Control is the latest game from the makers of Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break. It is a twisted, haunted odyssey through an old post-war office building that is besieged by parasites from another dimension. Control has all the standard elements of a normal third-person shooter, but its extensive structure of the world and its all-consuming scary make it much more.
You play as Jesse, a millennial loner with latent paranormal powers who tries to find her brother Dylan. This search brings her to the Federal Bureau of Control, a secret government department that she believes has kidnapped her brother to protect the country from otherworldly phenomena. But the FBC, housed in a New York building called The Oldest House, is attacked by the Hiss, a malicious, beehive-like entity from another dimension that infects the minds of its hosts in order to subject them to their will.
The building is closed due to the attack that killed FBC director Zachariah Trench. His service weapon, a weapon that regenerates ammunition, binds to Jesse, makes her the next director, and leaves it up to the player to collect the rest of the office and unlock it. On the way you will receive powers such as levitation and telekinesis with which you can explore new areas and fight in different ways.
Video games are full of repetitive actions. Sometimes they feel natural and effortless, like holding the Run button in Super Mario Bros. – you only notice something like that when you try to stop. Other actions can be tedious, e.g. B. Pressing the Grabon button in Dishonored while rummaging around in a stranger's stuff, not because you enjoy it, but for fear that if you don't, you might miss something.
In Control you can pick up and throw objects with your mind. On PS4, you need to look at the object you want to move and hold down the right shoulder button. During my time with the game, I did this hundreds of times: sometimes to clear a way forward, sometimes to kill enemies, and often because of the joy of tearing up a piece of the world and seeing it floating next to me I'm waiting patiently on my next order. It never became monotonous or passed out. First, the objects accelerate towards you and bump into anything in their way, before they slow down as they approach, until they hang idly in the air, and then get faster again at takeoff. This smallest simulated resistance is visually and tactile.
I've thrown copy machines, trash cans, toilets, fire extinguishers, lamps, crash barriers, oil barrels, storage shelves, office chairs, tables, potted plants, fans, and dozens of other debris. In addition to being able to grab almost any object, almost everything in the oldest house can be destroyed. At the push of a button, pieces of wood, stone crumbs and piles of paper explode. The world will eventually reset once you've migrated long enough. This is part of the old power of the oldest house. But the lush sounds and visual details of the destruction never grow old, whether they're hurling a filing cabinet at an enemy or just to see what traces it leaves on the wall. The world feels alive.
There are also practical ramifications in combat. You can crouch behind cover, but I have often destroyed that cover in my search for raw material that I can use to beat up the hiss. Like her regenerative service weapon, Jesse's powers continue to recharge fairly quickly, which encourages you to switch between bullets and telekinetic attacks while scurrying between cover. The Hiss usually attack in waves of five or more. Most are grunts with simple firearms. while others have supernatural powers similar to Jesse's. A few rocket launchers and grenades that can be thrown back by upgrading Jesse's abilities. It is incredibly rewarding, though sometimes difficult to measure. While the individual Hiss have no strong identities, their abilities complement each other to such an extent that they pose a real threat and force you to stay creative as you destroy them.
At some point at the end of the game I hovered in the air, dodging pieces of metal and rifles as I unloaded the enemies below me. I summoned a fire extinguisher and hurled it onto the forklift behind which one of the Hiss was hiding just to blow it up and trigger a chain reaction with a nearby oil barrel. The particle effects were beautiful, but immediately dropped the game's frame rate. In those or other moments when action was taking place in some of the game's larger zones, the game chugged. The controls never crashed, even though it looked like it really wanted to, but it's clear that the game works at the limits of my PS4 functions. These technical obstacles never stopped me from enjoying the game or accidentally let me die during a fight, but they asked me how much more enjoyable the game's larger gunfights could be on hardware that they could actually handle.
The main story of the game is progressing steadily. It is told through short cutscenes and conversations with other characters that are seamlessly interspersed with live action footage. This technique was developed by Remedy Entertainment in the Quantum Break 2016, but is used more sparingly in Control to maximize the worrying effect. The jargon-bound story, which looks promising, never seems to fully meet its threat from threatening revelations and ends up more like a drama at work than a mind-blowing psychological horror show. Despite a tragic past, the emotional trauma of losing her brother and feeling trapped in a building dominated by a dozen competing logic and spoken to by demon-possessed bureaucrats at every turn, Jesse resists the strange events they get completely overwhelmed around. She rolls along, her anxiety is alleviated by the occasional cheesy humor and ongoing internal monologue, and the fact that she has a magical magnum and occult superpowers.
While Jesse helps keep control, The Oldest House is the real star. It is a sprawling maze of modern mid-century office furnishings and long hallways made of polished granite. They start at the management level, a row of open office areas, row by row filled with empty desks. When you travel through the house, it expands and deepens. They descend into the maintenance facilities, an underground network of pipes, control rooms and machines from the atomic age. Although you have the top level blueprints available for the entire building, each subsequent level becomes more difficult to navigate and increasingly filled with enemies.
The oldest house is connected by a series of control points, small ritual points on the floor that resemble pentagrams. When Jesse encounters someone, she can free him from the corrupting influence of hissing and use it to heal, improve skills and equipment, and quickly get to a previously unlocked checkpoint. Outside of this network, there are some areas that are only accessible on foot via elevators and rear corridors, and still others that are not shown on the map at all and are connected via hanging light switches throughout the building to which Jesse is transported to a distant hotel and then back to a new area. On paper, you'll go through control like any Metroidvania-style game, where you can retrace and rediscover new parts of old areas by acquiring new skills and reaching new story beats. But the points that don't connect The Oldest House linearly with other levels of existence and back can feel like something more than just a very stylish, over-competent iteration of the formula.
At one point during the game, Jesse notes that while she should be afraid of the oldest house, she actually finds the eerie feeling of the mystery inviting. The secret passages, spaces that transform like a kaleidoscope, and invisible cracks to other levels of existence are affirmative, manifestations that recognize the craziness that the other FBC pencil sliders would rather measure and codify. As you unlock more powers, The Oldest House becomes open to your browsing and nudging, and its little details – an office covered with sticky notes from top to bottom, manic writing on a board – are as interesting as anything else in the game and it is worth combing through his world.
Modifications for Jesse and her weapons are also hidden throughout the building or fall off enemies. This equipment offers status bonuses for Jesse's health, the charge time for her powers, or the accuracy or damage of her weapons. You can also create your own mods from crafting materials with names such as Entropic Echo and Ritual Impulse that were obtained during the exploration and combat. But they're all random, so you never know exactly what you're going to get. Additional resources can be used to improve the level of mods you can create. Contrary to how tense the rest of the game feels, the mod system that boosts things like health, recharge speed, and shot accuracy is mostly superfluous until you face some of the game's more difficult side missions, which are difficult to add Increasing weapon damage by five percent could actually make a difference. Compared to everything else in The Oldest House, the mods and chests they hold feel like fillers.
The lore pieces are more seductive, which are generously distributed in the oldest house. Classified information, research clippings, recorded interviews and other fragments of information explain the history of the building, the competing interests of its leading figures and the idea of who the hiss is and what they want. Some of the game's best fonts, which correspond to Remedy's track record, are hidden in this secondary literature, making browsing in any suspicious room a rewarding treasure hunt. These collectibles tell the story of a bureaucracy that has been distorted by its obsessions and that conveys the game so beautifully through the ever-distorted brutalist architecture of the house.
In the depths of the oldest house hide beings that you cannot destroy, so-called thresholds. They are shattering and deadly, but on the surface a threshold is just a cloud of stones that vibrate in intense patterns as if they were screaming because they were separated from the rest of the rock during construction of the building. I wanted to explore every dark corner and seemingly banal boardroom at The Oldest House, hoping to discover the secret behind the vibrant rock creature, or at least come across other equally strange anomalies.
Throughout the inspection, I had a sneaking suspicion that these strange rock creatures were more victims than monsters plagued by the FBC's excesses and abuses, as Jesse believes it was her brother. Dr. Darling, the office's top scientist, is portrayed in a series of video reports about the building as a brilliant man who is too blind to how good he is at work to stop and wonder if it was the right one. As the game continues, Jesse falls under a similar spell. It turns out that she is very good at killing the hiss and helping the rest of the staff do their job. Whether or not it is ultimately good to maintain this helpless careerism is a question that the game commendably does not answer.
Control uses Jesse's journey from the new FBC employee to Employee of the Month to present a workplace that has been torn apart by forces from another world and has caused horror. "A house is a machine for living," wrote brutalist architect Le Corbusier in his book "Towards A New Architecture" in 1923. The life that Control's home enables is mysterious, full of small compartments and hidden layers in which the craziness that some people would rather put under the strict control of reason and protocol can blossom. Even though Jesse is supposed to be an occult policeman who works for men, Remedy has made The Oldest House a machine without a master and what it produces – shady stories, dazzling flights, no lack of abysses that stare back – left to everyone, who is ready to venture inside.