Developer: Remedy | Publisher: 505 Games| Release date: August 27, 2019 | Genre: Action/Adventure | Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
505 Games provided a download code for review.
Remedy Entertainment began as a demos-scene group in the mid-1990s.. They were responsible for bench marking utilities for PCs and made Death Rally, a car combat game. The Finnish developer struck mainstream gold with Max Payne and went on to make games such as Quantum Break and Alan Wake. Control is Remedy’s first multi-platform game in a decade.
Narrative and Presentation
You play as Jessie Faden (Courtney Hope), who is on a quest to find her brother Dylan. Dylan disappeared in a mysterious incident in their hometown, Ordinary. You wind up going to The Department of Control’s Office in New York which is also known as The Oldest House. Little factoid, the building’s look is based on the AT&T Long Lines building which is also there. It’s aesthetic is stuck in the 1980s with IBM PCs, monochrome monitors, and no internet. The architecture is inspired by Brutalist architecture and utilizes smart asset re-usage which gives Control and air of uncertainty. The sameness will then blindside you with a different environment or crazy puzzle. It does remind me of a lot of The Evil Within 2 were less was more.
The backstory is provided by notes and OoP (Objects of Power) which are objects that have supernatural abilities. Some can throw you into alternate dimensions or form otherworldly creatures. This phenomenon is known as AWE (Altered World Events). The creatures are dubbed The Hiss by Jessie and are your main enemy in the game. Every object has a backstory to it as well as notes which are in stark contrast with the cinematic experience of Quantum Break or the graphic novel flavor of the early Max Payne games. It’s a different more gameplay focused approach to storytelling. It fits in with the more exploration heavy aspects of the game and helps with the pacing.
Other characters include Zachariah Trench who is played by Max Payne himself, James McCaffery, and Dr. Darling played by Alan Wake himself, Matthew Poretta. There’s also a cameo by a certain auteur game designer which I won’t spoil. They are all great in terms of performance.
There are also live-action segments which are like video diaries which give more production value with the non-cutscene elements. The only disappointment I have with the cutscenes is the lack of fun composition and the use of the standard reverse shot which you have seen in a lot of other games. This is offset by the killer art direction which is monochromatic and distinct. The story is overall solid with the game starting with an air of mystery but eventually, things fall into place.
The audio design is just as impressive with eerie voices speaking ominous gibberish with David Lynch-like industrial noise. Music is sparse but keeps up with the situation such as combat, and exploration. It makes you feel you like you are in a mostly lonely haunted building.
In Control, you gain access to a suite of psychic abilities such as Melee which is akin to the Force Push you would find in a Star Wars game. It’s a weak push attack that can give you breathing room when swarmed by enemies. The Launch ability allows you to use telekinesis to lift and throw items. If you upgrade it enough, you can even throw larger enemies. Evade is a dash move that is similar to the Time Dodge in Quantum Break. As the name suggests, Evade allows you to quickly dodge to avoid enemy attacks. Seize allows you to take control of enemies for a short period letting them do the dirty work for you. Lastly is Levitate which lets you attack enemies at different heights and find hidden areas. Speaking of Hidden Areas, the game is full of them and each ability allows you to backtrack well-treaded territory much like a Metroid style game.
Besides your abilities, you also have a supernatural firearm called the Service Weapon which is an upgradeable, living gun that takes on different shapes as it gains new abilities. Grip is your basic jack-of-all-trades type weapon. It does decent damage and it will be your go-to for a lot of encounters. Shatter is a close-range shotgun type weapon that does great damage to tougher enemies and makes quick work of weaker ones. Spin is for the spray & pray fan but is more accurate when fired in bursts. Pierce is a charge based weapon that’s useful for enemies with shields. Finally Charge is a heavy weapon that can hold up to three explosive projectiles. No ammo needed here since the weapon recharges when it is not in use.
Gunplay is focused on movement rather than holding your ground. It eschews the Stop & Pop third-person shooter style made popular by Gears of War and the Uncharted franchise. The weapons all have Mods that randomly drop from enemies or can be found in hidden areas. This allows a high level of customizability to tweak things. For example, you may wish to inflict as much damage as possible or play it risky and gain a damage multiplier when at low health. The Mods also affect things like health, cooldown, and ability damage.
Control’s well… controls are snappy and responsive which helps incentivize more aggressive play compared to other third-person shooters. Movement is key to survival, and alternating between your service weapons/powers make combat sublime.
Graphics and Performance
The Graphics feel like a late gen game. Realistic skin materials, tons of objects with physics, and smooth animation shine in this game. This comes at the price of having a cap at 30 FPS. This leads to some technical issues were the framerate stutters when there is a lot of effects such as explosions and debris on the screen. The current patch fixes most of the issues with performance.
In conclusion, Control hits the right chords with Metroidvania like progression, a cool mix of aesthetics, tight mechanics, but is slightly marred by some technical issues which have been remedied (cough) with recent patches. There’s also a season pass with future single-player DLC. A must buy.