Control is a masterpiece with a fantastic and intriguing world and story, bombastic and satisfying telekinetic gameplay and a presentation like nothing we have seen before.
Control is the most exciting game I've played in the last few years. Everything about it, apart from the abysmal console framerate, feels so special, creative and satisfying. Remedy truly poured all their love, heart and creativity when designing Control and it shows during the 25 hours of playtime.
Control's world is one of the most intriguing and engaging game world/universes out there. You play as Jesse, a seemingly random person who under some seemingly random reasons becomes the director of the Federal Bureau of Control, a super secret government agency which tackles with all things paranormal in our world. Being cast into this new role, Jesse has to fight against a paranormal entity called the Hiss who has taken the Bureau, cleanse and take control of the Bureau's headquarters, the Oldest House while at the same time completing her own agenda.
Jesse is a fantastic character, even though she seems really strange at first, the more you play the game and uncover its secrets, the more you understand her and her motivations. Along the journey, you will meet and interact with an also as interesting cast of supporting characters, who will help you in your quest of truly embracing your new role as the Director and well, save everyone from the Hiss.
The Oldest House, the Bureau's headquarters, is what the game calls a "Place of Power". In the world of Control, there are a lot of "Places of Power" as are also "Altered Items" - items with paranormal infused properties, "Altered World Events" - events caused by altered items and "Objects of Power" - altered items which can be bound by parautilitarians, people like Jesse, allowing them to wield their abilities through the Astral Plane, but more on that later. The Astral Plane is a dimension which exists outside our own, but people affected by altered items or special ones like Jesse, can access it and harness different powers from it.
Did I mention that this game is weird? Jesse, herself, tells you at the beginning that this will be weird and well, it is weird. But the good kind of weird. The kind that you kinda can accept even though they are still weird. These altered items are seemingly everyday items which are imbued with not-so-far-out-there paranormal stuff in most of the cases. For example, there's a surfboard which boosts the self-confidence of the user or a post box which paralyzes everyone near it or a baby carriage which continuously smokes without an apparent fire, or a light switch that teleports you if you pull it 3 times.
All of these altered items are connected to the Astral Plane. The same can be said about the Black Pyramid which is a mysterious paranormal entity of unknown nature. As its name implies, it is a large, inverted black pyramid, apparently located within the Astral Plane. Inside the pyramid resides The Board, which is a mysterious extradimensional being or group of beings native to the Astral Plane that appear to control the Federal Bureau of Control from the shadows. It broadcasts signals from the Black Pyramid, exerting their control over the Oldest House and Objects of Power.
The Hiss, in fact, got into our dimension via one of these altered items and it's your task to find it and disable it so that you can stop the Hiss from possessing and destroying everything in our dimension.
I particularly liked how Remedy tells the story in Control. It's multi-layered storytelling, but in contrast with most of the other games, every layer builds upon each other to offer up a complete, even though highly redacted, big picture of this intriguing world. First, you have the in-game cutscenes, the FMVs, Hotline short info bursts and mono/dialogue which deliver the first layer of the what the hell has and is happening. And if you just stop here, you'll be just OK, you'll understand why, what and how everything happened. Second, you have the visual storytelling. The Oldest House is a massive brutalist structure, with a very unsettling and often creepy atmosphere, with or without the Hiss' presence, which holds many secrets and foreshadowing in many of its environments. Third, you have the tons of redacted documents, voice recordings, and Hotline longer videos which round up this entire intriguing world that the geniuses at Remedy have created.
You've probably read this everywhere else by now, but yes, you will want to read every note, hear every voice recording and watch every video you find in the game. When I play games, I like to find everything the game has, but I don't really care to read it. Just before getting Control, I bought Shadow of The Tomb Raider and that game has a ton of collectible stuff to find. And I couldn't give a rat's ass reading about the Uruk-Hais of f*cking Paititi. But here, in Control, every bit of information was exciting and intriguing and it slowly filled in the blanks to this paranormal world. For example, I would have never known that the Director's Gun is actually Thor's hammer, Mjolnir or the Excalibur as it changed drastically throughout history, appearing akin to the general collective unconscious perception of a "weapon."
Or if I weren't looking for these documents in places away from the golden path, I would have never discovered some hidden locations or even some exciting side missions and believe me, you will want to do these side missions.
Going back to the Objects of Power, Jesse at the beginning gets the Service Weapon or as it is mainly called, the Director's Gun. This is a special weapon, one that shifts and transforms around opening up different gameplay possibilities. The default setting is a pistol and while the shape of the gun remains that of a pistol, it can shift and transform into different forms like a shotgun for close counters, an SMG like fast-firing, a sniper for high damage and a grenade launcher or as I like to call it "The Frame-Rate Buster", but more on that later.
As you play the game, you start to earn different materials which can be used to craft these alternative forms of the gun which in turn will help you to easily kill the many Hiss' possessed guards and other entities you will encounter while roaming around the Oldest House. The game also has some a light RPG mechanics like a mod system for both Jesse and the Director's Gun, where you can attach different mods to boost some stats, but I didn't really feel the benefits while playing the game and felt more like a tacked on system more than anything else. Mostly because once the inventory was full, you need to go into the menu and do some manual busywork by scrapping all of the unnecessary mods to make place for the new ones.
I liked however the "main" RPG progression where the more you play, complete main and side missions and find hidden locations, you level up and get to upgrade Jesse's abilities. And these abilities, which Jesse gets via interacting with the Objects of Power, make the game incredibly enjoyable and satisfying. It's a power fantasy.
The telekinesis that you get early in the game is by far the best power in the game and probably the best rendition ever of such power in a game. It's super satisfying to levitate pretty much all of the objects in the game and yeet them to the enemies. It never gets old and it is always satisfying to bash the enemies with a table, a desk fan, a TV, chairs, drawers, propane cells etc. or with just a simple piece of the wall that Jesse yanks out. Remedy went all out with this power and as I said it's the best thing you'll do in the game.
It also helps that the physics engine is one of the, if not, the best physics engine out there. Every object is physically rendered and as such is yankable and yeetable (yes, that's a word, I just invented it). And since everything is physically rendered it means that pretty much everything is destroyable. So yeah, during an encounter you can shoot everyone, I guess or you can just yeet everything and anything at them and the end result is always glorious and super satisfying. Once the dust settles, the environment you just fought in is completely destroyed with debris everywhere, concrete pillars demolished and a lot of dead bodies.
The other powers like dash or shield will help you in these encounters, but once you unlock float, which basically allows you to fly for a couple of seconds, you will be raining down tables, chairs or pieces of concrete and feel like a god. Control is a 3rd person action game so you always have to move around cause if you stay in one place, the enemies will just drop kick the sh*t out of you and you'll die. When you die you don't lose anything, just your time since you have to walk from the last checkpoint and that can be quite a journey sometimes.
Control's presentation, except for the frame rate on consoles, is also exceptional. The art design and the gorgeous lighting are seemingly simple, but the devil is in the details. The Oldest House well, it's just called a house, but it's far from a house. I have never seen a house with a quarry in open sky inside it, have you? The atmosphere is creepy, everything is still and empty and looks like it's stuck in the 70s but it is supposed to be 2019...? Possessed employees are suspended in the air all throughout the Oldest House, stuck there, twitching creepily. Long corridors, massive open rooms with stupidly high ceilings, twisted pathways and so much more to see. The same can be said about the sound design. Atmospheric, mostly devoid of music, but when it kicks it gets your blood pumping. Later in the game, there's a sequence which will blow you away, everything shifts and moves around while the music is synced to your gameplay.
However, Control has one abysmal problem which will nearly kill all your enjoyment with the game, the frame rate. You might have read other reviews by now passing this as a small problem, but it's not small. On consoles, even the enhanced ones like the PS4 Pro, which I played it, and the Xbox One X, the frame rate drops by a lot in almost every encounter or when you just play around with the game physics. If you want to see a more detailed explanation, the wonderful guys at Digital Foundry made this excellent video about it. Remember the grenade launcher form of the Service Weapon? Well, this form breaks the frame rate, completely making it unusable in the game.
Now I completely understand that it must have been an achievement for Remedy to even run Control on the consoles due to all of the amazing lighting, particle effects and crazy physics simulations, but still is kinda unacceptable and undermines the rest of the experience which indeed is a masterpiece. Luckily the PC version, as usual, is the definitive version of Control as it doesn't have these nasty frame rate drops, it runs in a stead 60fps and makes the most of the excellent ray tracing technology.
So here we are. Control is a masterpiece with a fantastic and intriguing world and story, bombastic and satisfying telekinetic gameplay and a presentation like nothing we have seen before. It just pains me that the console versions are not optimized at all. Hopefully, that will change a few patches in just in time for the upcoming DLC. Still, you should totally get Control no matter what. Thanks for reading!