Developer – Remedy Entertainment
Publisher – 505 Games
Platform(s) – Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC
MSRP – $59.99
Release Date – August 27th, 2019
Thanks to 505 Games for Providing A Review Copy
Control is a game that slipped under my radar when it was released in August of last year. I wasn’t familiar with the developer, Remedy Entertainment, besides their release of Quantum Break in 2016. So one thing I figured Control would probably be for me, in particular, was fresh. After its reveal back at E3 2018, I was definitely interested but was preoccupied with other games at the time of its release and never got the chance to play it.
Then a few weeks ago, we get the announcement of the 2nd Expansion for Control during the State of Play event from PlayStation. I saw that trailer and I remember looking at the upcoming slate of video game releases and felt that now is as good a time as any to play Control for the first time. So I contacted 505 Games about two weeks ago about a review copy for Control and then a few days later, my request was granted and about two days ago I’ve officially rolled credits on the game. Now with a brief outline of my voyage towards playing Control, it’s time to give my thoughts on the game as a whole.
Control is set in New York City inside of The Oldest House, a skyscraper that’s home to the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) who investigates paranormal objects and activities. You play as Jesse Faden, a 28-year-old woman who goes to the Oldest House to find the whereabouts of her brother, Dylan several years after a traumatic event that resulted in Jesse gaining her current paranormal powers that will be explained in detail later in this review.
One thing I must say is that most likely the story will confuse most at first. For the first few hours, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the hell was going on. But the deeper I got into the story and the more I talked with characters like Emily and Simon and heard dialogue from Mr. Darling, the more I started understanding certain aspects of the world. Remedy has put so many pieces of lore all over the FBC in the form of files, recordings, and so much more that gives the player the feeling that mystery is always there because it seems as though there’s always something new to unravel.
The story of Control is one that you might not get at first, it took me 2 hours to start to understand certain things, it might take you 4 hours to understand certain things. While we’re on the story, let get a few negatives out the way first, The narrative does get a bit slow towards the middle of the game. I wasn’t a fan of the inner monologue that Jesse did constantly, plus the boring RPG style cutscenes. The story forces you to do some backtracking, which I usually dislike in any video game and this isn’t any different. Backtracking being in Control was a surprise to me since I figured this game would constantly keep you going to a new location after every main mission. All these narrative issues never impacted my experience too negatively overall, but the small issues are still there.
A Mystery Element is always something that I’m able to get behind in a narrative that does it correctly, and in this case, I feel Remedy does just that. I’m not going to try to explain the story of Control more in-depth because if I did, we’d be here for a while. Besides, this is a game that’s better explained when you play through from start to finish, so when it comes to the narrative of Control besides a few issues here and there, I found it to be an enjoyable experience.
Remedy deserves so many compliments in terms of Visuals, Art Direction, and Attention to Detail. The Art Direction of Control is fantastic and besides the gameplay is definitely my favorite aspect of the game. The Art Direction helps the level design stand out more in some sections, especially the side missions. One thing I appreciate with Control is that it looked and felt different than other games I’ve played recently. When I went to alternate dimensions to complete certain tasks or fight certain bosses, all I wanted to do was take in the aesthetics of the level. Visuals are what we’ve come to expect from most AAA games this generation, but that still doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve praise for how gorgeous they are. I must mention a few hiccups in terms of textures, sometimes it will take up to 5-10 seconds for certain textures to pop in and even then the textures might start popping in and out repeatedly. I only encountered these texture issues about 3 or 4 times throughout my playthrough so it’s not as prominent a problem as I originally feared.
Attention to Detail is outstanding, there were certain instances where I was surprised at little things that this game could’ve easily gone without. Destruction is one of the most satisfying things in this game, watching debris, papers, and explosions fly all over my screen never gets old no matter how much it happened. Using Telekinesis, I picked up a Video Camera that was playing a recording, the film followed me wherever I took the Camera. The closer I moved the Camera towards a surface, the smaller the film got, the same as when I moved the Camera further from a surface. I noticed small easter eggs as well such as the Wall of Honor. A wall featuring a bunch of names who were credited with the creation of the FBC. I had a suspicion that the names on the wall might’ve been some of the devs who worked on this game and my suspicion was confirmed when I searched up a couple of them. Little things like that I will always appreciate and Control is no exception in the slightest.
I’ve been waiting for this part of the review because now I get to discuss the Gameplay of Control. As I mentioned earlier, this is by far my favorite aspect of the game because of how dynamic and satisfying it is. Jesse is given the Service Weapon, a shapeshifting gun with various capacities. The Weapon reloads automatically and can be upgraded into a Shotgun, Machine Gun, RPG-type gun, and more. You’re able to mod the weapon with extra health upgrades, better accuracy, or more energy to use on your abilities.
Along with the weapon comes abilities, there’s the ability to Levitate and Dash Quickly which I used mostly hand in hand with one another. Levitation was a nice addition that helps with movement although the ability could be a bit finicky at times. Dash is mostly used to dodge incoming attacks and is for movement on a smaller scale than that of Levitation. There’s also the shield ability but I barely used it at all, shielding isn’t really my playstyle so when I tried out the ability for a bit I quickly decided I never wanted to use it, especially since you’re unable to attack when using the shield.
Then there’s Telekinesis, the best part of the combat. Pretty straight forward, you pick up objects and throw them at enemies, but just like the Destruction aspect in Control, Telekinesis is incredibly satisfying. You can pick up most objects you see and throw it at anyone or anything. At times I just threw things for the hell of it because it was so much fun. You can upgrade your abilities through a skill tree using skill points that you earn from completing missions. It’s the same skill tree you’ll see in most other games so it’s pretty straightforward.
Simply put, combat in Control is undeniably fun and smooth for the most part. The only negative for the combat isn’t even the fault of the combat itself. The combat is held back by the biggest black eye on this game, its performance issues.
The performance issues in Control are downright horrible. The thing is I did hear about these performance issues in Control around its original release last year. I was hoping these issues would’ve been ironed out by this point but that’s sadly not the case. I was playing Control on a base PlayStation 4, I know that the performance on the PlayStation 4 Pro is much better but that’s no excuse. Whenever I would exit out of a menu, the frame rate would plunge for about 2 or 3 seconds. When I was in combat, if there were too many enemies on screen, the frame rate would go to levels that were simply unplayable. It really sucks because this game would be close to near perfection if it wasn’t for these performance issues. These problems simply can’t be ignored and I really can’t believe they weren’t fixed by now.
Next to performance issues, there’s also the loading times that got on my nerves over time. I don’t know if it’s because games like The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima have spoiled me in terms of load times but Control’s load times seem way too long for me. Control, as it is, has a pretty unforgiving checkpoint system and I don’t mind dying and facing a challenge. But I knew that soon after a death, I’d be waiting on a long loading screen before I respawned and it’s something that I couldn’t help but feel irked about and was losing patience for.
Also, this is a minor complaint but that map for Control can be so confusing at times. It feels like the game expects you to know where certain areas are and what level you’re supposed to, be on. That wasn’t the case, I was constantly getting lost and after a bit of research, I found I wasn’t the only one having this issue. Hallways that you thought would lead to where you wanted to go just ended up taking you somewhere you never wanted to be. It just feels really convoluted and could’ve been better designed.
Control did an excellent job with music selection, Remedy has gotten me addicted to “My Dark Disquiet” by Poets of the Fall ever since I heard it in that yellow lab and now I can’t get it out of my head.
Control definitely has its moments that I’ll never forget as well, one of the most badass sequences in the Ashtray Maze with “Take Control” by Old Gods of Asgard playing loudly while you take out enemies left and right is something similar to “American Venom” from Red Dead Redemption 2.
From a studio that I didn’t know much about, Control definitely surprised me. Remedy created a game that got me interested in its lore and wondering where exactly Jesse was going to end up by the end of the story. It’s not perfect in the slightest from some small pacing issues, map convolution, and atrocious performance issues. The negative is definitely there but the positive outweighs it to me.
Control has an overall enjoyable narrative. It has Great Art Direction, Visuals, and Attention to Detail. Not to mention the exhilarating combat that I just couldn’t get enough of. The first Remedy game I played left a great impression on me, and I can’t wait to see what they do next in the next generation.
Rating - 8/10