I have been looking forward to Control for a while now, it was a very mysterious game before the non-existent marketing campaign. So going in blind was a great experience that is pretty rare these days in gaming. I’m gonna break Control down into its essential parts and talk about my view of them. Spoilers lie ahead.
The voice acting is pretty well done across the cast, the main character Jesse is especially well-acted (though not well written, more on that later). The setting of the Oldest House drips with atmosphere and a sense of eerie familiarity that comes with being in an office building. Only this office, though appearing to be a skyscraper in Manhattan, has layers and moving hallways as well as much more lurking in its depths. The Metroidvania style of learning abilities to access new areas really does a great job of shining in this context.
Some of these side-missions are some of the best I’ve played this year. I thought the fridge was just a “Weeping Angel” kind of thing where you died if you didn’t look at it (there’s a cool touch in that room that I like). Upon taking the side mission though it’s short and simple it did a great job of subverting my expectation and throwing an unexpected boss fight at you. The Mold Monster, The Anchor, all interesting side quests that do a great job of supplementing the experience.
When things do smooth out, combat is hot shit like it’s Chronicle the game. The debris and destruction effects are everything you’ve heard and really give that feel of next-gen that some games really could use. Ever play Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (2004)? It’s that turned up to fucking twenty.
The lore is some of the best I’ve come across, I actually sat down and read as much as I possibly could. Yes, some people don’t like how it can break up gameplay but I saw it as a chance to dive deeper and actually understand what little I can before continuing. The redacted information is a great touch and I do get the sense that the reader is meant to fill in the blanks. That said, it can be a real middle finger at times when all you want is answers.
The mod system on the surface is a good idea, I have to give them points for at least trying. Some mods are so good you get them and it is instantly slotted. One that drops from a secret objective grants you 100% ammo reduction on hit. Excuse me while I boot up the game to go get that real quick yeahthanks.
Little cute cosmetic things like outfits come from…wait for it…playing the game!! WAAAAT
The mod system, though having its gems, is mostly dirty lumps of Black Rock. So many, and I mean so many mods are going to be deleted for scrap to help upgrade your gun or the mods you can get a chance to randomly drop.
What the hell is The City, it’s capitalized in the subtitles and many lore entries and there was not so much as a reference or explanation or anything. In addition, a lot of the redacted documents still draw me in but it is frustrating when so much is left out in a world that already begs so many questions. Would it have killed the writers for a little clarity?
As satisfying as the side missions can be, there are a number of them that boil down to straight-up bitch missions. Kill x amount of enemies here, destroy x things there, all this in a game where I can fly and shoot a sentient gun and throw shit with my mind. Ya couldn’t come up with anything else?
The Metroidvania element is a great idea, but it isn’t implemented quite as well as I would’ve liked. It’s just a little grating when more often than not it’s not a lack of an ability but the number on your access card not being high enough. Lame.
The ending is a little insulting, the fake-out got me so mad I actually said out loud “Oh well at least the real ending won’t upset me like that.” Wrong, wow holy fuck was I wrong. The final fight is another gauntlet, shocker, and it’s not even really all that difficult because The Board supposedly…buffs your strength? That is never really explained either. Cool. You beat the same enemies you’ve been kicking around for hours now only to find Dylan suspended in air, you purify him or whatever. Roll credits. Go fuck yourself. Regardless of whether or not DLC is coming and there is, that ending is pathetic on so many levels after a game I spent around 15 hours being pretty impressed by.
What’s ugly about Control nears unforgivable. I mean it, if you’re sensitive to performance issues to the point where things can chug to a near halt: then just wait and keep your ear to the ground for patch notes and updates for when things get fixed. For the record, I distinctly remember playing New Vegas on my 360 and the absolute shit show that was. So I do believe that experience gave me the strength to persevere through it. Beefy PCs will be fine as well as Xbox One X, but base systems and even in some cases with the PS4 Pro really need some attention when it comes to hotfixes**. Combat will kick off and get heated, only for frames to drop as low as the tens and single digits according to Digital Foundry. On top of it all, it would be one thing if it was momentary and fleeting but essentially from the first moment of gameplay; it’s guaranteed to get worse as your powers grow and destruction becomes more and more prevalent.
No new game plus, and level selecting after completion overwrites your save file and did I mention there’s only one save file? Remedy… you know its 2019 right? I feel like that was a no brainer.
As fun as the combat loop is, how did we not get the full selection of gun forms or at least more than two? Too often am I pausing to switch out a form when I should be able to hold three forms to at least mitigate how many times I’m going into the menu. On top of that, combat scenarios are just gauntlets and there aren’t much varying in situations outside of taking advantage of the different architecture The Oldest House has. It’s just wave after wave with nothing really different between them.
Control is fun, intriguing and (most of the time) absolutely gorgeous. It’s very clear that Control is the culmination of both Alan Wake and Quantum Break. To me, it is the best parts of both with Alan Wake’s aesthetic and tone with the high octane Quantum Break action. If that sounds like your kind of thing, I say its worth it, maybe wait until a sale comes around or when they do whatever they need to ease the performance issues. This is a single-player game that offers an interesting experience that may not be backed up by story but is held up by lore and environments that really shine in modern gaming. Yes, it’s SCP the game but in a lot of ways, it isn’t.
I give Control a 7.5/10 with performance issues on launch being one of the biggest detractors. I’d rate it a little higher now that a lot of the issues have been patched but I believe games need to be reviewed on the state they shipped in.
**On September 4th it was reported that the team is focussed on performance issues for consoles in addition to the two expansions titles “Foundation” and “AWE” as well as non-narrative content.