Control is a cinematic masterpiece that also just happens to be a fucking incredible game. Yes I’m going to swear a lot in this review because truth be told I don’t know any other way to describe this game other than a total mind-fuck of fun.
It’s all of the good bits from Remedy Games’ past jammed into one action packed, story oozing, mystery thriller that, truth be told, has reinvigorated my passion for games all over again.
Control is the story of Jesse Faden. The soon to be new director of a secret agency known as the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), your first day on the job is, to put it lightly, pretty fucked up.
From its opening scene as you walk through the agency’s eerily vacant lobby you know something is wrong. The building seems empty. Gorgeously rendered it’s modern design, filled with sharp corners and straight lines, has you on edge before even really beginning the game.
It quickly becomes apparent something has gone horribly wrong at the FBC. An otherworldly threat known as “The Hiss” has invaded it. Your employees, had they not been lucky enough to lock themselves away, have been changed. They’ve succumb to it or perhaps rather they’re inhabited by it.
There’s more to it than though. Jesse’s narrative is interlaced with memories and backstory that reveals a personal side to the story. A history between her, the unknown and the FBC that lends itself to the game’s opening lines of “You called me, so here I am”.
At it’s core Control is a third-person action adventure deeply entwined around a mesmerising, core story. As Jesse your goal is to unravel the mystery around the FBC and learn more about your own story as the game progresses.
Former employees of the FBC are now inhabited by The Hiss and will attack you as you’d expect in most shooters. They’re not zombies though, they move and act as normal people, or rather as normal as people with guns trying to kill you might.
Combat just got interesting
Your primary weapon in fighting The Hiss infected is The Service Weapon. It’s a noun because it’s the name given to the first of many “Objects of Power” or OOP as they’re referred to by the staff of the FBC. OOP are special pieces or equipment with supernatural abilities, which heavily affect the mechanics of the game and are unlocked as your progress.
I don’t know any other way to describe this game other than a total mind-fuck of fun.
The Service Weapon appears almost immediately but before using it, as with all OOPs, you must complete what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience. These often involve traversing a series of floating platforms or solving a riddle and fighting enemies before finally reaching the OOP to begin using it.
As far as weapons go it appears to be quite the norm at first. Shoot, shoot, kill, kill. Bullets magically restore themselves to its clip, which seems strange, but then when have you ever questioned an infinite ammo pistol before?
There’s a lot more than meets the eye with The Service Weapon though. Supernatural in nature it can be heavily modified with various loadouts and abilities available. These range from the standard “higher damage on a headshot” to the far more creative that I’ll leave you to enjoy.
A gun isn’t your only weapon however. Jesse is something not unlike a Jedi with the ability to effectively Force-push an early discovery to be made. Telekinesis is also not beyond the realms of possibilities and an encouraged skill with the literal wealth of objects littered around the building to be picked up and thrown.
Checkpoints & fast-travel nav
Thankfully not everyone in the place is a Hiss infected zombie killer. Some FBC agents have managed to stave off infection by wearing special equipment and locking themselves away in giant vaults that serve as safe rooms.
These NPCs serve as your mission hubs, providing intel and details on where you should be exploring next and having you report back on your findings. They’re also an integral part of the story, which is helped handsomely by some brilliant performance capture and character rendering.
As there a lot of thinly veiled fetch-quests Remedy have at least graced us with a fast travel system, removing the need to battle through the same corridor a hundred times over. Enemy occupied “control points” are littered throughout the map that once clear act as a fast travel junction for Jesse to jump between. They’re also checkpoints for respawning after death and whilst generally near to a potentially deadly encounter can sometimes be far away enough to be a little annoying too.
The Engine room
It’s character animation and performance capture, for my money, sit above any other engine out there and without it would not allow Control to work as well as it does.
“Fair warning; this is going to be weirder than usual” – Jesse Faden
The same engine is behind the game’s supernatural abilities. As walls crumble their pieces become telekinetic weapons easily flung across the room at the same enemies that destroyed them. The level of destructibility in the game is incredible. Bullets break through objects shielding you at their respective measure. Glass, wood, concrete, each deconstruct as you’d expect and in turn leave holes that bullets can now begin fly through where material once stood.
The beauty of Control’s appeal goes well beyond its honed combat and shooting mechanics. This is a producer’s acid trip of a thriller nightmare come to life for you to navigate and, believe it or not, enjoy. Ironically I feel as though it could easily be turned into a TV series or movie, which speaks volumes both to the game’s in-depth narrative as well as to the studio’s checkered & experimental past with the medium.
Control is very much where and what it should be and to tell you any more would be to give away moments that have quite literally rekindled my joy in gaming again. Don’t miss it. Regain Control.
Control is available now on PC, PS4 and XB1.