I Finally Played GOTY Contender ‘Control’ And You Should Too

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in loot shooters, but in this short window before Destiny and Borderlands both drop new content, I was able to squeeze in a game from my backlog I’d been meaning to get to. I didn’t want this to turn into another Hellblade situation where “I’ll play it eventually” turns into years without doing so, and I spent the weekend playing and beating Remedy’s Control.

Yes, it lives up to the hype.

Sure, I’ve played games with better combat. I’ve played games with better stories and more compelling characters. But universe building? Environment design? Art design? Sound design? Man, Control is pretty much second to none in those categories.

I have a short history with Remedy games. I’ve never played Alan Wake, though I did play Quantum Break, which I thought was fine, but forgettable. It’s easy to see some Quantum Break DNA in Control, but the final result is miles beyond what that game ended up producing.

I cannot remotely begin to explain the wild plot of Control past the basics. You’re a woman, Jesse, who finds herself in what appears to be a government building, guided there by some sort of ghost in her head. It’s the Bureau of Control, some shadow organization that kidnapped your brother when you were kids after an incident in your hometown. But things are going to hell inside the building, which is not really a building at all, but a shifting, changing landscape that bends reality to its whim, housing objects imbued with power that do the same thing. Objects that soon start giving you powers as well.

Control is, in effect, a superhero game. Or at least that’s how it plays. You have a gun, yes, but you quickly gain powers like telekinesis, mind control and eventually, straight-up flight, all of which help you in not only combat but in solving the myriad of puzzles across five or so levels of the Oldest House, the creepy name for where the Bureau resides. There’s an interdimensional invasion going on, wreaking havoc on the building and its inhabitants, so you’re not only trying to find your brother, but mop up along the way.

Combat involves shooting infected enemies with your form-changing gun, which can be a pistol, shotgun, sniper, AR or a few other shapes as you upgrade it. But mostly you are making use of the destruction engine here, hurling everything from chairs to dumpsters to satellite dishes at enemies with your powers. It’s essentially using the Force, but in a much, much more violent fashion than we usually see from Star Wars as soon enough you’re throwing corpses around, and when you run out of those, you’ll start tearing chunks out of the floor and walls to hurl.

I found Control to be…kind of easy. Once you start upgrading your throw in particular, enemies can’t stand up to more than one or two shots, and the only time I died was during a few boss fights or a few missteps off ledges. Your gun is mainly just there so you have something to shoot while your throw recharges, and I found that powers like shield or mind control just weren’t all that useful. Even the central throw mechanic, though visually and tactically fantastic, can feel a bit...random. Like you’re not really being all that deliberate about anything and just ripping literally anything around you to throw with bulletin boards and concrete slabs doing almost the same amount of damage. It’s fun, but I didn’t find it all that strategic.

Exploration is a big, big part of Control, which is a lot of fun as you learn the various floors of the Oldest House like the back of your hand, and revisit them to open new treasures and shortcuts. Looting and acquiring skill points kind of became pointless in the last 5-6 hours, the last third or so of the game as at that point, I had everything relevant to my build pretty much maxed and could tear up anything I came across. But it’s still fun to explore to find some of the crazier side missions all the same.

Control is a weird case where I don’t especially like the lead, Jesse, all that much as she comes across as very flat in both her internal and external narration. And yet the story she’s placed in is fascinating, and both the main storyline and side missions you find are absolutely incredible. Some of these segments, the Clocks, the Ashtray Maze, the Mirror may mean nothing to you right now, but once you play they will be moments and places you will not soon forget. Again, the worldbuilding and level design here is just exceptional.

I was a bit disappointed by the ending, both of them, as without going into spoilers, there’s a false ending that comes after an anti-climax (games are pulling this trick a lot these days, hello Borderlands 3), but then I found the “real” ending to be…kind of anti-climactic as well. But at that point, I had enjoyed so much of the game it didn’t really matter.

Control has this weird mechanic in it that allows you to like, grind it, for reasons I don’t quite understand. There are recurring, timed missions that crop up frequently, radiant, Fallout 4 kind of things, along with “bounties” that you’re given for killing enemies in specific places in specific ways. I guess that it’s there to give players more to do, but again, I felt incredibly overpowered well before the game was finished, and I’m not really sure I understand the point of this continued, randomized grind. Gearing up for DLC? I don’t know. Like it’s fine, I just don’t get why it’s there.

While I can nitpick Control, overwhelmingly I found it to be an incredible, unique experience that stands out as a fantastic offering from Remedy and worthy of its GOTY nominations across the board. Gameplay is fun, the world is absolutely wild and if there is DLC, I’ll be devouring that as well. If you haven’t played it yet, set aside 12-18 hours and get it done. You won’t regret it.

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