I like playing games which I know very little about so, not knowing what awaited me, I decided to give Control a try once it launched on Steam. The game piqued my interest right away with its sci-fi theme and strong female protagonist – I’m especially weak to badass women, and thus, Control hit all of the initial ‘boxes’ of a potentially interesting game for me. Despite not being good at shooters, I’m always interested in story-rich games, thankfully though, I found out there’s so much more variety to this game than simply shooting.
The game originally launched on PS4, Xbox One and the Epic Games Store just over a year ago, with the Steam release marking the one-year anniversary. As such, this re-release is the ‘Control Ultimate Edition‘, a package which contains both the main game and the season pass – which consists of two expansion DLCs which are both out right now. So, once you’ve completed your adventure through the 25-30-hour main story, you can delve into the new experiences immediately (including once that ties Control and Alan Wake together).
Control is a game filled with action which kept me intrigued and constantly wanting to find out more about the plot. It may get a little confusing and obscure, but there’s something about it which had me hooked to the story and determined to find out what’s going on – let’s find out why…
What’s Going On?
Control opens with the main character, Jesse, entering a building in order to search for her brother. However, Jesse had no idea that this strange, dull-looking building, which is owned by an organisation called the ‘FBC’, is so much more than what initially meets the eye. The whole place is suspiciously quiet and while she is exploring the hallways, she bumps into our first oddity of the game – the janitor. From this point on, strange things start to take place as the whole building seems to change.
When she finally enters the Director’s office she discovers the former director’s lifeless body and a voice in her head tells her to pick up the gun next to him. However, it seems like it’s not an ordinary gun, syncing itself to her DNA – kinda like the gun in Judge Dredd – and instantly proclaiming her as the new director of the organisation. As if everything wasn’t already confusing enough, when she encounters the first bunch of ‘survivors’ within this ghostly-figure infested building, they instantly refer to her as the ‘Director’ without question, despite her only entering for the first time a few moments earlier.
From here things don’t get any clearer either (unless you invest a lot of time in picking up the, literally, hundreds of notes and reading them), keeping the exposition and background light and the main story quite vague as it trickle-feeds you the story. You have one goal in mind – find your brother and get out of there – but it won’t be as simple as that. As the newly appointed Director, it’s now up to you to investigate and put an end to this apparent invasion of otherworldly creatures – this really isn’t your day!
Confusing Through and Through
If I’m being honest, until I was close to the end, I honestly didn’t have a clue what was happening in Control. All I knew was that Jesse was looking for her brother – as for the strange things that start to happen, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. However, I really started to appreciate how secretive and obscure Control was once the end was near, as everything started to make more sense to me. Also, my journey isn’t over yet as I’ve not had time to dive into the DLCs (only the main story), but we’ll be looking at the DLCs in the near future. However, in regards to the main game, I wasn’t fully satisfied with its conclusion, as I felt like there was still something missing, so I’m looking forward to seeing if the expanded content offers answers and insight into questions I have upon completing the game.
One thing I will say is, be prepared for a lot of confusion and WTF moments whilst playing Control. Right at the start of the game, I was thrown into an unknown world and felt helpless. At some point in the game, I accepted that everything was weird and decided I was going to simply follow the objectives of the mission to try and refrain from getting too side-tracked. Luckily, finding your destination is quite simple as there are a lot of signs spread throughout the game (as you would see in real buildings) and the map is simple enough to read and follow. Despite often getting lost in games, I never once had the feeling that the way to new areas was unclear or not reachable.
One thing I had an issue with was that the first time I met an obstacle, regarding the strange events, there was no explanation that I had to shoot red cubes to reach the next area, and thus, I was stuck for a short while. I felt like it could have given a few hints or maybe advised what to do the first time, rather than leaving you to work out everything for yourself as the game can get quite confusing at times.
The files the player can find throughout the game are very informative and contribute to the story more than the actual narrative you receive as you progress. While it is possible to skip them entirely, they greatly help with understanding the plot and the events which happened prior to the entire building becoming overrun by these other-dimension beings. I liked that they’re not only there to satisfy collectors but also very rewarding to find and read through them when you have a spare moment (there’s a lot of them). However, if you’re just looking for an action-packed game and couldn’t care less about the story (or achievements), you’re not forced to seek any of these items out – although I strongly recommend you do.
The Saving System
A minor complaint I have is that there are only automatically saves available within Control. Whilst that feature itself isn’t a huge issue, the problem I had was that the player always spawned at a so-called “Control Point” that works like a checkpoint. That means I had to play until reaching one of these before I could quit my game – Not to mention the hassle I had when I ended up dying and spawned at the latest point, trying to find my way back to the point of death. Luckily, the automatically saving system ensures that the last actions you did are saved – even if you die – but then, why does the player always have to spawn at a control point? I guess it’s just a mechanic to explain why you don’t just ‘die’.
A positive aspect here is that the player can fast travel between any of them once you’ve visited one – making traversing this massive building much easier and quicker.
Shooting, Launching, and Flying
Whilst Control often works like a traditional shooter, it implements a lot of unique features at the same time. The gun technically has unlimited ammo, allowing you to switch between various ‘modes’ on-the-fly. However, in order to not make the game too easy, letting you spam the attack over and over again, there’s a cooldown in place once you’ve run out of ‘bullet’s until it magically regenerates more. Unlocking the new modes is possible at a control point with materials the player can find throughout the game or obtain from defeated enemies. You can also pimp-out your weapons and character with upgrade cards, increasing attack, defence and efficiency of your arsenal.
However, shooting isn’t the only thing the player can do in Control. As I progressed with the story, I began to unlock new abilities, my favourites being the superwoman-like flying ability and the supernatural attacks which can be used on anything that stands in our way. I liked that the abilities were not only there for the purpose of fighting, but were also required to advance with the mission (like a Metroidvania) as some areas were only reachable by flying to them. That being said, despite how much fun it was to defy the laws of gravity, you can only do it for a short period of time and the super-human move is more akin to jumping very high then floating (like Princess Peach in Mario 2), as you can’t increase your altitude whilst slowly returning to Earth.
The special abilities kept the combat refreshing. There are a lot of different types of enemies available with various attacks. Some of those can fly around or obtain a shield that protects them against Jesse’s attacks. In these cases, launching items at them might be quite helpful. Speaking of…
Control has an amazing physics engine in place, you can literally ‘Force grab’ anything that isn’t bolted down and throw it at your foes or just for the fun of it. Everything smashes, explodes, shatters, and moves as you’d expect for an object being projected by an unworldly force. Imagine being in Star Wars as Darth Vader (like in Vader Immortal), using his powers to throw things around when he’s in a mood. Objects aren’t the only thing which you can play with either, you can also pick up enemies and either throw them into one-another or simply slam them into the walls in order to put an end to their angry existence.
I’ve not played a game with this much physical interaction and particle effects in a long time.
Also, as a new feature for all versions of the game, but day-one with the Steam version, Control finally lets you adjust the difficulty if you’re having issues with certain end-game bosses. The game itself has no difficulty ‘setting’, as such, which means it scales accordingly and a lot of people struggled with some of the bonus battles to the point where they literally gave up playing the game because of them. So, Remedy has now added an ‘Immortal’ option, which means you’ can’t die, and the option to one-hit kill the enemies if you want to be even more bad-ass. Personal thoughts – play the game without these for the best experience, but the option is there if you need a bit of help.
Graphics and the Immersion
Graphics-wise, Control is stunning. I loved that the game combines supernatural aspects with reality, merging the line between realistic and the fantastical to deliver an experience in which I wasn’t quite sure what’s going on. However, I found myself strangely addicted and intrigued by the weirdness of the game, I really found it hard to stop playing. I also couldn’t help but pause my current mission in some areas simply so I could admire the environment as it looked so pretty (I imagine it’ll look even better if your GPU supports RTX). Some areas were dark and spooky while others were bright and cheerful, keeping the game engaging and mysterious.
I would also like to compliment the soundtrack as it greatly helped with the immersion – often feeling like “yes, that’s just the right song for this part of the game”.
I had a blast playing through Control, I was a bad-ass woman with amazing supernatural powers. I found the theme utterly appealing and loved that the special abilities of Jesse were both used to progress within the story and defeat the enemies in various ways – which was pretty cool and exciting. Admittedly, the plot does take a while to pick up, however, everything made sense at the end, which is an accomplishment I’d say with how confusing the game started. Despite being almost constantly confused, I was invested in this game and felt determined enough into wanting to know what this game is about and why the strange things were happening.
That being said, I can highly recommend Control Ultimate Edition to any fans of story-rich games fueled with sci-fi.
We previously reviewed the game on the PS4 at launch, which you can find HERE. We also have a review coming shortly for both of the expansions packs (and hopefully a re-review on the PS5 once it launches later this year).
Control Ultimate Edition£34.99
- - Unique abilities that aren't only useful during the combat but are also required to advance to the next area
- - Despite everything being confusing at first, the game splendidly clears everything in the last parts of the game
- - Stunning artwork
- - Special settings for those who only want to experience the story
- - No manual saves available and the player always spawns at set control points
- - The explanation was missing for minor parts of the game, although most of the time the objective was clear