Remedy Entertainment has established itself as a developer of quality titles. Their games, including Quantum Break, Max Payne, and Alan Wake, are known for gritty stories with paranormal and psychological elements. Control is no different in that sense. Like Remedy’s other games, this 2019 action-adventure features a mysterious story and is played from a third-person perspective.
The question is whether Control is an evolution of Remedy’s work or just a rehash of some of their older concepts. Does Control differentiate itself from the developer’s previous work and introduce new ideas to the fold?
As with their earlier games, Control has a strong focus on storytelling. The narrative is front and center of the experience throughout. You take on the role of Jesse Faden. She experienced something called a paranatural event in her hometown when she was a child. These Altered World Events are supernatural phenomena that bend normal reality and can have profound consequences for humanity. The narrative focuses on these events as well as the organization set up to investigate them. This secretive group is called the Federal Bureau of Control.
Without going into too much detail, as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for any readers, the story is fantastic. After witnessing an Altered World Event, the FBC take Jesse’s brother. Seventeen years later, she turns up at their headquarters to try and discover exactly what happened to her missing brother. Not long after entering the Oldest House, Jesse finds the head of the FBC dead and a powerful gun. The Service Weapon gives her a variety of new powers and puts her in control of the shadowy organization.
Although it might sound like a rather rehashed story, how the action unfolds is magnificent. The pacing is excellent and draws you into the lore and secrets hidden away in the Oldest House. Beautifully crafted cutscenes help get the important narrative points across. Yet, even little snippets of dialogue with minor characters prove just as interesting.
Moreover, Control oozes with atmosphere. The creepiness of the events taking place bleeds through and causes a real sense of unease. Everything about the game’s story is superb.
Not that Control is all about the story. Building upon the narrative is a fluid and satisfying combat system. The main weapon in the player’s armory is the Service Weapon. This is a special firearm that you can modify to fit a variety of needs and combat situations. It is also a supernatural weapon, which combines with a whole collection of spectral abilities that Jesse can use. The combat is not quite as impressive as other action-adventure games. Nevertheless, this is certainly Remedy’s best yet. The blend of supernatural powers and gunplay works very well.
A major part of this comes from the sheer variety of enemies. There are so many different types of opponents for you to face that you constantly have to adapt. In this sense, it is better to specialize your skills and abilities in one area, so that you have a solid strength to fall back on. Generalizing might seem like a good idea to tackle different threats. But it will ensure you don’t have anything you are really good at to take advantage of.
On the downside, many of the game’s puzzles are not exactly great examples of the genre. Too often they take far longer than they should to solve. This wouldn’t be a problem in most games but it does drag you out of the story. Control’s puzzles feel like an afterthought more than anything and stick out like a sore thumb. More should have been done to integrate them into the narrative.
Remedy has clearly spent a lot of time on Control’s visuals. A great example of this is how Control uses light. Expert directors know how to use light in a shot to tell a story by itself. After all, a picture can paint a thousand words. By subtly manipulating light in a scene, the game manages to cleverly shift your focus and change the mood.
Applauding the attention to detail seems appropriate as well. Every inch of the world looks as if the creators put plenty of care and attention into designing it. Control goes with a realistic visual style, especially for environments and textures. That helps the supernatural elements stand out all the more when they show up. They have far more impact when they bend the world around them and genuinely look out of place.
The character models are almost as good even if they lack some of the ultra-realism. What is impressive, though, is the animation of each individual. Everything is smooth and authentic.
Unfortunately, Control also comes with a wide array of technical issues. These problems hamper the presentation and stop you from being fully immersed. Frame rate drops are common, causing the action to stutter significantly. There are also a few noticeable bugs, such as the map failing to load or items disappearing from environments. Nothing game-breaking but enough to cause a lot of annoyance.
It is easy to recommend Control as one of the standout games of 2019. It possesses a compelling and intriguing story that you genuinely want to uncover. Unlike other games, this narrative has not simply been tacked on as a way of letting you explore the gameplay. It is the integral component of the title that comes to a gratifying and complete conclusion. Despite some issues with the gameplay and technical performance, Control is a game that you simply have to play.