By Chris Melchin / August 26th, 2019
|Release Date||August 27th, 2019|
|Genre||Third-Person Shooter, Adventure|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
Control is a game that got my attention when it was revealed back at E3 2018, but I somewhat lost track of it after that. It’s developed by Remedy Entertainment, the same team behind the Alan Wake games and Quantum Break, all games I have never played and know relatively little about. That being said, Control had me looking at it since it looked like a shooter with interesting mechanics and a very unique, unusual environment design. Realistically, though, I had no idea what I was getting into, or just how weird it could get.
Control puts you in the shoes of Jesse Faden, who enters the headquarters of a secretive government agency called Federal Bureau of Control in search of her missing brother Dylan. Upon entering the unassuming-looking New York building she finds herself in a sprawling, multi-dimensional complex called the Oldest House, filled with strange artifacts, under attack from a mysterious alien threat she dubs the Hiss. She becomes the Bureau’s director, and with guidance from an ethereal presence that’s accompanied her in her mind since childhood, along with the survivors she finds inside the Oldest House, she goes off to stop the Hiss invasion and find Dylan.
The game has a very distinct and unsettling atmosphere. You proceed through the Oldest House and experience both the otherworldly phenomena inherent to the facility as well as the wholly alien nature of the Hiss; the game starts immediately with being strange and off-putting, and while it does explain things over time so you can make sense of it, things never really get any more normal as you progress. It can be quite creepy at times, but less through actual horror elements and more with the generally incomprehensible weirdness of the Oldest House and the powerful and dangerous artifacts it holds.
The Bureau exists to investigate and contain Altered World Events (AWEs), as well as the Altered Items and rarer Objects of Power associated therewith. Altered Items are everyday objects that have bizarre and dangerous properties, tendencies, and capabilities, such as a Japanese paper lantern that entrances and soothes anyone who spends too long looking at it, a hand chair that creates a gravitational singularity every full moon, an anchor bound to a floating sphere that spits out endless amounts of clocks, and a refrigerator that consumes anyone nearby if left unobserved even for an instant, among others. There’s also a handful of Objects of Power that each grant Jesse different abilities she can use at will, such as a telekinetic 7½-inch floppy disk, a teleporting carousel horse, or a flying old-fashioned television. The abilities that Jesse picks up from the various Objects of Power all have their own distinct uses in combat as well as traversing the environment, allowing players to approach different situations as they see fit depending on what abilities they have and wish to use.
In addition to the Oldest House and the various interdimensional Thresholds it contains, Jesse also finds herself in the Astral Plane from time to time, which consists of angular platforms in an endless white void, all dominated by an inverted black pyramid known as the Board that communicates with Jesse telepathically and is in charge of the Bureau. The game is structured as a Metroidvania, with areas of the Oldest House becoming accessible as you progress, increase your clearance level to unlock more doors, and gain new abilities. Exploration is a major focus of the game, and while the environments all generally have an office and laboratory look to them, there’s always something different going on with them, along with the unsettling atmosphere the game creates. There’s even a number of areas that are never visited as part of the main story, all there to be explored on the player’s time or as part of one of the many side missions the game has to offer.
The main reason to explore the Oldest House is the slew of collectibles to be found, which consist of written and audio notes including accounts of various Altered Items and AWEs, inter-departmental correspondence of both official and unofficial varieties, and presentations from head researcher Dr. Casper Darling. I found the collectibles quite entertaining, mostly the very normal office correspondence with the uniqueness one would expect from a setting like the Oldest House. One that stood out in particular was a complaint about the facility’s pneumatic tube system used for communication between sectors, that with a structure that’s constantly shifting position and shape in spacetime the tubes can be somewhat unreliable. Other items to be found are crafting materials and weapon and personal mods, which don’t have much use once you’ve already found the best of each type. You can use crafting materials to create and upgrade forms of your gun, the Service Weapon, but aside from that, crafting has relatively little use.
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