I just finished Control, the newest game from Remedy. I’ll always associate them with Max Payne, but Control is a much better game. I managed to Platinum this game, so it must be an open world action game. Almost all my Platinums fall into this category, even though I don’t usually list it among my favorite genres. The thing is that when they’re done right, they’re some of the best games out there. Done right, they combine characterization, world building, story telling with a combat/traversal system that sees you growing in power and ability while expanding the gamespace.
So how does Control stack up? Well, it kept reminding me of Spiderman and Horizon Zero: Dawn. Those are two of my top games for this console generation. I think the key for success is engaging combat while making you feel more powerful as the game progresses without ever losing the sense of vulnerability. The end game, as well as cleaning up some optional bosses, certainly reminded me how easy it is to die.
I don’t know if I love or hate the visual style in Control. It’s like someone found an empty TARDIS and filled it with government office space. I’ve worked in government office space. It’s not inspired or inspiring. However, the style does fit the theme and story Remedy is going for. The extensive pneumatic tube system does add a touch of whimsy. I understand they’re trying to contrast normality (or even banality) with the supernatural themes of the game. When it works, it’s great. Too often though, you’re just running through another generic hallway or office.
Our protagonist, Jesse is searching for her brother. We join her as she has finally found the Bureau of Control who took him away years before. Somehow, in the first few minutes of the game, Jesse is hired as both the assistant janitor and as the new director of the Bureau. Since the whole building is under attack by some extra dimensional force, they need some leadership. Being a Remedy game, leadership comes in the form of shooting the bad guys until they’re dead. Preferably this is done with style and a few supernatural abilities.
I’m not really going to describe the powers or weapons since discovering and unlocking and combining them is a good part of the fun of the game. Those can be found in guides elsewhere if you’re interested. However, I’d suggest just playing the game like you were dropped into an episode of the X-Files. Proceed cautiously, talk to everyone, and investigate every room and document. It will help dissipate your confusion at all the bureau jargon and really draw you into the story. Also, if there’s any strange glowing lights (usually red, but not always) check those out. The sound design has some interesting clues if you’re using headphones or a surround system.
Control really encourages exploration and experimentation. Unfortunately, negative experimental results tend to yield death and a reload. That wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the long load times on the PS4. You might not be able to make a full dagwood sandwich, but you definitely have time for a quick snack. Once you get into the flow of the combat system, it’s a pretty fun dynamic. You have short bursts of offense where you have to prioritize the most dangerous targets. Defense tends to involve lots of movement while trying not to get cornered or completely away from cover. This is not a cover shooter. Most everything is movable or destructible. Enemies come from all directions including from above. Combat is mostly fair. I had a few cheap deaths from later enemy combinations and bosses.
Overall, Control rises above the sum of its parts. It’s a fun, polished game. It provides an interesting story married to deep, challenging combat. It doesn’t achieve the lofty peaks of Horizon or Spiderman, but it certainly aimed there. If you have any interest in the story or game genre, check it out for a fun ride. Highly recommended.