Control is a great-looking game in general
Control’s sinister atmosphere is impactful, sending a rush of questions through your head from the moment you press start. Who is Jesse Faden? Why does she seem both lost and found on her first day as director at the Federal Bureau of Control? How can she possibly maintain her composure in the face of the haunting ethereal and material distortions that have overtaken the bureau? You may only have some answers to these questions by the time the credits roll. While being vague or opaque could be viewed as a flaw in other games, obfuscation is part of what makes Control so spellbinding. Impressively, the mysteries grip ever tighter as you navigate the bureau’s headquarters in search of answers. Knowledge is power, but it frequently opens doors to possibilities you never knew existed–doors that are better left shut, so far as Jesse and surviving FBC members are concerned.
There is one major aspect that is decidedly new for Remedy: Control is non-linear, built in the vein of a metroidvania and filled with reasons to retrace your steps over time. This approach is largely handled well, though if there’s any aspect of Control that feels lacking it’s the handling of the map. It’s an unreliable tool presented in a top-down fashion that often feels like more trouble than it’s worth. Multi-level areas overlap with one another (you can’t isolate them, or zoom in for a closer look) and it’s practically impossible to track specific locations you have or have not visited. Broad areas can be tracked, sure, but not, say, a single meeting room in the executive branch. The dance between fact and fiction is at the heart of Control’s setting and a fascinating narrative that unravels in Jesse’s mind through a series of inner monologues and psychic projections. There are exchanges between characters that move certain elements forward, but so much of Control hinges on Jesse’s discoveries and her interpretations of their meaning. Even though you’re clued into her thoughts, there’s an underlying element that Jesse fails to explain because, to her, it’s matter-of-fact. Whatever it is has always been a part of her, creating a gap of understanding that you, for the most part, can only hope to fill in with your own inferences. There’s a constant desire to know more, yet to also maintain distance from the truth in order to preserve the mystery. It’s to Control’s credit that it effortlessly facilitates this exchange.
Back in the “real” world, lowly agents and high-ranking FBC enforcers have been corrupted en masse. Many float harmlessly in mid-air, chanting strange mantras in boardrooms, hallways, and research facilities. Generally, if there’s headroom, there are floaters. The more aggressive of the bunch pop into existence before your eyes as you explore the bureau. They, like Jesse, fight with a mix of guns and telekinetic powers. They are generally fun adversaries, and battles are punctuated by some incredible special effects. Furniture and small props are whipped into a frenzy when you hurl a desk from a cubicle and into a group of enemies. Sparks and colorful plumes of energy fill the air when a nearby explosion cuts through the incandescent trails left behind by the hiss. There are only a few unique enemies or bosses to speak of, but by and large the AI, in conjunction with a great variety of architectural layouts, makes every fight feel engaging. Whether a simple encounter or a complex assault, you have to approach combat with a juggling act in mind, shifting between expending ammunition and psychic energy when one or the other is depleted. You also have to learn how to defend against and recover from harm. The only way to heal in combat is to pick up essence dropped by fallen enemies, which often requires you to throw yourself into the fray while also protecting yourself from further damage.
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