibles and special bosses. Remedy plans to add CSD to the game in the future, which hopefully will bring some clarity to the more confusing parts of the story. Apart from some performance problems I had during the game, especially during intense battles, the game worked very well on my PC. The environment is extremely unique and has an incredible sense of scale, and the accompanying soundtrack is perfect – both in combat and outdoors. Control is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen: fantastic acting and motion capture, as well as breathtaking scenes and sequences. If only history could make the candle burn in battle, control could be more than just a passing fad.