Control: Ultimate Edition
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Genre: Adventure / Third Person Shooter
Release Dates: 27 Aug, 2020 (Worldwide - Steam Ultimate Edition)
Price: 39,99€ (Steam)
Control feels like the game that Remedy has been building towards for years, grabbing all the best elements from their previous work on Max Payne, Alan Wake & Quantum Break and blending them together to create a weird but unique world that just begs to be explored thoroughly. The premise behind the game is weird, but if you are familiar with any of Remedy's previous games that shouldn't surprise you at all, and even if paranormal topics aren't your usual interest, Control does it in such a refined way that I believe everyone should give it a try. You play as Jesse Faden, who alongside her brother Dylan discovered an object of power capable of opening portals to other dimensions back when they were playing around in the local dump outside their hometown of Ordinary, Wisconsin 17 years prior to the game's events. In typical government fashion, the Federal Bureau of Control then came to cover up the incident and took her brother into custody in order to help them unfold the events that happened that day.
Now all grown up, Jesse embarks on a quest to find the people responsible for the cover-up and prove that what she witnessed during her childhood was real, while also hoping to find her brother and rescue him from the people that took him captive, which leads her to the FBC headquarters in New York City built on top of The Oldest House, a place of power constantly shifting space connected to various alternate dimensions through rooms known as Thresholds. Even though it is considered the main place of power by the FBC since they decided to build their headquarters there, it is not the only one in the world and so the FBC was formed to study and cover-up Altered World Events which result in the creation of Objects of Power. While that covers the main premise behind the game, many more weird concepts will be introduced as you progress through the game and start uncovering the activities of the FBC and what they've been up to since their inception, something that is done in a variety of ways starting with the story that will give you an overall idea of how this whole concept is supposed to work, but extending on that with side quests and collectibles as well as dialogue with other FBC employees who have been at it for years and got used to the idea that this is the real reality, but still struggling to understand it all and remaining scared of the unknown.
Arriving at the FBC, Jesse finds out that the building was invaded by a hostile enemy force called the Hiss which has possessed most of the agents and corrupted the building's topography, leaving her with more questions than she had when she first entered the building. Upon further exploration, she ends up in the Director's office where she finds the Director, a man known as Trench, laying dead on the ground with a shifting weapon next to him. Picking up the Service Weapon, Jesse realizes it is as well an object of power and is transported to the Astral Plane, where she is selected as the new Director by the Board, who will serve as your mysterious bosses for the rest of the game, communicating with you using the Hotline, which is basically the afterlife compatible version of a phone. Following that event in the prologue, Jesse is now in charge of the Bureau so her focus shifts from finding her brother and getting out as soon as possible to actually finding out what happened, understanding what the FBC's research has discovered in all those years and fighting the Hiss so that the Oldest House can be restored to its previous condition. Even though you are the Director, you still have to answer to the Board which is like a pyramid talking to you and even the Janitor of this institution has more knowledge about what is happening than you do and is comfortable ordering you around, even though you are technically the boss, so this is some very weird stuff, but I absolutely love it and I am very thankful Remedy exists to make those types of games.
If you are digging the concept I've described above, the story will keep you on your toes all the way to the end, although it leaves the doors open for a future sequel, but I wouldn't be surprised if that sequel came at some point and it's not called Control, because I have a feeling we might be witnessing the birth of the Remedy gaming universe here as they have officially tied Alan Wake to this universe via the DLC and I wouldn't be surprised at all if they do the same thing with Quantum Break at some point in the future, as Control's weird nature allows all of those universes from Remedy's previous games to co-exist in this larger multidimensional universe presented here without feeling out of place. Aside from the main story, there are a couple of side quests, some of which will reward you with additional powers, as well as the DLC which ties the Alan Wake universe to Control and expands on the base game with more story and content taking place in new locations.
I've said in my Quantum Break review that the superpowers you had in that game were so fun to play around with and I only wished there were more opportunities to do so in that game, and in that regard, Remedy has listened to my wishes and Control improves gameplay in every possible way, giving you new powers that feel, look and control amazing and more opportunities to play around with them in Control's larger areas with a wide variety of challenging enemies. The most common power you will use frequently is Launch, which is basically telekinesis that allows you to grab any object in the world or in the absence of any, chunks of concrete from nearby walls and launching them at enemies, with the ability to hold and launch more than one object later on in the game. Alongside Launch the other more prominent power is Levitate, which basically allows you to boost a high jump into the air and then be able to levitate for a few seconds before slowly losing altitude, allowing you to climb to higher points, which is something that you will use a lot since levels are designed with this power in mind. The remaining powers are Shield, which allows you to grab nearby objects and float them in front of you in order to form a shield that protects you from incoming fire for a while, Evade which is just a fancy dash that can also be performed while levitating and Seize which allows you to convert low HP enemies to fight for your side.
Control then combines those powers with amazing gunplay, puzzles and platforming sections to create a fun, in-depth and sometimes challenging gameplay system that doesn't get old dozens of hours in as you will be constantly upgrading your service weapon and powers, so it will always feel like you're getting better at the game and discovering new ways to combine firepower efficiently depending on the enemy type you're fighting. As I've briefly mentioned before you only have one weapon, the Director's gun known as the Service Weapon which can take different forms to serve as different types of guns, the Grip form which is similar to a Revolver, the Shatter form which works as a shotgun, Spin which the equivalent of an assault rifle or SMG, Pierce which works as a single shot laser, Charge which is a mix between a pump shotgun and an RPG, and Surge which is basically a grenade launcher. You can equip any two forms out of those 5 to have available at any time to switch between and all forms can be improved with mods for things like higher damage or accuracy as well as bonuses for other elements of the game like increased recovery speed for your energy bar which is used for the powers.
This is also one of the most refined to perfection games I've played in quite a while as in my 40 hours playthrough I haven't encountered a single bug and every area feels like it was playtested intensively to ensure every corner of the world looks and feels the way it should. There is also an overall cleverness to the way areas are designed, feeling genuine to the world, yet still providing plenty of gameplay opportunities as there are usually areas to hide, lots of objects to launch towards enemies nearby and some rooms allow you to confuse your enemies in a variety of ways by using the environment around you. Another disappointment that I've had with Quantum Break personally was the difficulty as most battles were easy even on the hardest difficulty level while some boss battles were harder than your average battle by a large margin and with Control it seems Remedy has taken all of that into consideration and decided to eliminate difficulty levels entirely, opting to instead match enemies to your skills and most main story battles feel really balanced out in relation to your upgrades and familiarity with the mechanics at that point. Even though side quests can sometimes feel much harder if you decide to approach them early on, returning to them later with better upgrades and a better understanding of the game's mechanics will surely make the challenge much easier.
If you have the specs to run this in 4K at a reasonable framerate, I highly recommend you do because the entire game looks absolutely gorgeous, with incredible lighting effects, high-resolution textures and an overall design that feels genuine and realistic at the same time, having dozens of offices for the Earth plane and incredibly well-designed mazes in the Astral plane. The visual effects are also an incredible treat, with small particles flying everywhere as you smash objects into enemies and many others made to fit the powers Jesse uses; one incredible detail in this regard is the fact that when you're using Launch to grab a piece of concrete from the floor or the wall, that piece actually gets removed from that area and you can see the empty space it leaves behind, it doesn't just summon it out of nowhere.
Using motion capture actress Courtney Hope has been transported into the game as Jesse Faden and she does an incredible job making the character feel believable and her changing intentions have some sort of backstory to them as you progress through the game trying to comprehend what is happening as Jesse becomes the Director, sparking a conflict between her personal interests and her new job. Among others Remedy veterans James McCaffrey and Matthew Porretta joined the cast as ex-director Zachariah Trench and Alan Wake respectively and they both do a fantastic job with an even larger cast of supporting characters adding to the world and story of Control.
Characters are voiced by the same people that made the mo-cap, so you are getting the full experience of an actor professionally playing a character and in that regard Courtney Hope does an amazing job as Jesse, portraying her story about becoming the Director of a secret governmental agency in an unexpected and unrealistic way. The cast of side characters is just as impressive, with Sean Durrie taking on the role of Dylan and Antonia Bernath playing the role of Emily Pope, in addition to the other actors I've mentioned earlier. Dialogue is very well written and delivered by the actors with a few exceptions that feel maybe a tidbit too corny.
The sound effects are what you would expect from a studio the size and quality of Remedy, but the soundtrack beats any other from their previous games, having entire sections designed around a song playing in the background as rooms and walls shift around and the Astral plane continues to surprise Jesse dozens of hours in. "Take Control" by the Old Gods of Asgard is probably the most memorable song in the game because it plays during one the most amazing moments in the game, but there are many others in the game, always going hand in hand with the action on screen.
The base story can be completed in around 20 hours, but the Ultimate Edition also comes with a bunch of DLC that adds 2 new locations, more story and more quests, on top of the side quests already included in the main game that add a few more hours of playtime. In total, you're looking at around 40 hours of content, but if you really like Control's mechanics you can spend even more time with the Jukebox which transports you to a dungeon-like system with multiple rewards available. The quality of side quests is also incredible, as some of them will give you new powers while taking you to new locations and expanding the story with even more weirdness, so if you like Control's main story you will probably stick around for the entire journey.
Control is an improvement on Remedy's previous work in every possible way, with a more expanded and intriguing story, fun gameplay with upgrades and many different mechanics and powers, breathtaking visuals and insane attention to detail and polish, making this one of the best triple-A third-person shooters to come to market in the last few years and definitely a must-play for fans of Remedy or fans of weird science fiction scenarios in general.