Are you looking for your next game, but don’t want to sit through a 17 minute video review? If so, this review is for you! This review will focus less on the technical aspects and more on the playability and accessibility for people who don’t play every game that’s released.
Control is the new game from Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Max Payne. Now, I haven’t played any of those games, but I’m told they’re good. And weird. Based on those criteria, this is definitely a Remedy game. However, being what some in games media may call a AA game (as opposed to a AAA game like Zelda or Call of Duty), it may fall under the radar of the casual gamer or someone who doesn’t follow certain YouTubers. I played this on the Xbox One X, but it’s also available on PS4 and PC through the Epic Game Store.
Control focuses on Jesse Faden, who as the game begins enters an office building, the home of the Federal Bureau of Control (hey, that’s the title!). When you arrive, the building is eerily empty. Jesse wanders through the hall, meeting Ahti the Janitor (who is a very interesting character), and arriving at the director’s office. It is here that the game really picks up, discovering the Service Weapon, a handgun that can change its form as you progress in the game. You also gain telepathic and telekinetic abilities as you progress, and along with the Service Weapon, your task is to cleanse the building of the Hiss, a mysterious force that has infected the building itself, along with its employees. Through the story you discover more about Jesse’s background, why she’s at the building, and more about the Bureau and its mysterious purpose.
I’m going to get this out of the way here: this game is definitely worth playing. It is a lot of fun, almost in spite of the story, which is intentionally obscure. When the Service Weapon is working seamlessly with your powers the combat just flows beautifully. The powers and weapon forms all have their uses and are easy to use, with each power occupying a different button. The Service Weapon allows for two forms at a time, with a single button to switch between them. It may have been a better choice to use a weapon wheel to make switching between all the forms (there are five) a little easier, but there’s no penalty for pausing and switching them mid combat. It’s also visually beautiful, with bright colors frequently popping against the often dull-gray background.
The game is a third-person shooter, or, as described by the YouTube channel Girlfriend Reviews (which everyone should check out. Seriously, it’s fantastic) a “look-at-the-booty shooty” (which is what I’ll be calling every game like this from here on out). The cover system is probably the weakest part of the combat; if you’re used to a game like Uncharted or Gears of War, there isn’t that snap-into-cover mechanic, with only a single crouch button. This is coupled with cover that frequently breaks when hit by incoming projectiles so you have to rely on moving more than ducking. It doesn’t break the game but it is something to adjust to. You also can’t crouch and aim the weapon/use an ability; once you move to attack Jesse stands up. Just something to be aware of. The game fits into the “metroid-vania” category, meaning the map slowly opens up more and more as you level up and learn more abilities, and you can go back to new areas that were inaccessible earlier.
The difficulty isn’t anything that gets in the way of enjoyment. The standard enemy grunts aren’t difficult to take down, and even the bigger ones aren’t too bad once you know their weaknesses. I will say the difficulty does ramp up for some of the bosses, especially when considering the grunts you fought on the way to the boss aren’t really any different from the standard ones. Luckily there are only a couple of those boss fights, not even one per chapter. There are also a number of side quests, of which I did only a couple while focusing mainly on the main story. There is a pretty barebones skill tree and weapon/body upgrade systems that allow for slight customization depending on your style of play, but nothing that would make the game feel drastically different between players.
My biggest complaint with this game is something that usually won’t be a factor in this style of review: the frame rate.* When loading in, unpausing, or even just when there’s a lot going on on screen, the frame rate drops precipitously, to the point where the only thing to do is just wait for it to catch up. It doesn’t break the game, just makes it a little annoying. The other annoying thing is the saving system. This game doesn’t have a manual save feature, instead opting for “control points” where you can save. This makes it so if you make it all the way through a long combat system, and then get killed in the last section before the next save point, you have to go all the way back and do it again (sometimes it doesn’t spawn the same number of enemies the second time which is nice). It’s a similar complaint to what I’ve heard about Dark Souls games (I haven’t played them yet; I know, I know, but I am not good at games so I’m scared). Again, doesn’t break it, just annoying.
Despite all this, I would definitely recommend playing Control. It’s a fun, psychological thriller that doesn’t get too bloated with an open world and a million things to do. I finished it in about 15 hours (I’m estimating, since Xbox doesn’t keep play time for this), so it’ll keep you occupied long enough to be worth it, but not so long that you get tired of it. There is also paid DLC that is planned for release, so if you enjoy the game, there is more coming.
*For those of you who may not know some of the technical jargon, frame rate is the frequency at which frames are displayed in a game. Higher frame rate makes the action, or even moving the camera around, look smoother, lower makes it look choppy.