Review: Control features Remedy’s strongest gameplay but weakest story
Remedy returns for the first time in three years with a new game called Control. Imagine if David Lynch made a modestly funded video game with plenty of action but kept his weird signature storytelling, that’s Control.
You play as Jesse Faden, a girl looking for her long lost brother who she believes was taken by the “Bureau of Control”. Her search leads her to the Bureau’s mysterious HQ in New York which seems like an ordinary government building on the surface but holds many, many strange and disturbing conundrums.
As you travel through the headquarters, you uncover secrets and gain unique but dangerous powers. This is ultimately where Control shines, in exploring its incredibly layered world of mind-warping sci-fi.
While the world Remedy has built will suck you right in and keep you fascinated, the story itself is Remedy’s weakest. Jesse is an incredibly dull and static character, unable to emote in a way that is compelling or interesting. She always feels like she’s hitting one note and is never able to be dynamic. Because the playable protagonist is so unendearing, the story doesn’t resonate.
This is a story about Jesse and the emotional baggage she carries. If you can’t connect with the character on any level, the story itself will not resonate. There’s not really a traditional antagonist to fight against or tests the protagonist, there’s simply nothing about Control’s core story that makes it feel like it’s worth progressing through.
The one aspect that kept me hooked was that glorious world-building. You learn about all these incredibly weird people who make up the Bureau, all of the bizarre experiments and studies they’ve been doing, the way they operate under the noses of everyone, and so much more. The extensive amount of audio, video, and text collectibles help craft a world that feels truly authentic and real.
It doesn’t feel like it just popped into existence when Jesse arrived, it feels like it has an incredibly large presence that stretches beyond the character we play as. There are other stories contained within this world, some of which you do get to see both in the main story and in side missions.
Even beyond just its narrative ambitions outside of the main story, Control creates something really fresh. The world shifts around you, literally, with walls and floors moving inward and outward. It’s like the Bureau HQ is a living and breathing entity and you’re inside, watching its innards react to the events happening around them.
There’s a reoccurring location in the game that allows you to technically leave the HQ. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon a light switch, if you tug it three times, you’ll teleport to an empty motel. It doesn’t feel abandoned so much as just everyone stepped out for a few hours and will be back at any moment.
This motel always contains little puzzles and adds new questions to what’s really going on. Is this motel an actual place in the real world and you’re truly teleporting across the country? Is this another dimension? It poses some very interesting questions and while I don’t have the answers, the game may hold them within its collectibles.
Whether you’re in the motel or in the Bureau HQ, you’ll frequently be solving puzzles. Sometimes these will really stump you but in a good way. They don’t hold your hand and really make you think and analyze the situation at hand. It makes the ultimate solution feel gratifying and rewards you with a euphoric feeling of intelligence.
When not using your brain to progress, you’ll be using your strength and might to mow down an enemy known as the “Hiss”. The Hiss consist of monsters and humans possessed by a supernatural entity that are quickly consuming the HQ and pose a massive threat to the outside world if they got out.
The way combat is handled in the game is familiar but also has small elements that make it feel unique. All the guns you get are crafted and aren’t just standard real-world weapons. While they pose traits of your run of the mill pistols, shotguns, and so on, they’re specific to the world of Control and behave as such.
All of the weapons have unlimited ammo but run on a form of energy that recharges on its own. You won’t be reloading or scrounging for ammo but you will frequently find yourself needing to wait on your gun to recharge its ammo. It doesn’t take too long in the grand scheme of things but in a situation where you’re surrounded by enemies, those few vulnerable seconds could mean life or death.
As you progress, you’ll gain powers such as telekinesis and much more. This is where the combat shines and brings the gameplay together. You can go from sprinting and blind firing your service weapon to throwing an explosive propane tank with your mind to blow a group of enemies sky-high. You can be levitating off the ground, flying around and dodging bullets, hurling forklifts and other objects will popping headshots.
The gunplay/power combo is seamless and makes you yearn for more opportunities to truly display your dominance. The frequent action is by far the highlight of the game and offers Remedy’s best gameplay experience since the Max Payne titles.
One of my biggest personal issues with Quantum Break was how stiff gunplay felt. You couldn’t do the Max Payne-esque gunplay of running and gunning without having to ADS, it felt like a step back for the team who made one of the most defining third-person shooters. Remedy has gone back to their roots and combined the best elements of all of their games to make a truly sublime and refined game.
While mechanically sound, Control does frequently suffer from performance hitches. Remedy goes above and beyond with the detail and technical enhancements but it sometimes bogs the game down. There’s a lot of destructibility in the game and while it’s no Red Faction, it’s still more than a lot of games have to offer.
When there’s a lot of enemies, bullets, explosions, and things flying around on the screen, the game takes a hit in the FPS and it begins to chug quite a bit. Control also has an issue with this after coming out of the pause screen and while it’s usually brief, it happens without fail every time you unpause the game.
There’s also a map within the game but the Bureau HQ is so layered that there are multiple floors. The map is super confusing to read because it doesn’t do a good job of displaying the difference between floors, it’s as if everything is stacked on top of each other. To make it even worse, sometimes the map layout doesn’t even load so you’re just looking at your player arrow on a blank screen.
A day-one patch will be available so hopefully, this will help iron out some, if not all, of these issues.
While Control doesn’t exactly stick the landing on its ambitious mind-bending sci-fi story, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Remedy creates one of the most well-developed worlds ever crafted for a video game and takes the opportunity to learn from their past and craft their most well-rounded gameplay experience to date.
While this isn’t Remedy’s best overall game, the strongest elements of the game are the strongest elements of any game they’ve made to date.
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Review: Control features Remedy’s strongest gameplay but weakest story