On occasion, a video game comes along and turns logic on its head. Control does exactly that through the supernatural and incomprehensible themes littered throughout Remedy’s latest action game. It is a journey best experienced at a slow pace, leaving no stone unturned as the multitude of collectibles are discovered. Patience is key as you stumble your way through narrow corridors with the hope that you’re on the right track; and if you are, this game will inevitably derail you.
You are Jesse Faden, a woman on a mission to find her missing brother Dylan, leading her to the Federal Bureau of Control’s doorstep. The entire game takes place within the walls of the FBC, but these walls are not always static. As you progress through the game, some walls will take shape to open passages for further exploration. This happens by cleansing control points. The FBC has been overrun by the Hiss, interdimensional beings with no sense of physical boundaries. They invade the minds of Bureau agents, turning them into scary, alien-zombies all while distorting the building itself. By cleansing certain Hiss-infested areas, order is restored to the world around you. Gaining this power to fight the Hiss through her promotion as Director of the Bureau, Jesse wields an otherworldly weapon that is crucial toward her survival against all manner of enemies she may face. While the main story unfolds in a manner that is sure to confuse even the most out-of-the-box thinkers, the true narrative is revealed through hidden files that remain scattered throughout the building. It is in reading these files that clarity is shed on the issue at hand, so skipping these details is not recommended.
Control rewards exploration, sharing elements with what some may call a Metroidvania. Meaning you will be traversing some areas multiple times with new abilities to help you progress in a different direction. While it may prove to be tedious to some, the controls and movement make traversing these landscapes a pleasure. I am always elated whenever a game is so responsive as to completely immerse me. And Control truly controls like a charm. There is fluidity to the movement, and it feels so responsive that it emulates a one to one response from the button input to the on-screen character’s reaction. Add the character’s supernatural abilities to the fray and you have yourself one bad ass, immersive experience. The game truly makes the player feel like a superhero. The glaring issue that I combated during my playthrough of this game was the consistent drops in framerate whenever a menu was closed. And here is where I say there is no game without its flaws. The immersion created by a precise control scheme was counteracted by these framerate drops, reminding me that I was in fact playing a video game, and not actually throwing concrete with my mind. With some minor graphical issues compounding this, it was hard not to notice these flaws.
Don’t get me wrong, this game is pretty. It’s impressive how the facial expressions and all-around graphical mastery of emotive responses elevate this game. It is for this reason it actually seems to be a pleasure to interact with the Bureau’s occupants. That is, if they are in focus. And that is my biggest complaint about Control’s visuals. It was too often that I ran ahead of the game’s ability to speedily render the world around me, making things out of focus, and in fact leaving some characters looking like someone trying to create a snow angel in midair. This occurred multiple times in the same area, and I found myself purposely triggering it because it was just that ridiculous. This game takes itself very seriously, so when there’s something as laughable as this, it really changes the mood and atmosphere the developers have tried to create.
Speaking of atmosphere, the FBC is an incredibly ominous and creepy place. From the floating bodies, to the creepy orientation videos, to the musical ambiance, I was deeply unsettled. And the music plays well into this unsettling feeling. Not only was I terrified when I first heard the ambient tunes around me, but the use of silence is just as terrifying. I’m in a cafeteria, there’s no noise but my footsteps. Suddenly I come across a radio and I turn it on. The music spewing from the radio’s speakers catches me off guard and I immediately want it to stop, in fear that the Hiss may hear it too and come to devour me. These moments truly make Control shine and there are enough of them throughout the progression of the main missions to satisfy. Most creepy of all however, definitely goes to the mumbles and “hissing” in the distance as incantations are being recited with no real discernable sense to them. It is within this lack of comprehension of what is being uttered that is profoundly disturbing. That unsettling feeling is what separates Control from other games, and it persists long after the final mission is completed. It is rare to witness such an incredible use of sound in a video game, and for that, my hat’s off.
While not giving me much of an urge to replay this game from the beginning, the experience I had with Control was very enjoyable. The game is not without its flaws, but they can mostly be looked passed when judging the game as a whole. From the sound and convoluted story, to the incredible voice acting, this game should not be passed up.
Replay Value: 3/5
Total: 21/25 or 84/100