Control is a game where saying “expect the unexpected” isn’t just a cliché. While parts of Control play like other games in the action-adventure genre, taken as a whole it’s easy to see Remedy really let its freak flag fly for this one. In a good way.
Control picks up right in the middle of an attack on the Federal Bureau of Control, or the FBC, by a supernatural force called the Hiss. Jesse Faden, the protagonist, inadvertently becomes the Director of the FBC and it doesn’t slowdown from there. Eventually getting supernatural and telekinetic powers, Jesse becomes a powerhouse and makes you feel like almost like a Jedi with all the things you can throw.
The story unfolds across several sections of the Bureau as Jesse fights the Hiss and helps out the beleaguered employees of the FBC. The characters themselves are nothing special (apart from an increasingly odd janitor who says you’re his assistant) but help show off how great the game looks. It’s a lot of grey but Remedy splashes color across everything giving what could have been a mundane office space a signature style all its own. Flashing lights, streaks of blood and supernatural mold combine to make the environment stand out.
The gun-play and abilities combine to make action frantic but fun. You never quite feel in control (no pun intended) but you’re never out of moves. If you gun needs a second to recharge, throw some fire extinguishers and desks at foes to knock them back. If you feel overwhelmed by the action, you can literally pull the ground up to block projectiles while you figure out your next move. You’re never without a trick up your sleeve and as a result the combat will leave you hoping for more enemies to throw things at.
That being said there are a few enemies in the game that can feel a little overpowered, namely the bosses. I tried to do several side missions as I progressed but abandoned them after throwing myself at the bosses a few dozen times. It’s not helped by the frequent frame-rate issues that emerge when too much is happening, but the precision required to survive is sometimes expert level even at the beginning. Still, returning to the bosses with more upgrades and powers proves to balance the playing field quite a bit, it’s just not clear when you hit that point.
But if you just stick to the story you won’t have too much of an issue progressing. Most enemy encounters are just waves of Hiss infected foes that require strategy but aren’t mini-boss level difficulty. Often the story tasks you with mild platforming or puzzle solving too which helps break up the pace to keep things interesting. Also, read everything. There’s always a document, audio file or paranormal phone call that teases at the much larger world outside the Bureau.
Overall, I loved Control. The atmosphere, game play, and absolutely bonkers story are amazing, even with the rough edges. Jesse’s story is a fascinating one that I hope we get much more of in the future, especially because I know it can always get weirder.
Update on the Update
When Control released many praised a lot of the things I did above, but also noted some technical issues. We already reported on that (link above) and I definitely ran into some serious frame-rate problems playing on my base PS4. Slowdowns were generally during combat or right after loading, but it was bad enough to make me stop for a bit. I still beat the game and enjoyed it but about a week after the game released Remedy released a patch.
The patch helped the frame-rate a lot; but not completely. Combat occasionally still slows down (especially with explosions) but it’s not as much now. Also, the map loads immediately whereas before it would take sometimes around 20 seconds to load and be useful. Remedy has released a road map for new content and hopefully more patches are coming as well.