Ever stumble upon a particular subject and fall into a sink of information for a few hours because of the unusual and interesting facts you discover along the way? That was Remedy did in presenting Control at me. I was kind of into Remedy’s ambitions with Alan Wake and Quantum Break, but they finally nailed in Control. Not only they crafted an alluring environment to dig every little nugget into with The Oldest House, but also found the perfect combative gameplay features to make it both fun to snoop around and play. While a number of things that Control throws out into play don’t work out and the performance issues on base consoles is a major bummer that cannot be excused, I had a rapturous time with Control.
Some argue Control’s combat as one of its weakest features. I agree the combat gets repetitive, the excitement and challenges they present were still exciting to battle for me throughout my entire playthrough. The game always throws in different enemy types for you to combat, focing the player to utilize the multiple powers at hand to deal with them. You can stay to take cover, throw projectives to initiate the offense, throw grenades back at them, use shield to get a breather, levitate, and melee to get in decent damage and to push back an enemy in a close encounter. The different gun variants also play a role on how to deal with an enemy encounter. It’s also cool that you don’t have to collect any ammo for your gun, just a simple cooldown to reload. Remedy has always tried something unique in combat and I think they do well enough here. It’s not perfect, but it does the job sufficiently (moreso in my opinion) and isn’t a major factor that hampered my experience.
I cannot sufficiently summarize what made Control so mesmerizing during my time with it. You got the setting, where everything is encapsulated within The Oldest House. It’s crazy to believe everything that happens in Control occurs in The Oldest House alone. Then they cram The Oldest House with so much silly correspondence collectables by way of memorandums, Darling’s taped presentations, Trench’s visions with his thoughts, TV shows, etc. that it gives you enough of a picture on how The Oldest House operates and uncovering clout on the mystery with The Hiss and the Haden siblings. There are so many memorable moments of joy found within every new item, reading its contents, then quickly adding that content to decipher what piece of the puzzle I got and where it fits within the picture. Rarely does a game made silly, irrelevant collectables so fun to gather and gives a game another layer on top of rest it does.
Remedy has been known to throw in some style in their games and Control is no exception. Max Payne 1 & 2, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break has shown Remedy show some cool stuff, they pull all the stops in Control. The huge, cool looking font title card whenever you visit a new area, STYLE! The beautiful colors of the various Oldest House areas, STYLE! The gun switching between its two modes by itself, STYLE! The Board’s communication shown only by an upside black triangle shape against a stark white background, STYLE! Trench’s visions of repeating silhouettes with a blue light backdrop, STYLE! Ashtray Maze sequence, STYLE! It’s impressive on how stylish Control is without the use of striking art and crazy means of delivery to execute it.
I also like the game’s pace and progression on unraveling the mystery. It felt natural as I progressed through the game, exploring a new area, encountering a new face, hitting a new obstacle and the game was there to backup and deliver some new breadcrumb trail to keep me at it. A neat example I can come up with is when Jesse goes to the first location for a new crystal to produce more HRA sets, only to find it crushed. When she returns to report the news, one of the lead Control members tells her she can get another one all the way at the Black Quarry. I shared Jesse’s amazement that within The Oldest House is a large quarry that’s been heavily excavated. Jesse’s internal monologues throughout was a nice narration touch to give the protagonist some color and adds to the wonder of The Oldest House and the trail to find her brother and ultimately The Hiss.
I don’t have many qualms against Control about its content and gameplay. I agree that its checkpoint system stinks and is one of the few major missteps. It sucks whenever you died that you respawn at the last control point and have to repeat the same trek to get back to the place you died at. Most times you’ll have to deal with a group of enemies making that repeat trip, which makes the trip more annoying and tedious than it should be. The in-game map isn’t great in delinating where the connections between sub areas within a major area are. Control’s performance issue on base consoles is the real strike against it and a shame it runs suboptimally there. I played Control on a base PS4 console with the 1.04 patch and while the reports of constant frame rate issues from launch weren’t as frequent during my play, the moments where the frame rate chugged and the insanely long load times respawning from death and fast travel is unfortunate and a constant inconvenience. The stark performance difference between the base and pro versions of the X-Box One and PS4 consoles show a need of additional time in quality control so that no game should have that much discrepancy in performance quality. It’s not an excuse anymore in these times.
With that note duly noted, I’m still amazed on how much Control packed in and how much of it worked well beyond my expectations. It’s overwhelming, but one that I welcomed because they just clicked with me instantly. It didn’t take a JRPG length to pack it all in too. It plays great, the action is solid, but it’s a sense of world building, story telling, and wonder that make Control WORK. It was the game I had the most fun investing my limited time into and easily cements as my top game out of the games I played within 2019.