Remedy have made some fantastic games over the years, from the groundbreaking slo-mo gunplay of Max Payne, to the superbly atmospheric Alan Wake. Control undoubtedly offers the studio’s most enjoyable gameplay they’ve built since the glory days of Max Payne, but lacks that cult-hit identity of Alan Wake.

You play as Jesse Faden (performed by Courtney Hope), the new director of a secret U.S government agency – the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC). The game takes place in the ever-shifting corridors of the FBC’s headquarters, the Oldest House. Unfortunately a supernatural enemy has invaded the agency, corrupting not just people but the very reality surrounding you. It’s your job as the player to try and take back Control.

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Within the first hour or so Control just feels like any other normal third-person shooter. As someone who came into Control fairly blind, but also wasn’t a big fan of Remedy’s last outing in Quantum Break, it’s safe to say I was pretty sceptical of the game at first. However, the moment you gain your first supernatural ability Control is elevated to an entirely new level.

Jesse gains a form of telekinesis fairly early on, wielding the power to pick up and throw objects at will. And when I say objects, I’m referring to literally every single object in the game’s world. From tables to chairs, gas canisters to bodies and even enemy projectiles. Grabbing an incoming rocket or grenade in mid-air before firing it back to an unsuspecting enemy never gets old.

Control provides some of the most impressive physics I’ve seen in a video game since Half Life 2. Almost everything can be grabbed and thrown, and if there’s no objects available, Jesse instead yanks a physical chunk out of a nearby wall. Explosions send particles and environmental items flying. Combat in this game is a real sight to behold, it’s not just satisfying to play but genuinely impressive stuff.

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Whilst the telekinesis launch ability is probably the most impactful of them all, the further the game goes, the more abilities it dishes out. There’s duds like the shield, allowing you to block some enemy shots. However, others like a short dash, and especially the ability to hover, are real game changers. By the end of the game you’ll feel like a complete badass, floating and zipping from left to right throwing projectiles at enemies whilst popping off headshots. Combat is Control’s real strong point.

Unfortunately you’re stuck with the Service Weapon, aka shape-shifting pistol, throughout the game’s duration. This unworldly pistol can only be wielded by the Director – hey, that’s you! Over the duration of the game you’ll be able to craft alternative fire modes for the weapon, such as a charged armour-piercing Pierce shot, SMG style Spin mode, shotgun’esque Shatter form and more. There’s only five modes throughout the entire game, and you’ll have to pick from two of those to swap between in mid-combat.

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I spent the majority of the game rolling with the standard pistol ‘Grip’ form, alongside the super powerful ‘Pierce’ type. Any attempts to swap these out just felt less well rounded to me. It’s a shame that a wider and more exciting variety of weapons couldn’t be wielded. Granted with your abilities the environment is pretty much a weapon in itself. Still however, I felt like the weapon selection is one of the game’s weaker points.

You can find and craft various mods for your weapons and personal abilities, which can be placed in limited slots. These mods generally offer percentile boosts to specific weapon types and abilities, e.g 30% more health, 42% headshot damage etc. They’re not all that exciting, but do end up making a tangible difference particularly when stacked. The upgrade side of things seemed a little too safe and uninteresting, particularly considering some of the other strong areas of the game.

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Control is a weird game, and it revels in it. Remedy fans fear not, the studio’s love for eccentric in-game live action video is still here. TV’s and projectors throughout the world showcase vlog style entries from an all-important scientist alongside a particularly odd Punch & Judy style show. You’ll also be constantly asking yourself questions about the game’s world.

Whether it’s inanimate objects with extreme magical powers which affect the reality around you, also known as Objects of Power. Or the shape shifting environments of the game’s open-world style play-space – the Oldest House. Control’s story is an interesting one, with multiple twists and turns. It kept me interested from beginning to end.

Whilst I won’t get into specifics about the game’s story, as to try avoid spoilers, I will say that the conclusion felt like a huge disappointment to me. Remedy seemed to focus more on leaving things open for a potential sequel than providing a satisfying pay-off for the myriad of questions I had leading up to the finale. There’s also a couple of threads which in my opinion completely miss their potential, falling flat instead. I wish I could discuss my vast array of puzzling theories and thoughts here, but the overall narrative is still an interesting one which I think is worth experiencing. Despite the lack of closure, it is certainly one of the game’s strong points.

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Another area of the game which felt like a missed opportunity is the game’s monotonous environments. It’s here where I felt Control really dropped the ball in reaching the heights of some Remedy’s previous work. The Oldest House is the headquarters of the FBC – a series of winding corridors and shifting areas. The game takes an open world metroid-vania style approach with plenty of hidden an temporarily inaccessible areas.

As you progress through the story your new abilities and increasing level of access will allow you to visit previously unreachable areas of the game world. Whilst this isn’t a vast sprawling open world, the areas here feature plenty of hidden corners and world building collectables. There’s a bunch of side missions to partake in alongside the main story too.

It’s a solid approach, but the game’s environments just felt a little too samey to me. Whilst Remedy do their best to try spice up the world’s various sectors and areas, with some being far more interesting than others, it’s tough to escape that at its core the game takes place in what’s effectively an office space. Control is at times a ‘Corridor Shooter’ in the most literal of ways.

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I encountered a few notable bugs during my time with the game, playing with the day one patch installed. Although some such as T-Posing NPCs aired on the amusing side, others were far more frustrating. The game’s already pretty poor map (it generally does a bad job at illustrating how to reach areas) often took 5+ seconds to load in. Multiple times, I received time-limited side missions for areas which not only did I not know existed yet, but which weren’t even accessible at that time. Also, the nauseatingly heavy motion blur was instantly noticeable upon firing the game up for the first time – something which players aren’t able to disable on consoles, alongside a fairly hefty implementation of film grain.

That said the game’s visuals generally were very strong. I played Control on an Xbox One X and felt impressed with just how superb the overall visual effects and physics were. Combat is intense thanks to a profound array of objects popping off left right and centre. Fights in Control are a sight to behold, and only get better as the game goes on. Not only that but the facial animations are absolutely stellar too, often conveying subtle emotions in a surprisingly uncanny way.

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The game’s framerate was generally decent, holding up well during heavy sequences. That said, I did notice some slight hitching here and there, with larger combat moments causing some visible dips in performance, particularly later in the game. It’s also worth pointing out I regularly experienced a few seconds of heavy stuttering whenever returning to the game from the pause menus.

Control is a great game overall. Whilst some elements are absolutely superb such as the heavy level of intrigue throughout and brilliantly fun combat loop, others such as the game’s conclusion, weapon and upgrade variety, and most notably the environments, ended up feeling a little disappointing for me.

It’s undeniably the most fun I’ve had with a Remedy game since the Max Payne series. Throughout my 12 or so hours with the game, I had a blast. Control is a significant step-up from Quantum Break. A game that’s well worth picking up before the busy holiday season begins.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Score
VIAGame provided by publisher for review
Charles is the editor of Gaming LYF. Self proclaimed industry news addict, currently researching ways to feed Twitter, Reddit and other news sources straight into his veins.