Control blends the terrific narrative quality and epic shootouts of Quantum Break with the exploration of a Metroidvania all while touching on the endless potential of paranormality.
What do a rotary fan, a floppy disk, and an ashtray with a forever lit cigarette in it have in common? In the world of Control, they might just be more than they appear. This latest narrative-driven action game from Remedy Entertainment and 505 Games puts you in the shoes of Jesse Faden, the new director for the Federal Bureau of Control. If you thought your new job title was just a nice paycheck, think again! You've taken the prestigious title from the previous owner who you found dead in his office from an apparent suicide. Oh, and there are chanting people floating in midair which, believe it or not, isn't a normal part of an FBC employee's day. Plus, your role as director has thrust you into the middle of an invasion that threatens the entire world.
From the moment that I started Control, there was an absolutely perfect level of tension. It's set in The Oldest House in which numerous dimensions come together via "thresholds" and it's a highly unpredictable place. In addition to the creepy floating chanting people, there's a janitor who seems to think you work for him, an endless amount of corrupted enemies assaulting you with everything from shotguns to homing rocket-propelled grenades as well as stacks of documents detailing unbelievable events.
On the bright side, you're well equipped to fight back. Not only are you mysteriously immune to the invading influence but the gun that killed the previous director is also now yours and it's a beauty! The Service Weapon is capable of literally changing its form between 5 different types of weapons, all of which have infinite ammo since it recharges while you're not using it. You're also able to draw supernatural powers from other various Objects of Power if you're capable of binding them.
Between the weapons and abilities, there are nearly endless ways to handle confrontation. Want to hang back and take out enemies from a safe distance? Go for it! Want to charge in and blast them right in their corrupted twisted faces? Go crazy! Just keep in mind that nearly anything you can use for cover is destructible so hanging out behind a table, railing, or even a pillar won't be safe for long.
With that in mind, combat is a ton of fun. There are lots of types of enemies including powerful boss variations and the multiple environments in The Oldest House make each exchange quite different from the rest. One moment, you may face off against a wide assortment of enemies in a multi-floor room and another, you may battle exploding enemies in a tight space. The Oldest House is a wildly unpredictable place and it's often like the TARDIS as somehow, way more fits in this singular house than one might imagine.
In addition to the numerous enemy types, locales, encounters, weapons, and abilities, Control also includes all sorts of mods that you can slot into your Service Weapon and an assortment of ability upgrades to invest in. While you can max out all of your abilities if you complete the optional missions including some massively challenging bosses, there's a very limited number of mods that you can equip on each of the Service Weapon's forms. Do you want to do more damage no matter where you hit an enemy or way more damage if you hit them in the head? Should your sniper form do extra damage while zoomed in or be able to zoom in further? Would you rather have your SMG form fire faster or be more accurate? You can also equip mods to yourself with equally limited slots.
In the end, all of this boils down to allow you to fully customize the way you play. My play style will almost definitely be different from yours and that's pretty epic considering that Control still has nearly as much narrative as Quantum Break.
Much like in Quantum Break, you'll piece together lots of information from optional dialogue scenes, documents, and media files. The story makes enough sense even without any of these but there's a great deal of added depth if you digest everything that you can find. Notes are scattered everywhere and they range from ridiculous letters about how airplanes aren't real as shown above to clues about your own story. After all, what are you doing in The Oldest House anyway? Why were you able to become the director so easily? How were you able to find a place that's made to be hidden and enter it during a lockdown?
While Remedy created a magnificent plot, it's the world that I really fell in love with. The Federal Bureau of Control's primary mission is dealing with Objects of Power, Altered Objects, and Altered World Events. While the events of Control deal with one particularly terrifying situation, there are references to numerous other events. Some of these are minor and loads are merely false leads like the aforementioned airplane monsters but there are still several genuine stories of events and objects that are found through various documents and clips such as the one shown below. With all of this groundwork laid, there's unlimited potential for updates, DLC, and other media. Quantum Break got a stellar alternate story via a novel and I'd love to see novels, a television show, and movies based in Control's world. I've never written any fanfiction in my life yet I've been itching to create some ever since I finished Control.
With all of the surprises and mysteries in Control, perhaps the biggest surprise is just how open The Oldest House is. Quantum Break and Alan Wake are both very linear as you may be able to explore in each area but you essentially go from point A to B until the end credits roll. Control, on the other hand, opens up in layers. As you complete parts of the story, you'll gain access to more of The Oldest House where you can find secret areas, optional missions, pieces of narrative, caches, and much more. As someone who loves to check every corner for secrets, I was pleasantly surprised by just how many corners rewarded me for my curiosity. By the end of Control, I couldn't care less about the caches since I already had almost all of the best mods yet the random narrative pieces remained a real treat.
All of that being said, the optional boss fights are infuriating. It's not because they're difficult because the best bosses are challenging, especially optional ones. It's because the load times are atrocious. I use an original Xbox One so hopefully, gamers with Xbox One X, PS4 Pro, or a powerful enough PC won't deal with load times that often cross a full minute after dying. Heck, there were times when it took me longer to load back to the closest save point, run back to where the fight happens, and then wait a few seconds for the fight to begin than it did for me to die again. I would gladly try these fights over and over until I mastered them if Remedy added the ability to reload at the beginning of the fight with far less loading time.
There were a couple of other annoying issues as well. For some reason, every time the game was unpaused, it stuttered for around five seconds. It was like the frame rate dropped to single digits. This made pausing during fights a nightmare and it was just plain irritating otherwise. There are also issues with the video clips. While the audio plays smoothly, the video sometimes freezes. This error is known to the developers, though, so it will likely be fixed on day one or shortly after.
If I had to describe Control in one word, it would be uneasy but in the best sense of the word. The whole time I was playing, I was wondering if Control would have an Alan Wake bathroom moment. See, when I played Alan Wake, I was always super-nervous about every room, even the bathrooms. My gal told me that there were never enemies in the other bathrooms so I didn't have to explore so carefully. Then, in that very same bathroom, an enemy attacked me on my way out. I was so shocked that I literally threw my controller a couple feet in the air! I'm both shaken and pleased to report that Control has similar moments which shocked me just as much.
Control is truly unforgettable with loads of ways to play, terrific acting, lots to explore, satisfying gunplay and abilities, and a spectacular world and story to experience. I can't wait to dive back in with the couple of DLC packs already planned.
- + Incredible world that I never want to leave
- + Perfect mix of action, mystery, and humour
- + Loads of secrets, optional encounters, and hidden discoveries
- - Load times are sometimes painful
- - A pair of bugs hinder the experience
- - Only one save file means replaying missions or starting over erases your progress