When I first saw Control I immediately thought of Twin Peaks. The surreal elements and overall sense of weird for the sake of being weird only furthered that belief and excitement following a strong showing at E3. Now that players can finally step into the world of Control, does it have some substance beyond weird mechanics or is it the type of experience that looks great at a glance but doesn’t have anything else going on?
Control doesn’t have much story as much as strong mythology. Even if your journey is centered on finding the Federal Bureau of Control, finding your brother Dylan and dealing with the ramifications of inadvertently becoming the director, most of your time is spent interacting with the world. Between various objects of power or oops for short, seemingly normal items having super natural powers and the unrelenting force of the Hiss, there is a lot to take in beyond the core adventure.
Much to Control’s credit it tries to tell the story it crafted as best it can, but it’s very clear that they want to establish something much larger. This doesn’t take away from the journey as much as builds to a potential conclusion in the upcoming DLC expansions or paves the road to a future franchise.
Whatever the future may hold for Control, I can’t express how much I appreciate Remedy avoiding explanations. Part of what gave Twin Peaks its lasting appeal was the lack of reasoning behind the madness. In fact, surreal stories tend to garner a fair amount of disappointment by trying to explain the unexplainable. That isn’t to say there aren’t some details or that all the supernatural items work in a way that is illogical, it just makes for a smoother ride if I don’t have to worry about what the board is actually up to or the true nature of the Hiss.
While I can ramble on about the story all day, there is more to Control than weird elements. Combat is arguably one of the most straightforward shooters I’ve played, a trait it seems to accept and run with. Where other games worry about finer points, trying to be complex for the sake of it, you can easily run and gun if you want to. It doesn’t take much to die, nor does it take a lot to kill an enemy, leading to an experience that is more about mayhem than you’d likely expect.
Thanks to later abilities like telekinesis, you can do a surprisingly lot with very little. Maybe a wave of Hiss appear in an office setting, so you grab a desk, knocking over a couple of them and throw it at the remaining ones. Perhaps one of them is on the brink of death, so you take control and they start fighting for you instead. Maybe a larger foe appears, forcing you to swap to shotgun or charge shot, all of which is rather seamless. Perhaps my favorite thing about the combat system is Control’s acceptance of you being in control. Even if there is literally nothing you can grab, doing that will simply break a piece of a piece off a door/wall/floor and let you throw that at an enemy. It allows you to stay in the moment, without having to methodically look for a handful of items you can interact with.
Between shoot outs and strange settings, there are a wide variety of side tasks to accomplish. A lot of them build on the world by introducing some of the oddities the Federal Bureau of Control deals with. One mission is a traffic light that plays Red Light, Green Light, another is a fridge that is arguably the most fearsome item you’re introduced to, all the way to a trippy world created by a plastic flamingo lawn ornament.
Arguably the biggest selling point to Control is visual representation. Some of the most interesting missions are defined by contorted hallways, with my favorite mission, the hotel, having walls that fold and unfold depending on what you’re doing. Sure, most of Control is what you’d expect from a company building, it’s those moments where you step outside that make for a memorable experience.
One of the struggles with Control is how to rate it. As amazing that so much of the experience is, more intense fights result in performance issues. And I had more issues figuring out where to go than people did with The Surge, yet I still walked away amazed. Having done hundreds of these reviews for Just Push Start, this is easily one of my favorite experiences and one I still strongly suggest to anyone looking for a unique experience or seeing just how interesting a shooter can be. Sure, it’s not perfect and it absolutely won’t appeal to everyone, but I wouldn’t let these things stop you if you’re remotely interested in what you saw going into Control.
[Editor’s Note: Control was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]