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Control

Control

Remedy Entertainment is back with an inter-dimensional horror-esque saga - and it's one hell of a trip.

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Finnish studio Remedy Entertainment made its name with its groundbreaking, mind-bending noir action game Max Payne way back in 2001 and since then, the studio has not been one to shy away from exploring the unusual or unexpected. In fact, since Max Payne was released, all of the studio's in-house games have been psychological trips for players and that's a huge part of the reason why Remedy Entertainment is so special. In a world where multiplayer games are all the rage, Remedy focuses on mind-bending solo experiences; from Alan Wake and its Twin Peaks-inspired world and psychological horror narrative through to Quantum Break and its time-travel saga, the studio has shown off its ability to tackle complex settings while keeping the playability fun and the immersion unmatched. With Remedy's new game Control, this is clearer than ever, and while we were playing through the game we were blown away by both the gameplay and its various narrative strands.

Control, which like most of the studio's previous games is a third-person action game, has you follow Jesse Faden, a woman with a troubled, complicated childhood in her rear-view mirror who ends up at 'The Oldest House' in Manhattan, New York. The building, we're told, is the headquarters of the secretive 'Federal Bureau of Control' and Jesse has been drawn there by a mysterious force, one which lets her into the building that we later find out is sealed to the public, hidden in plain sight. The reason for her visit, although a force seemingly brought her there, is to reunite with someone she's lost.

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Shortly after entering, she meets the bureau's janitor Ahti; a curious man, speaking partly in Finnish as he gives Jesse directions. This man will be more significant to the story than you'd think, and he quickly became our favourite character. Our protagonist then comes across the Director's office, goes inside and finds a weapon that seems to be a living thing, moving in Jesse's hand as she picks it up, its barrel pulsating. The director, Zachariah Trench (who's played by James McCaffrey, known to Remedy fans as the voice of Max Payne) won't miss it, she assumes and picks it up as her own. As it turns out, wielding this service weapon is how you get promoted within the FBC, and Jesse soon finds herself accepting the role of Director without realising it herself. Jesse quickly realises something's not quite right at the bureau and starts looking for immediate answers. No one's to be seen except for the staff scattered through the building, hovering in the air as if gravity has ceased to exist and as she moves further in, she comes across a safe room from where she can hear voices. After communicating for a short while, the people inside emerge from the locked area with research specialist Emily Pope at the forefront, explaining the situation.

An inter-dimensional force has recently been let loose in The Oldest House and it's been corrupting the staff in the large building. Jesse, who's been hearing what she describes as a "hiss" trying to force itself into her head, gives the force its official name and is set out on the mission to eliminate "The Hiss" and restoring order to the ever-changing interior of the building while keeping the reason she's there a secret to the seemingly friendly faces that greet her as the new director.

It doesn't take long before the hiss-corrupted staff appears, forcing Jesse to take action and there's plenty of enemy variety in Control that we need to talk about. The low-tier hiss-corrupted enemies are called "agents" and are humans who have just recently been corrupted. These enemies have not been deformed by the inter-dimensional force yet and have maintained their human appearance, but they can still be deadly if you don't eliminate them quickly. Early on in the game, you may also come into contact with shielded agents, who hold the same characteristics as regular agents apart from a force field of sorts that you have to get through before being able to hurt them (these shields are applied to other enemies as well if you're unlucky). There are also kamikaze-type enemies, whose bodies have been immensely distorted, snipers, demolition experts, hovering enemies with telekinetic powers, concentrated hiss orbs buffing the stats of regular enemies and more; you'll hardly get bored of the enemies in Control.

Control

To take these enemies down, you use your service weapon in any of its many modes, your abilities, or a combination of both. Speaking of the gun's many modes, let's go through them, shall we? The "Grip" mode is your standard-issue service weapon; a semi-automatic that packs a punch in short as well as long-range combat. The 'Shatter' mode is a high-powered scatter-shot weapon; 'Pierce' offers a charged shot that penetrates armour; 'Charge' fires explosive-blast ammunition that staggers enemies; 'Spin' is your average automatic weapon with a high rate of fire. These can then be upgraded to enhance the stats but upgrading the guns also grants you more weapon mods of which there are three in total for each gun type. These mods grant you various different enhancements such as using less ammunition (your guns regenerate ammunition instead of having to be reloaded), damage boosts, and projectile velocity - and each mod type has five different levels, 'I' being the starting point and 'V' being the most advanced-tiered modification.

Apart from your service weapon having modification slots, Jesse and her powers can be upgraded and modded as well. There are four powers that you can unlock in Control. 'Launch', which is a telekinetic ability, lets you throw objects or even low-health enemies at other Hiss-infected opponents; 'Shield' is just what the name suggests, a barrier made of debris that Jesse collects with her telekinetic abilities (this power can be upgraded, adding the ability to channel the shield's energy and throw the debris at enemies); 'Seize' lets Jesse take control of a low-health enemy; 'Levitate', which lets Jesse glide around in the air, be it to reach otherwise inaccessible areas or to gain an advantage during combat (this ability can also be upgraded, giving Jesse the ability to slam into the ground when in the air, damaging enemies around her as she lands).

These abilities, which also include a health boost, an energy boost (which is your 'mana' for ability usage) and melee damage, can be upgraded, but only some give the ability you're upgrading a special new use (all of which are mentioned above). Worth mentioning is the way you're given these abilities. The Oldest House is a mysterious place with puzzles hidden around the building. These puzzles mostly take place in an otherworldly hotel lobby that Jesse arrives at upon finding the equally puzzling way in, which we won't spoil for obvious reasons. Upon completing the puzzles within, Jesse is taken to the Astral Plane, where she is faced with various tasks linked to a power she's about to be bestowed with, allowing the player to try them out before taking them to the streets (or rather the office corridors).

Control

The personal mods are similar to the weapon mods but offer direct ability or stat boosts instead of damage and ammunition-handling perks, such as adding a health boost, lessening the cost of abilities, or even strengthening other abilities. They come in different levels and you'll find better mods when beating tougher enemies, as you complete missions, and when proceeding to tougher areas. Three personal mods can be equipped at a time and if you find that your inventory is getting full, you can scrap the mods you don't need, granting you crafting materials. These crafting materials can be used to either upgrade your service weapon, buy a new weapon mode, or buy modifications for either your weapon or Jesse. This is done by interacting with a control point and doing so also saves your game, so if you think a fight ahead is going to be tough, make sure to interact with the nearest control point or you'll have to run all the way back to where you met your untimely, yet temporary demise. When entering the control point menu, you can choose to fast travel, upgrade your abilities, buy new mods or upgrade your service weapons through the 'Astral Constructs' tab or take on challenges through the 'Board Countermeasures' tab. Now, we've already touched on the ability tree and mods a bit, but the Astral Constructs tab, apart from letting you buy new (random) mods with 'source' that you pick up from enemies as well as crates around the map, lets you upgrade the menu itself, granting you higher-tier mods to buy (although they're all still random).

Control, apart from offering incredibly satisfying gameplay (we could hover and slam slabs of concrete we pulled out of the wall into enemies all day, in fact, we have), offers something that is relatively new to Remedy and its portfolio of games - side missions. You see, Control isn't a linear experience, instead, Jesse can roam freely within The Oldest House unless there's a door requiring a keycard of a higher clearance level in her way. Of course, there's a focused main narrative to get through but there also are side quests that help you understand what happened at the Oldest House, and all of them are intriguing and well-put-together. Some of them even end with secret boss fights.

Control

One of the side missions had us blown away by the amount of detail put into it. We were tasked with cleansing an object of power (an object holding a powerful force within) and it had dire consequences for the people surrounding it. This particular object was a mirror that we had to solve a puzzle to get to and before entering the mirror realm we played an audio log that was sitting on a counter in the room. The recording was of a man who had been stuck in the mirror realm and uttered his words backwards, and the interviewer was trying to figure out what was happening. When we then entered that mirror realm, we listened to the tape again, this time it was the interviewer speaking her lines backwards and the man asking her why she was speaking in such a strange manner. There are plenty of little moments like that in Control and that's one of the main reasons why we ended up loving almost every second of it; the game constantly messes with your mind and the puzzles are so outlandish that they're magnificent.

There are also fast-travel points, respawning enemies, Board Countermeasures (which are basically challenges prompting you to kill a set amount of enemies with headshots, kill a specific type of enemy, or take down opponents within a specific part of the building), and urgent missions, all of which are skippable if you'd rather just get through the story. We'd recommend that you don't focus too much on the countermeasures or the "urgent" objectives because they are completely optional and we found that they ended up hurting the pacing of the main narrative a bit while not really adding much substance for our troubles.

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One thing that bummed us out a bit was the enemy respawn timer, which is incredibly short. Apart from this, a later boss fight during a side quest reminded us of the dreadful end boss fight in 2015's Quantum Break, where enemies spawned all over a massive area with a flying, shielded, long-range damage-dealing bastard hovering in the middle. Even though the main game wasn't as challenging as that one single boss fight in Quantum Break was (which made us want to turn the game off and never return to it again), there are a few instances that offer that same kind of frustration, for the same reason. Getting overwhelmed by constantly spawning enemies isn't fun in a single-player game and having enemies respawn when you enter an office and come back out to the area you were in two seconds ago isn't that much fun either.

Another issue we found was how the game reacts to you opening the map or the menu, or even just keeping the map open as you move around. This caused the game to drop frames like crazy and sometimes the game froze for a few seconds and we had to wait for it to catch up.

That said, Control had us immersed from start to finish and it was easy to let those issues go. The narrative is interesting, the side missions are incredible, the puzzles are trippy as hell in the best way possible, and there are plenty of nods to Remedy's older games for fans of the studio. If you're looking to go for an inter-dimensional, psychedelic, mind-bending action trip, Control is well-worth your attention. We wholeheartedly recommend it.

Control
09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
Incredible world design, fun metroidvania gameplay, lots of secrets to find, compelling story, great characters, good soundtrack, good voice acting.
-
Side objectives hurt the pacing of the main narrative, some frame rate issues on the lesser current-gen consoles.
overall score
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ControlScore

Control

REVIEW. Written by Lisa Dahlgren

"The narrative is interesting, the side missions are incredible, the puzzles are trippy as hell in the best way possible."



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