Developer: 505 Games
Publisher: Remedy Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 4
Audience: PEGI 16
Release Date: 27/08/19
Price: £49.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
After releasing ‘Quantum Break’ exclusively on Microsoft platforms, developer Remedy is back with their third-person action-adventure title, Control. In the game, you play as Jesse Faden, whose search for her missing brother has led to a place known as the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC).
The FBC is a secretive government agency dedicated to researching paranormal phenomena. Jesse soon learns that something terrible has happened within the Bureau and a supernatural force known as the ‘Hiss’ has begun to corrupt the inhabitants, making them incredibly dangerous.
Control’s story is one of its strongest features and elaborating on the plot any further would do the game a disservice. Throughout the 15-20 hours I spent with the title, the plot built continuously, and Remedy has undoubtedly succeeded in telling a complex tale, full with mystery and the supernatural. Unfortunately, Control isn’t without fault, and I encountered several problems during my playthrough. I experienced the game on a base PlayStation 4, so performance may differ across alternative platforms.
As is common in a Metroidvania, the FBC is an interconnected setting with several floors to explore. Remedy has done an exceptional job both in map design and world-building. The FBC feels vast and more sections become accessible once you have gained the appropriate item or ability. Fast travel markers called ‘Control Points’ are found across the bureau and act as a hub to upgrade weaponry and abilities.
They also allow you to select additional activities and challenges, for example, eliminating a specific number of enemies with a certain weapon type. Whereas in most games, Fast Travel is added simply as a functional mechanic, Control takes the time to explain how Jesse is capable of moving through the bureau using these points. I appreciated the attempt to tie this feature into the plot, and it showed great attention to detail from the Developer.
Though players have the option to focus solely on the main story, taking the time to investigate the world will reward you with items, new abilities and documents. There is an incredible number of collectables to gather, all containing important information on the FBC and I can’t recommend enough finding and reading as many of these as you can.
As mentioned above, the story is complex and unpredictable, and these collectables help to decipher the world that Remedy has created. Several side missions are also available and include completing objectives for NPCs and gathering specific items. A minor complaint is that some of these side quests required you to explore locations that are unavailable at the time of picking up the mission. Considering the effort taken in other aspects of the gameplay, this felt like an oversight and racing to locations only to find them locked resulted in some frustration and wasted time.
Alongside the setting, another area in which Control excels is its gameplay. Early on, Jesse gains an item known as the ‘Service Weapon’. This is the only gun used in the game, but you can unlock different variations so that it functions as a varied arsenal. In its initial stage, the gunplay is mediocre. Standard pistol mode is nothing to write home about but upgrading the gun to a shotgun or long-ranged charge elevates the action immensely.
The flexibility of this item is spectacular and gives the player a great variety in how they want to engage in combat. The Service Weapon reloads automatically and, admittedly, this took some time to get used to. Mods can also be attached to the weapon, improving its stats for a particular form.
Exploring the world allows you to unlock a series of supernatural abilities, which Jesse can use in her fight against the Hiss. ‘Launch’ enables Jesse to pick up objects and hurl them at enemies, while ‘Seize’ is used to take control of combatants and recruit them to fight alongside her. Unlocking these abilities is not mandatory for overall completion, but I highly recommend incorporating them into your gameplay.
When used in tandem with the Service Weapon they make for fast and frenetic combat, and this is where Control truly shines. Almost every object in the world can be implemented against the Hiss, and using Launch to grab a rocket missile out of the air and fire it back at your foe never gets old.
Control oozes style, and its visual presentation is undoubtedly impressive. The map of the FBC is vast but has several well-varied environments which stop the game from ever feeling repetitive. Endless rows of desks mirror the monotony of office life, while damp and grotesque drainage systems reflect the corruption that has spread throughout the Bureau.
The amount of destructible environment is also remarkable, though you may be on the end of some unfortunate deaths due to the damage you cause, particularly when you pick up and misfire an explosive object. This can be a little frustrating, but it’s the price you pay for having supernatural abilities.
On the whole, character models are detailed and life-like, even if they sometimes look a little empty behind the eyes. The voice acting is also solid, but I couldn’t get away from the fact that Jesse often felt void of emotion. To me, this was at odds with the whole reason for her visit to the FBC and adding some real human connection would have made for an excellent contrast with Control’s slick, sci-fi environment.
Unfortunately, Control isn’t without fault, and I encountered some issues with performance. When combat became frantic, and several enemies littered the screen, the game suffered from significant framerate issues, meaning that gameplay was not always as smooth as it could be.
The high level of environmental damage also caused significant dips in the framerate, and coming out of a pause screen made the game jitter for several seconds afterwards. The game, unfortunately, seems prone to crashing and, on one occasion, caused me to lose some of my progress.
Rapid Reviews Rating
If it weren’t for some significant performance issues, I would be giving Control a higher score. The world that Remedy has created is vast, unique, and a perfect backdrop to its complex story. The gameplay mechanics are excellent, and I found Control an absolute joy to play.
Supernatural abilities are accompanied by a flexible weapon which made combat exhilarating and diverse. So much detail has gone into building this world, and it would be a real shame if Remedy didn’t revisit it in future. Despite some of its glaring flaws, Control has quickly become one of my favourite titles of 2019.
You can pre-order Control from the PlayStation Store using the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP4040-CUSA11454_00-CONTROLPREORDERB?smcid=pdc%3Aen-gb%3Apdc-games-control-ps4%3Aleadproductinfo-pre-order-on-playstation-store%3Acontrol%3ASTORE-MSF75508-CONTROL
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.