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‘Control’ Is a Psychic Phenomenon

Control from developer Remedy is without a doubt astounding. Very few developers are willing to challenge the medium like Remedy does. Their latest project Control is no different. The game will surprise you with mind bending set-pieces, architecture, and best of all, a story that keeps turning up the dial. Without a doubt, Remedy’s Control is a fantastic, just slightly imperfect achievement.

Blasting people with a psychic wave or throwing debris at them never got old

In Control, you play as Jesse Faden, a young woman who has been on the road since her childhood. She has been traveling and searching for her brother Dylan since a traumatic incident occurred in their hometown of Ordinary, Wisconsin. Assisted by a psychic entity bound to her that she calls Polaris, Jesse finds herself inside the Oldest House. This is a facility hidden in plain sight in New York City, a building constantly in flux. This facility is ran by the Federal Bureau of Control, an agency charged with dealings of supernatural activity. Jesse finds herself thrust into the role of Director of the FBC, forced to figure out exactly how to solve a sudden lock down. She also finds herself put into the role of “assistant” the to enigmatic janitor of the facility, Ahti. 

Remedy rarely pull their punches when it comes to storytelling, since many remember the complex plot of Alan Wake. Remedy has one-upped themselves here, giving the title of their game a somewhat double meaning. Whereas previous games from Remedy have been creative but largely linear, they have discovered a way to keep that creativity while pushing the boundaries of Control. Here they let the player have control of how they tackle their experience, in turn creating a more exciting experience. Helping tackle your fights are the weapon only the Director can wield, the service weapon. It is a mysterious object that may only be wielded by the Director. This weapon gives Jesse the ability to communicate with the mysterious board. The service weapon also changes to many forms, allowing for varied weapon types contained in a single weapon. Jesse can also wield various psychic abilities such as a dash and quite possibly the best throw power in gaming. Their are others, but to spoil them would be a crime.

There is so much detail packed into this game, and the graphics only bring it to another level. The closest comparison I can make for the imagery is something like Stanley Kubrick’s the Shining.

Exploration is a key factor, and clearly Remedy wanted to put a large focus on this. It works out here in spades, as the level design is both familiar yet varied, but just looking at everything on every shelf or table brings so much character to the environment. There are also plenty of rewards for exploration, whether it be unlocking new abilities, outfits, mods for your weapon. You are rewarded, whether that be literally or visually.

Use of color in Control is one of it’s best elements

There is so much detail packed into this game, and the graphics only bring it to another level. The closest comparison I can make for the imagery is something like Stanley Kubrick’s the Shining. So many rooms seem to be perfectly calibrated and symmetrical (except when they’re not) to give off this mysterious supernatural office vibe. The amount of focus put into the visuals of the game are some that won’t leave my mind any time soon. Control is without a doubt one of the best looking games releasing this year. 

I won’t get dirty on the details here, but while the buildup to the ending is some of the most exciting and visually rewarding stuff I’ve had the pleasure of playing, the ending itself just seems to sort of happen and reserve itself for DLC followups

Jesse has a difficult time processing all the information thrown at her, and wrestling for control of the facility from the antagonistic Hiss is a struggle while searching for her brother. And this is a bit of where I am at a crossroads with Control. I like Jesse’s character well enough, but she feels somewhat under baked compared to previous Remedy characters. We learn about plenty of events from her childhood, traumatic and otherwise, but we never really get a chance to know her beyond that. It doesn’t stop Control from telling a compelling story, far from it, I just wish there was a little bit more to the protagonist. The same cannot be said for most of the supporting characters, as nearly every one of them gives a fantastic performance in wildly different ways. Even lesser characters players will meet like Emily and Langston (I loved every interaction with Langston) feel less like a chore and more like a treat. I always looked forward to seeing more from these characters. 

Jesse is not the only shortcoming I have with Control. I feel like Remedy could have done a slightly better job with the map. While it is in no way terrible, having areas with multiple floors and trying to navigate them with the map being a flat plain was a struggle. If you look at games from previous years like Doom (2016) or even from early 2019 in the remake of Resident Evil 2, a 3D map can go a long way. Especially for a game that really encourages you to explore. Another problem I have is the ending. I won’t get dirty on the details here, but while the buildup to the ending is some of the most exciting and visually rewarding stuff I’ve had the pleasure of playing, the ending itself just seems to sort of happen and reserve itself for DLC followups. I think if the ending would have held up with the rest of the game, I could have forgiven the other faults and probably awarded Control a perfect score, but I feel that wouldn’t be fair to readers.

Plenty of areas in the game have such unique designs

That being said, I still think Control is an amazing experience that without a doubt any fan of action-adventure games should get their hands on. The combat encounters are frantic, frenetic, and fun. The storytelling and visuals are bonkers along with every strange, sometimes hilarious, concept thrown into the countless notes and documents you can find in the game. And most of all, I believe Control is an incredibly unique experience that only Remedy could have made, and while I might not have been satisfied with the ending, I would rather Remedy be experimental not only with their gameplay but their storytelling than not. Without a doubt everyone involved should be proud of the work they put into the game, because without a doubt I can’t wait to get back to playing it.

Trevor Poole is a sophomore in college living in Shreveport, Louisiana. He has had a passion for films, gaming, books, and especially storytelling since as long as he can remember. The first games he ever owned were Pokémon Red and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Some of his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Ocarina of Time, and Breath of the Wild, Silent Hill 1-3, Metal Gear Solid 1-5, and Red Dead Redemption 1 and 2. In his free time he can be found shouting at his cat Suki with his girlfriend to "Get down!" and writing short stories while whittling away at a horror novel.

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