Control Review

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 beings 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 to.

Advertisements

A Way Out Review

This review is a bit overdue, but is 100% Certified Spoiler Free!™

Co-op games are nothing new, and these days where battle-royale experiences are all the rage, small-scale story-driven co-ops can be hard to find. Shortly after playing A Way Out for the first time, I called my brother and told him that he needed to get his hands on a copy, saying “this is the most unique multiplayer since Portal 2.” But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

A Way Out was definitely good fun, and was genius in its unique advances. But oddly, it was where the game tried to stick to the script of the action genre that brought it down.

Premise and Story: 

The premise is rather straightforward. Vincent and Leo are jail-mates trying to break out of prison in order to go after a mob boss by the name of Harvey (that’s not a spoiler by the way, that’s made explicit fairly early on). But things are rarely that simple in life. The story-line of the game complicates itself pretty quickly and throws in some pretty good twists and turns along the way: definitely more than enough to keep the player interested. I did find myself docking some points for its story-line, but for reasons that I unfortunately cannot disclose due to spoilers. Sorry, fam.

Mechanics:

This is where my partner and I found major fault with A Way Out.

We were co-oping half a continent away from each other: he was playing using an Xbox controller and me  just using the keyboard and mouse of my PC. While we were both playing on Windows, it became clear to us pretty quickly that the initial control settings were geared toward console gamers. Controls on my end (good ol’ WASD) often felt clunky and awkward, which put a damper in our illicit activities in-game.

The collaboration puzzles and stealth missions were where this game really would shine, with unique mechanics that meant that you really had to assist each other in order to advance the game-play. It forced my partner and I to figure out how to communicate with clarity via voice chat, which was an interesting way the mechanics broke the fourth wall: it challenged the players to communicate with each other as much as it challenged the chatty and cocky Leo and reserved and calculating Vincent.

I really liked how the dialogue and options for tackling obstacles often presented you with two choices, “Leo’s Way” and “Vincent’s Way.” The players themselves would vote on which avenue they wanted to take, which was a unique way to make the game branch and allowed the players to essentially choose how they wanted the escape to pan out. Even more so, this democratic system re-enforced the collaborative elements of the game…even though my partner and I always took Vincent’s way.

Unfortunately, it seemed it was the places where the game tried to fit into the action genre that really brought it down. Things like the typical car chases you would expect when playing a game dealing with fugitives, were clunky and irritating. The physics would often make no sense, and on multiple occasions, one or both of us had been sent flying up into the air for apparently no reason, or getting stuck on an object like a plant. In a way, it seemed almost sad that it was the occasions where the game tried to adhere to convention that it fell flat. I found myself wishing that they had really taken the plunge to wholeheartedly make it stand out in every facet, as that’s where it really succeeded. I can’t help but feel that if they had done so, and pushed the envelope in every way that they could, it would have been a better game.

Overall Rating: 7/10

I had to give this game a 7/10 – with deductions due to clunky mechanics and some story elements that seemed to depart from the previously established importance of letting the players determine how the story was to go. But in the end, it was a pretty good time, and definitely laid some fascinating groundwork for the future of story-driven co-ops.