If you think you are living in “the real world”, where everything seems ordinary, and you don’t see anything that goes against scientific laws and theories of today, then you may already have been visited by them. These people work in secret to keep the world from experiencing the paranatural. But get ready, because things are about to get a little weird.
Control is the mind-bending action-adventure game developed by Remedy Entertainment, and published by 505 Games for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Control has only been released via the Epic Games Store on PC, and it is uncertain whether or not there will be a Steam release. The game’s director, Mikael Kasurinen, worked on Quantum Break as well, and what is more interesting is that Control was in development even before Quantum Break, as though it was meant to be the test for their Northlight Engine before going full-steam ahead with this project. The team at Remedy wanted to build a game world and universe filled with lore that players can use to formulate theories or their own stories out of, and I think they succeeded, as previous Remedy games make mention to some of Control’s story elements. Remedy even consulted multiple scientists while developing their games, which is strongly evident during the course of the game.
Out Of Control
The story follows Jesse Faden, who has been searching for the elusive government agency known as the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), in order to find her younger brother, Dylan, who was kidnapped by the FBC after a supernatural event occurred in her home town of Ordinary when they were younger. The prologue starts with her walking into the building, explaining the situation, and we initially think she is speaking to us – breaking the fourth wall – but we learn that she is speaking to an entity that has latched onto her psyche. As she walks in, we discover the place almost abandoned and in disarray, as alarms are sounding in the distance, only to later find that the FBC is under attack by a hostile supernatural force called “the Hiss”, which possesses FBC agents and corrupts the building itself, which is also a supernatural entity called the “The Oldest House”, and is referred to as a “Place of Power”. The current director has mysteriously been killed, and Jesse has been deemed worthy as the new Director by the governing extradimensional entity of the FBC named “The Board”, allowing her to make use of a supernatural “Object of Power” called the Service Weapon which is capable of changing shapes depending on the type of weapon that Jesse needs.
Upon acquisition of the Service Weapon, Jesse is tasked by the Board to defeat the Hiss and cleanse the Bureau building, called “The Oldest House”, of the otherworldly force. Jesse will be able to explore the deceptively huge base of the FBC in a Metroidvania style of playing, being able to go to and from multiple areas in a non-linear pace. She will unlock new supernatural abilities that will aid her in her task to defeat the Hiss, which ranges from telekinesis, mind control, flight, and more, which will be expanded on later. Jesse’s main focus is on rescuing her brother, which becomes all the more crucial during the Hiss Invasion, but as the story progresses, the need to eliminate the Hiss first becomes more of a priority even during the goal of finding and rescuing Dylan. She encounters other Agents that haven’t been affected by the Hiss, thanks to a device that one of the Executive Scientists, Dr. Darling, had invented for such an emergency; The HRA. Unfortunately, Darling was unable to manufacture enough for the whole of the FBC in time. How Dr. Darling knew that this invasion was imminent is another question that you try to answer alongside Emily Pope, one of the main characters you will be liaising with throughout the game. You will meet more important characters along the way, all of whom will tell you more about Darling and his demeanour before the invasion – making finding Darling a priority as well, as the need for getting more HRAs becomes important.
The story of this game is so densely packed with lore that is hidden in the collectible documents and audio/visual files that you pick up in every level, that it is easy to get lost in this world of paranatural events, almost making everything that’s happening seem “normal” and anything that happens outside in the real world seem strange. The outside world is a lie, a curtain that is hiding what is really happening underneath the surface. Once you have lifted the curtain, you’ll be in for one insanely weird ride.
It is hinted from the beginning that there is something special about Jesse, which is what set everything in motion to her becoming the new Director. This entity that has latched onto Jesse plays a crucial role in the story and gameplay, and is what allows her to gain the various supernatural abilities. She gains these powers by purifying Objects of Power that have been corrupted by the Hiss. One of the first ones that you gain is telekinesis, which the game has termed Launch, as you are able to pick up and “launch” surrounding objects at your enemies. You are able to use the ability in quick succession, as much as your Energy Bar will allow. Eventually, Jesse will gain ability points which can be allocated to various stats and abilities, much the same way that a Talent Tree works, which means there is a leveling system, but it’s done very low-key. You can upgrade your Health, Energy, and the various Supernatural abilities that you gain over the course of the game.
Enemies come in the forms of corrupted human agents, and sometimes these agents have been ridiculously mutated and granted other supernatural abilities as well, such as flight, or telekinesis, and even shields, which means you will need to strategise every time you encounter the mobs. Certain weapon-types or abilities work better than others against specific enemies, so you’ll be playing mix-and-match depending on the scenario and enemies you are presented with in the level. Every time an enemy is damaged or killed, you get rewarded with Shards, and they will drop a certain amount of blue jewels. These jewels are Health gems, which Jesse will automatically pull to herself if she has sustained damage to restore her HP Bar. Additionally, enemies drop other items called “Mods”, and also “Materials” with different names that indicate specific qualities. The Mods get separated into two types: Weapon Mods, and Personal Mods.
Weapon Mods get applied to the Service Weapon, and some Mods are specifically designed for specific variations of the Service Weapon. Personal Mods are used to boost the qualities of Jesse’s personal stats, such as Health, Energy Consumption, or Ability Efficiency. The mods also come in specific tier rarities, ranging from Tier-1 and upwards. A higher tier mod means higher boosts to skill efficiency or stats. These mods can be applied anywhere in the Loadout Menu, although you are only able to apply a single Mod on each type of weapon. You can apply more by unlocking Mod Slots. The Materials that get collected are used to upgrade the different forms of the Service Weapon, which will boost the damage that gets done, and also unlocks Mod slots for the various forms. The upgrades only become available when you have found the necessary Material-type – and then you need to gather a specific amount in order to do so. Materials and Mods can be gathered from crates that have been scattered around the Oldest House. You can even “recycle” Mods to get Shards if you are running low on space or are in need of more Shards for upgrades.
Nihil Est Normalis
Exploring The Oldest House is mind-blowingly fun and constantly fresh, because no area looks the same. Every area is unique in its layout, which makes for fantastic gameplay along with the intense battle-sequences no matter where you go. The only safe areas are rooms that used to be controlled by the Hiss that contains a POI called a Control Point, which Jesse can use to Fast Travel around The Oldest House, assign points to her Abilities, Upgrade and Create Weapon-types, and even accept optional missions which the Board has available for Jesse to complete in order to be given rewards, most of which come in the form of random Weapon or Personal Mods of a specific rarity. In order to claim a Control Point, Jesse needs to clear the room any Hiss-infected enemies, and then purify the Control Point of Hiss-influence. The Hiss-influence deforms the room into a mad jumble. After cleansing it, the room returns back to what it normally would look like, inducing a sense of peace as well as opening new rooms to explore and find collectibles.
You can revisit any area of The Oldest House as many times as you like, and it is going to be necessary, as certain areas within the levels of the Bureau can only be accessed after receiving higher clearance cards or gaining new abilities by claiming other Objects of Power. Even the easily accessible areas will have new collectibles after completing various missions, so if you are a completionist like I am, I would advise revisiting old areas as much as possible. The game encourages this by handing out optional missions that need to be completed within a time-limit, which I like to refer to as Emergency Missions. These missions will have you traveling to a specific place in the FBC to either rescue Agents that haven’t been corrupted by the Hiss, or clear out Hiss Nodes, but be careful, as death will reward you with irredeemable failure as you get a big “Mission Failed” warning on the screen – there is no retry for these missions, but success will give you some great rewards. Honestly speaking, I often fumbled with the default controls until I remapped two abilities, but this was the only thing that caused me discomfort while playing this game. For those who battle with photosensitive epilepsy, this game has loads of bright lights and sudden flashes, so I would advise against playing this in such a case.
I don’t want to spoil much for you, so I will leave this review like this and the Conclusion to follow. Want to see our experience with the game? Check out our Let’s Plays of it here!
Control is a psychologically jarring masterpiece of impressive proportions, balancing every aspect of its story, sound, visuals, combat, and gameplay. Despite its focus on “weirdness” and the supernatural, the game doesn’t bombard you with too much of its out-of-ordinary visual shifts to have the novelty wear off early. You get exactly the right amount of every facet at exactly the right moments, going from a normal office and boardroom layout, to fast-paced combat that utilizes everything at your disposal, to incredible building abnormalities and back. When you get struck with the visual abnormalities and paranatural events, it’s still feels new every time. I never got tired of seeing any of these things transpire, nor the combat. There are even puzzles that need solving, but don’t worry, there’s enough shooting to go around even while needing to deal with puzzles! It really feels like everything that Remedy has worked on was a test for this game, all of it culminating into their best work. The combat is incredibly fun and unique, and being able to fling couches or chunks of rock at enemies while waiting for the Service Weapon to recharge its ammo is more satisfying than I’m sure a lot of people would like to admit, especially when you’ve upgraded the damage of it! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this title. Get your own copy from BTGames for R825.00 on XBox One and PlayStation 4, or $26.99 (roughly R412) on the Epic Games Store!