Control is a third person shooter released pretty recently in 2019 by Remedy Entertainment and published by 505 Games. It has had a pretty good series of reviews from both press and players, but in keeping with my don't buy anything at launch, I didn't get on the train for this one... However, just recently, Control dropped in a Humble Monthly subscription and so I got to experience the game...
I'm not usually a fan of the third person perspective, I much prefer top down or first person... however, there seems to be more people (from consoles...) that prefer the third person view, so I guess I will just have to swallow my pride and deal with it!
Now, Remedy Entertainment is a Finnish studio that has produced some pretty awesome games in the past, such as the Max Payne games and Alan Wake. These games had engaging and compelling storylines combined with decent gameplay, so these guys seem to understand that games need that symbiotic balance between narrative and mechanics to truly hook a player!
Is it as good as the internet seemed to believe? Or would this be one of those games which would be great for a little bit and then remain unfinished as I lost interest... along with the hoard of other games in that unfortunate position in my Steam library.
Something that I have noticed about games that tend to have the best staying power with me recently is a setting that is very familiar but just that little bit off... In Control, you play as Jesse Faden... a sort of everyday no-person who has been led to the Federal Bureau of Control in New York. At the beginning, you don't realise it... but your appearance at the mysterious Oldest House (the headquarters of the Bureau) is not really an accident. In fact, the Oldest House is not accessible to people who don't have some sort of strange connection to the events that it investigates and protects the world from...
Upon arrival... you find that the entire lobby and entrance areas are completely empty.... aside from this Finnish caretaker. He's weird, but somewhat friendly... and the only person in the place! You also start to notice that Jesse talks to herself... a lot! She's also pretty damn weird...
Once you reach the previous Director's office, you are able to access the mysterious hotline phone which puts you in contact with the former Director and a "the Board". Well.. things don't get a lot clearer... but that is half (or more...) of the fun!
You start to meet others of the Control team as you venture into the Executive wing of the building. These members and the various story objects and material that you discover will start to flesh out the story and situation... trust me, it is done in such a compelling and engaging way! This is like that Netflix series that you just binged watched... you are hooked by the little drip of information that starts to make a seemingly bewildering yet familiar situation seem... frighteningly still bewildering! Plus, you start to nut out how Jesse fits into all of this...
So, as mentioned before, the game is played from a third person over the shoulder perspective which allows you a better viewing angle than the first person shooters. The environment (not the walls) are nice and destructible, and you can take cover behind most objects... however, you will find that most objects aren't that durable, and you will find that moving fast is the better option! Especially when you get that nifty dash skill from a bound Object of Power.
The game equips you with a Service Weapon, which is the Director's Object of Power. It manifests initially as a revolver, but "levels" up with upgrades to form equivalents of shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers. It is a weapon that has appeared throughout history, manifesting as swords and other appropriate weapons throughout time.
It can only take two forms at any point in time, and you can easily switch between these two with a simple key press. However, a quick dive into the inventory (time stops) can switch you to other forms as needed. All the weapons share a single regenerating ammunition pool which is quickly depleted, which encourages you to switch things up between using your Astral powers and your Service Weapon.
Really... the game is pretty mind bending with the layout. The Oldest House is constantly shifting when not under control from activated Control Points, and it is your first duty to stabilise zones by reactivating these points! Wandering into uncontrolled areas will lead to a very quick (but temporary) death...
As you bind Objects of Power, you start to unlock some interesting offensive and defensive Astral Powers. To stay alive, you will need to use these powers, as you are incredibly fragile... which makes combat a fast and fluid dance. You need to dodge and dash to avoid damage, and quite often a few hits will take you down... and downed enemies will drop orbs that will heal you... but you need to rush in close to pick them up! This is not a game for campers!
Capturing Control Points will restore some measure of physical sanity to the Oldest House and will unlock a save point (and resurrection point) in addition to fast travel and access to upgrade menus. These vital points are often defended by a pretty involved set piece battle, however they are generally (mostly...) well spaced so that restarting from a previous Control point isn't too annoying... however, there are exceptions to that, especially in some of the Astral Plane boss battles...
There is a light RPG mechanic where you can level up your Astral Skills with points gained by completing story missions. This is a seperate pool to the Esssence that are dropped by killing enemies and it gives a steady rate of unlocks to keep you in the game.
Of course, you can only start leveling up an Astral Power once you have subdued and bound one of the errant Objects of Power. Some of these Objects are just sitting around waiting to be tamed, if you can solve their little puzzle to reach them... others are more hostile and will actively fight you!
However, once bound they will unlock some interesting power, such as dashing, levitation or telekinesis.
Aside from dropping Essence, enemies will also drop a variety of crafting materials that you will need to level up your Service Weapon (or to craft mods). There are a wide variety of Materials, and it can be really annoying when you are just short of one particular type... especially if you forget where you need to go to find enemies that will drop more of that item!
The final component to leveling your equipment is Essence. It drops with every enemy killed, but is also lost when you die... when you resurrect, you will have lost around 10% of your accumulated Essence.... and there will be times when you die more than you would like, and it is frustrating to see the Essence that you have been saving up for a nice weapon upgrade start to evaporate like snow in the Sahara!
What has really set Control apart from so many other games on the market at the moment (for me at least...) is the setting and the story that it is telling. The world is a familiar one, but with the twist of the Astral Plane, the Bureau of Control, the Hiss and the Board... all elements that serve to give a twist to everyday world.
The setting and story are revealed in little snippets of documents, audio recordings and TV clips. I've always hated collectibles in games, especially if they don't really add to the story or are "essential" to leveling up your character... I'm not fond of the Pokemon approach of collect them all. Here, there is no indication of how many documents or pickups before completion... mainly because most of the pickups AREN'T hidden! They are just hanging around the relevant story parts... and they just serve to flesh out the world! You feel compelled to pick them up and read or watch them, because you are DYING to know what is going on!
There is a real retro aesthetic to the film clips from the Bureau that explain what they know about the situation, and there are reappearing and lovable characters... even the minor characters are completely endearing, I love the scientists, they are just so hilariously awkward in front of the camera!
Meanwhile, there are the shadowy communications from the previous Director Trench and the Board. These guys know more about the situation, but for some reason they can't reveal everything openly. So, you just get coded and obtuse suggestions...
... and then there are the written notes, documents and protocols from the agents of the Bureau. These detail the front-line experiences of the agents that are trying to keep the Astral Plane at bay and the "real" mundane world safe.
Finally, there are the "educational" films that are meant to teach young agents about the Astral Plane and the dangers from the other side. I love these, but they are seriously demented and freaky!
Visuals, Sound and Performance
The setting of the Old House is incredibly retro in style... when you first start, you could be mistaken in thinking that the game is set in the past, in the 70s or something like that. However, it becomes clear that modern technology and the Oldest House just do not get on well. It does make for a quaint setting though!
There is very little in the way of music, and the audio is mainly used to keep track of your surroundings. It's a game that is quite immersive in the soundscape, and you will want to play with headphones... especially as some of the enemies are hard to see, and it is easiest to hear where they are!
The game is beautiful, and it ran with no problems on my review hardware, which is a gaming laptop of the last generation. You WILL need a decent gaming rig to run this, as any performance hiccups will result in a great degree of frustration... the game is challenging enough without skipping frames and lags!
It is rare for a game to grab the attention of an old-school hardcore gamer like me... most of these days, I despair at the quality of games, the introduction of terrible non-gaming mechanics and the dumbing-down of gaming to appeal to the masses. Combined with the focus on beautiful graphics at the expense of well-crafted stories that appeal to more than hormonal teenage males, it has been a long while since I was so hooked on a game!
Control has really got the balance right... great setting, superb story, enjoyable characters (and protagonist) and amazing and fluid gameplay.... pity about the third-person view! I can't stop playing this game, I've not played anything else since the game dropped in the Humble Bundle, and if that isn't a ringing endorsement I don't know what is! Remedy Entertainment have made themselves another masterpiece!
Played at 1080p (144Hz) on:
XMG Fusion 15
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: SSD (SATA/Nvme)
GPU: Nvidia GTX 2070 Max-Q
Splinterlands (aka the best blockchain game out there!)
Have you heard of Humble Bundle? It's a place to get some really great deals on Games, e-books and comic bundles. However, if you sign up for a Humble Bundle Subscription (12 USD per month) you get some really nice bonuses!
- A 100+ USD bundle of games delivered direct to you each month, redeemable on Steam, Uplay or direct download (depending on the game). This includes recent Triple A games!
- Access to the Humble Bundle "Trove", a list of 60 games (and growing...) which are free to play as long as you remain a subscriber!
- Additional Discounts on the Humble Bundle store, with the choice of supporting charities, Humble Bundle or developers in whatever percentage that you wish!
Humble Bundle Subscriptions, it's a no brainer for the dedicated gamer!