Remedy Entertainment’s love for the cinematic isn’t completely absent from their newest title Control. Distanced from the publishing arms of Microsoft that helped bring the company’s largely unrelated albeit undeniably analogous episodically designed Alan Wake and Quantum Break, you’d imagine that the developer’s first AA game in more than fifteen years would suffer around the edges.
It does, just ever-so-sightly. Unlike the expertly polished performance of Quantum Break, Control isn’t as flawless. Throughout standard gameplay, the usual 30 frames-per-second cap is hit consistently, although large drops do appear on rare occurrence. Unfortunately, large stutters to the point of unplayability rear their ugly head whenever you exit an in-game menu; opening the Xbox Guide to snap an interesting screenshot or video clip results in performance lowering way beyond playable levels.
It’s a shame: the technical prowess outside of these crushing performance issues is admirable. It’s clear that Control inherits a lot of qualities from Quantum Break, the latter obviously being used as a jumping off point for many of the game’s stylistic traits alongside overall game feel. The soft filmic look returns, alongside a bevy of gorgeous effects and high-detail character models. While it may not run as well as it’s distant predecessor, it stands out through a much stronger sense of direction.
Taking place within the Federal Bureau of Control – a supernatural equivalent to the FBI – the adventure of protagonist Jesse Faden doesn’t start off particularly exciting. Entering the headquarters of the FBC, The Oldest House, starts the game off with a subdued sense of mystery. For a while, you’re shown nothing outside of the drab governmental emblems decorating the bland official walls and an intriguingly creepy janitor that soon proves unforgettable.
It doesn’t take long for Control to open up into one of the most engaging and unique titles Remedy has ever created. Not only is protagonist Jesse Faden immediately more engaging and likeable than Shawn Ashmore’s Jack Joyce, but her story is relevant and enthralling. No longer do we play as an ordinary person conveniently pushed towards the insane; Faden’s full backstory provides ample reason as to why the unnatural seems so normal to her.
The abandoned corridors and offices of the FBC do not stay unoccupied for long. After Faden discovers the game’s signature weapon, the ever-transforming Service Weapon, the game’s primary enemies, dubbed The Hiss, come forth from the shadows. Highlighted through a stark use of deep crimson that encapsulates entire rooms with a sense of dread, The Hiss’ often appearances never grow stale despite the ever-simple “red is evil” aesthetic the enemy is wrapped in.
Nevertheless, The Hiss is an engaging foe that does manage to remain an engaging threat as you move throughout the shape-changing and dimension-shifting puzzle that is The Oldest House. Starting off as possessed soldiers that act as though a troop of possessed soldiers would – eerily similar in behaviour to Quantum Break’s Monarch guards – The Hiss quickly evolve into more Eldritch threats. Flying telekinetic men with broken limbs, self-destructing flood-like tentacle monsters and more all come together to provide an engaging rogues gallery of memorable, albeit sightly derivative, foes.
As you meet more of the Bureau’s employees, explore the house’s deepest levels and read through the many collectible documents, you’ll understand why this one location is such a supernatural epicenter. You’ll learn about Altered World Events, Places of Power and Objects of Power, the latter of which grants Jesse with awesome powers to fight off The Hiss. From telekinesis to full-on flight, combat evolves drastically from the game’s humble exploratory beginnings. The crunchy gunplay that only Remedy could provide combined with awesome powers that thoroughly demolish every combat arena you’re thrust in – to glorious Bay-like degrees – is a consistent evolution from the developer’s prior work. Needless to say, it feels bloody fantastic.
Thankfully, unlike the mostly linear gameplay of Alan Wake and Quantum Break, Control offers a more free experience than prior Remedy titles. Instead of moving from level to level, there’s a more metroidvania design to everything this time around. The Oldest House is an exploratory hub: as you learn new powers and uncover new secrets, you’ll gain access to new areas, each more interesting than the last. While it may have ditched the episodic nature of its predecessors, some of that DNA does remain with quick-shot sizzles interspersing main chapters of the game’s story.
There’s even a healthy dose of side content throughout most of Jesse’s journey: while the main story is a thoroughly engaging tale that’s one of Remedy’s absolute best – a true masterclass in storytelling and style – the side content later in the game pushes the title above and beyond. With unlockable costumes included without the need of additional microtransactions, Remedy has created a full game that feels as complete as it can be.
Control is one of Remedy’s Entertainment’s most inventive and captivating titles yet. For those still bummed out over the disappointing Quantum Break, Remedy has done well to improve on everything that upset players before. There’s more of everything: combat, content, style and story. This is the proud return of Remedy: distanced from the cold grasp of television, this is a full, lengthy title that always entertains.This is one of Remedy’s best.