505 Games invited Culture of Gaming to check out some of their upcoming titles behind closed doors. I had the opportunity to play a demo of Control, the latest game from Remedy Entertainment, creators of Alan Wake and Xbox One’s exclusive Quantum Break. Control is about Jesse Fanden who is the new Director of a secret agency in New York which is under attack by an otherworldly threat.
As mentioned, the player follows the story of Jesse Fanden, voiced by Courtney Hope, who has to combat this supernatural threat using her own set of powerful abilities. From what we’ve played, Jesse is trying to get a handle on the situation but the entire place is locked down because of the unknown threat. She needs to lift the lockdown in order for her to get access to other sections of this monolithic underground network. The environments can range from offices, water containment facilities, a massive cylindrical powerplant, and supernatural areas made of black spires that warp and move. The game is defined as a “world within a location” and that is spot on description when considering how the landscape can shift and reshape itself in peculiar ways.
Control isn’t like any game I’ve played but yet it feels familiar in 3rd person shooter space. The game feels like a combination of Uncharted and Infamous, while placed in a dark underground version of Men In Black’s offices. You never fully know what’s around the next corner other than paranormal enemies bent on stopping Jesse.
Remedy has always been a studio that is known for making great games with a narrative focus. That also shines in Control, as you eventually meet a lonely janitor named Ahti who gives you the first set of objectives of restoring power to the facility. The voice and facial acting are impeccable when Jesse and Ahti interact with each other and the gameplay transitions in and out of the scene smoothly. Ahti, by all accounts, either isn’t all there or merely knows way more than he’s willing to let on. Jesse comments that she feels underqualified to be the Director and Ahti picks up on that. The characters are weird and introspective and it will be exciting to see how Jesse’s story evolves when Control is out later this summer.
The world is reactive and almost anything can be used as a weapon using Jesse’s ability to pick up objects and fling them towards her attackers. It’s astonishing the amount of detail placed in each section while also having unique areas that break up the long corridors of cement and metal. While I can’t attest to the final version of the game, I can say that the slice of Control that I did play was evenly paced. This felt important to address because I was skeptical of having this entire game being held underground as it could easily become a drab and lifeless world. However, each section didn’t outweigh its welcome and the facility you explore includes different types of landscapes to keep things from getting stale.
The supernatural sections also help in changing your objectives and create visually impressive worlds. When going through the tutorial, you are transported to this world made of onyx what warps and shifts based on what it’s trying to teach you. Jesse learns to uses her air dodge and shield abilities in these worlds while at other times she’s looking for items of “power” to return to reality. Jesse’s abilities play a big part in how she interacts with the world such as solving puzzles or opening gates by moving generators into the proper nodes. There are tons of debris and items that can be used as a weapon and the game encourages it because of the combat limitation which I’ll get into in a second. Most AAA games these days rely on open-worlds with story missions and side missions in between. Control, on the other hand, is a linear game which helps develop a better narrative but it didn’t feel constrained as the environments can change dramatically in surprising ways.
Force Push But With Guns!
Along the way, you will fight soldiers who are being controlled by ethereal red energy that makes them hostile to your presence. Jesse has her work cut out for her but she is also packing Jedi-like abilities and firepower to combat her way through. One of the best and most defining features that stood out when playing this sneak peek of Control, is the polished 3rd person combat system. The combat is fluid, snappy when it needs to be, and creative as you balance a combination of powers and gunplay. Guns and your powers regenerate themselves over time which eliminates the needs for ammo or energy pickups. Shoot till you can’t, use your powers, and by then your guns should have recharged.
Rise and repeat this delicate dance while also adding in dodging and new skills and abilities as you progress. You pick up augments that help improve your abilities or increase the firepower of your weapons. Control’s combat is satisfying and the environment includes several objects to use as you see fit but don’t solely rely on one thing. Otherwise, you aren’t using Jesse to her utmost ability and honestly, this type of restriction helps set a cadence to your approach. During my time with the demo, I didn’t get to pick up any crazy augments but hopefully, the mods for your weapons and abilities can skew on the weirder side. It would be a shame is they are only simple battle increments for more damage or decreased recharge times.
There you have it! From what I’ve played, Control is solid with a small inkling of paranormal chaos that I’m sure will grow the father you go. The game mechanics are snappy while also creating a delicate balance between your abilities and gunplay. The world is bigger than what it seems and the character interactions are creepy but in a good way. My only worry is whether or not Control’s story will live up to Remedy’s last game, Quantum Break. Look forward to Control when it comes out August 27, 2019, on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Thanks for reading! and don’t forget to check out my interviews with USC Games Chair Danny Bilson, Shades of Magic author V.E. Schwab, and Black Panther’s Quest voice actor James Mathis III. For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com, or check us out on OpenCritic.com.