A wild ride after the festival of absurdities. Control is the strangest game worth playing in 2019 - a review

- It will be stranger than usual - the creators of Control warn us with the main heroine already in the first scene of the game. And they are right. This game is deliciously weird.

Warning! - the text may contain spoilers from Control and Alan Wake games

To begin with, a word of introduction: I am a big fan of Remedy Entertainment games. Each of their games (not counting maybe the first Death Rally) went through two or even three times, and Max Payne 2 and Alan Wake to this day occupy very high places in my personal ranking of games of all time.

For this reason, Control got excited long before the project left the concept phase, when it was still codenamed "P7" (which - by the way - is explained during the game).

And while in Poland there are relatively few people waiting for Remedy and 505 Games and, judging by the pre-release ratings at GOL , many people do not have high expectations for it, I was sitting on high heels, waiting for my review code.

I wasn't disappointed at all.

The Control story takes us from clichés to something truly unique.

Seemingly Control sounds quite ... clichéd. The main character, Jesse Faden, visits the headquarters of the mysterious Federal Bureau of Control (FBK). FBK is, in fact, a government agency dealing with supernatural matters - Faden goes to her headquarters to find a brother who was missing seventeen years ago, whom he suspects abducted the office, because he and his sister witnessed the release of the so-called Object of Power.

A TPP action game with science-fiction themes that are not lacking in pop culture - what can be interesting here?

Well maybe. We find out about it in the first minutes of the game. The original sign that "something is wrong with this place" is found in the person of the caretaker, Ahti, who for unknown reasons thinks that we came to the interview for the position of his assistant.

However, the real "ride" begins a bit further when we hear a bang approaching the headquarters of FBK. We go inside, and there the director lies dead, with a gunshot wound to the head - suicide. Curious, Jesse grabs the weird-looking murder weapon and ... is transferred to the so-called "Astral Plane", where he meets with the "Board".

The Astral Plane is a place ... nowhere where the game initially guides us through a simple (but not tedious) tutorial.

After the tutorial, it starts to get interesting. This is what the corridor in front of the director's office looks like before entering it:

Control Remedy

And so after we get out of it:

Control Remedy

The corridors are flooded with red glow. FBK employees are suspended from the ceiling. Some fall to attack us. Enemies appear out of nowhere. All this thanks to the so-called "Syk" - a powerful force that mastered FBK and all of its employees who at the time of the attack did not have an artifact protecting against its pernicious influence.

What's more, after contacting the director's weapon (called Servo Defense), Jesse, a seemingly casual passer-by in the office, becomes his director. And it is her shoulders to clean the FBK headquarters from Syk and its possessed Agents.

Of course, Jesse doesn't forget his original purpose - to fool his brother Dylan Faden.

As we cleanse the successive parts of the headquarters from Syk and get to know more high-ranking office officials, we discover the truth about the missing brother Jesse. And everything would be all right, but why are employees so easily accepting Faden as their new director if they don't know her at all? Who does Jesse talk to in his monologues? Is this schizophrenia? Possession? A chip in the brain? And who the hell is Ahti the caretaker - he doesn't wear a machine that reflects Syk's resonance, and he's not possessed by him. He also appears in random places, appears in visions and seems to know everything about FBK and the mysterious Syk.

The game developers have left the answer to this specific question. For the rest - I will not cheat. Suffice it to say that Control's plot quickly turns from clichés into heavy reflection on multiverse theory, steeped in Jungian psychology. Reaching the end of the game I was very impressed with how Remedy, led by creative director Sam Lake, managed to draw a truly satisfyingly unique story from a cluster of science-fiction film motifs.

This game is deliciously weird. Control is a real festival of absurdity.

On the one hand, we have a serious task here - a paranormal force that possessed the building and its employees, a government agency, conspiracies, etc. On the other hand ... the TVs have a strange cartoon with a rather black humorous color, you can't bring rubber ducks to your headquarters (don't ask), and from everywhere we are attacked by various flavors that simply force you to scratch your head in a gesture of disbelief (being late to work due to transformation seat is not justified, for example). The whole is complemented by information materials spread around the headquarters, prepared by Dr. Darling, head of the experimental department.

As is the case with Remedy, there are many more cutscenes here, both with the participation of bystanders NPCs and Jesse herself. Judging by some, the crew had fun filming ...

However, the biggest attraction at this absurd festival is the building itself.

Control Remedy

The oldest seat is a living organism.

The oldest headquarters - that's what the FBK building is called - is like a Weasley tent at the Quidditch World Championships. It houses much more than its external size and location in the heart of New York would suggest.

Moving from section to section, we find that this building lives its own life. Once we have typical office spaces ahead of us, and a moment later we end up in an enormous quarry, hidden in the underground. Once we go through the laboratory section, where powerful Power Objects are stored behind the glass (e.g. Refrigerator, Toaster, Windmill, Rocking Horse), and a moment later we move to the Astral Plane, where the mysterious Board speaks to us from a large, white, inverted pyramid .

We beat the level as if nothing had happened, until suddenly we find a light switch that takes us to the Ocean View Motel, where we have to solve simple logic puzzles to move on. The Ocean View Motel is unfortunately the weakest of attractions; it can be frustratingly unclear, and running from room to reception and back sometimes boring, but I guarantee that for the easter-egga himself at the end of the game it's worth getting over his existence. Anyway, if a Twin Peaks fan plays Control, he will be delighted with the Motel.

The culmination of this singularity parade is the mission in the Labyrinth, through which music from walkman from caretaker Ahti leads us. In order not to exaggerate with spoilers, I will tell you only that: who played Max Payne 2 and Alan Wake, he can expect a mix of the Amusement Park and a clash with the possessed on the stage with the music of Old Gods of Asgard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpiahpKp-VA

Those who haven't played Remedy in previous games will probably get the most abstract level they've ever seen in a video game. Revelation.

The oldest headquarters is also much larger than one would first recognize based on the first few missions. Solving subsequent tasks, we discover its next sections and as we unlock more checkpoints, the map of the Seat grows and grows. Fortunately, its exploration is not boring for a moment - partly because the Headquarters likes to change and the area once discovered may look completely different on the second visit, and partly because it is worth returning to once discovered places after obtaining higher access levels, to go where you couldn't go before.

The oldest headquarters also has several hidden places, access to which is initially blocked by Syk or by very powerful opponents. Just in time to discover after completing the main story, after all, the game allows us to continue playing - we can traverse the halls of the Oldest Residence, perform side missions that we have not completed earlier and discover the countless flavors that the creator left in the game for the player.

Control is steeped in flavors that fans of the studio will appreciate.

For an outside observer, numerous loose comments, strange notes or pictures will be only part of the world created by the creators. However, those who played Max Payne or Alan Wake will appreciate the multitude of smaller and larger references to both productions.

For example - director Trench, who contacts us posthumously through the so-called "Special Line" is played by the actor who voices Max Payne. The already mentioned Dr. Darling is in fact the actor responsible for the voice of Alan Wake. Jesse on one of the interrogation tapes talks about a poem by a man named Tomas Zane, and the security chief regrets that he did not go to the movie about Alex Casey (the hero of the novel written by Alan Wake). There are such trifles in the game of bunches, and as a big fan of the studio, I greatly appreciate the work that Sam Lake's crew put in to serve us.

Not only that, Remedy knows very well that the fans are waiting for Alan Wake 2 the most, so they did a kind of fanservice and inside Control spread documents related to the events in Bright Falls. Thus, getting to know the lore of the new game, we also learn the source of paranormal powers from older production.

The old secular tradition of Remedy studio also returns in Control - the presence of a song by the band Poets of The Fall. We first heard them "Late Goodbye" in MP2, and then under our name and as Old Gods of Asgard in Alan Wake.

Now they also return under two characters and - what can be said - the effect is fantastic, although not as closely related to the plot as in Alan Wake, where the Poets song was the key to the puzzle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpiahpKp-VA

Speaking of sound, the audiovisual setting deserves great applause.

Control is beautiful. Both on the visual and sound side.

As for the first, the studio still uses its proprietary Northlight engine, which it affectionately calls not "game engine", but "story telling technology".

In the PC version, Ray Tracing (available with compatible graphics cards) and the enormous demonstration of Nvidia physX also joins the solid foundation of Northlight. I had the pleasure to test Control on a PC with the RTX 2080 Super on board and what can I say: the game looks honey.

Light reflections with Ray Tracing are just alive. It is hard to depict it on a static screenshoot, but when we move around the game world, shadows fall exactly where the light comes from. Rays reflecting in shiny surfaces dance on them as in reality. Without Ray Tracing Control it is still beautiful, but only the new ray tracking technology sets it a notch above other beautiful games.

Control is also a festival of rozierduchy. You can destroy almost anything here, from vases, through glass and walls, to huge concrete pillars. Explosions and dynamically moving shards perfectly complement the fast, fast-paced gameplay - about which in a moment.

However, you can't talk about video, not to mention audio. Control is beautifully sounded. I am not talking here only about the soundtrack, which - traditionally - has been addressed by Petri Alanko, but about the general sound design, which is simply insane. I highly recommend playing Control on good headphones with surround sound. The effects are staggering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZQqZnGTBIg

Let's talk about the game

Looking at Remedy's last two games, you'd expect to start talking about minuses here - but that's not the case!

The studio drew conclusions from the wooden controls in Alan Wake and the frustratingly underdeveloped gameplay model in Quantum Break. Jesse Faden moves dynamically, flawlessly, and has at his disposal a whole arsenal of Cossack skills.

The first asset in the hands of the new director of FBK is Servo Weapon, which takes four different characters. It can be a pistol, semi-automatic, edging and focused laser beam. In addition, we can modify weapons throughout the game, adding its various improvements and strengthening its power.

The issue of ammunition was interestingly solved - the servo weapon has no traditional bullets, and we simply load it without using it. This is an excellent solution, because on the one hand it does not force us to constantly search for a crate with ammunition (as in Quantum Break), and on the other, forces you to use Jesse's ability.

These are unlocked as you progress. At first, Jesse can't do much - even dodging is beyond her reach. Faden, however, quickly learns more moves - telekinesis, which is thrown by objects (and sometimes even people), levitation or instant avoidance.

The game also offers a transparent system for the development of these skills and does not impose anything - we develop those aspects that best suit our style of play. I will only tell you that it is worth developing the ability to take over the mind of opponents, because it is useful surprisingly often in the later stages of the game.

All these elements, combined with a regular influx of more and more powerful opponents, give the gameplay as wonderfully dynamic as in any Remedy game so far. Jump, levitation, throw the fire extinguisher at the nearest enemy, in the meantime tear a piece of the floor and throw at the second, shoot at the next, damn, you have to run because they aimed at us from the cannon - quick dodge and again into the air. There is no place here for boredom or predictability. You have to be constantly on the move to think about surviving the clash at all and use all the arsenal at your disposal.

I will add that this is definitely not a game that I recommend playing on the keyboard and mouse. As Jesse's abilities increase, he may simply run out of fingers. There were clashes when in the heat of the fight I performed sequences with five fingers of my left hand - unfortunately I can't aim the pad, so I have nothing but gymnastics.

This - a bit too intense - action never gets boring. No matter how many fights we go through, each one is fresh, exciting and each one is a challenge. There is no single "formula" that can be applied to enemies - each play must be adapted to the type of opponents and the environment in which we find ourselves.

Speaking of surroundings, we must remember that he is both our friend and enemy. Properly used elements can get us out of trouble, but if, for example, we press the gas bottle in a too narrow corridor, we will ricochet ourselves.

And I would not say a bad word about the fight and Control mechanics, if not for one little thing ...

Checkpoints are drama.

In that regard, Remedy has learned nothing. We still have a checkpoint system instead of any record system - if we die or end the game, we return to the last point. And everything would be all right, were it not for the fact that sometimes the checkpoint and place of action are divided by lengthy levels, in which we again have to break through previously defeated enemies. This may irritate, especially since Control is a quite difficult game and we will die often.

The peak moment of frustration for me was one of the last missions, which - to make matters worse - took place at the worst designed level I have seen in games for a long time. We fight hordes of enemies on narrow platforms from which it is easy to fall. And three times. If we die at some point, we must repeat the entire sequence from the beginning, and it can take up to several minutes! I approached this mission more than 25 (sic!) Times before I managed to defeat my enemies and the terrible map design.

It's a pity, because after a few sensational hours with Control I got a few hours of growing frustration, after which I wanted to quit the game - and it would be a shame if I did it, because the final is worth going through this stage of the game.

Remaining on the subject of minuses - exclusivity in the Epic Games Store is a huge mistake.

Control is the first Remedy game to hit the PS4 console. It will also be available on X1, of course. It will also hit the PC, but ... as exclusive to the Epic Games Store, at least for now. This is terrible news for both the studio and the players.

For the studio, because the presence of the game in the Epic Games Store means that we have no game statistics or achievements here. It is not known how many finds to find, how many levels to discover, how many missions to go through. There is nothing to boast about to friends, there is no encouragement, because to discover the Oldest Seat after the end of the game - and all this will be given to console players. Meanwhile, PC users can rightly complain that the collectibles don't make any sense (apart from collecting materials for the development of the Servo Defense). And this is a serious complaint, considering the fact that among various documents, multimedia and improvements, there are plenty of these finds in the game.

For players, because wanting to play Control will be forced to use the worst repository of games for personal computers, whose only advantage is decent free games, distributed every week (recently there was even Alan Wake, if someone got it - I recommend dodging Control). And although in March Epic Games Store announced the expansion of its platform with a developed social part and achievements, so we have August, and the development is still not visible. Detriment.

I waited for Control with bated breath and got more than I could have asked for.

I have already spent a fantastic dozen or so hours passing the main plot and some of the side missions, and with great pleasure I will spend the next several hours traversing the abyss of the Oldest Residence.

From the purely entertainment side: Control is excellent. Fast, intense, difficult enough to be a challenge, yet engaging enough to want to know the answer at all costs.

From the audiovisual side: it is an incredible display of Remedy's proprietary engine and technology from Nvidia. However, it is worth playing on a typical gaming monitor, because, for example, my graphic BenQ is not good at leveling the smudging and the image was even more blurred in places than it was in the game.

From the story side and the presented world: the creators have been warning in promotional materials for months that it will be strange. And it was weirder than weird. For the sheer oddity and the climate she creates, the game creators deserve not only applause, but also money from players. Remedy does what Remedy knows best: it creates a unique atmosphere.

Control did not avoid the cons. The themes of the cliché, some missions are quite repetitive in structure (and secondary in terms of the whole game world) and the annoying system of checkpoints will certainly frighten away many players accustomed to a better solution to save game progress.

That said, the sum of the advantages exceeds the sum of the flaws many times over. This is without a doubt the best game in Remeda's achievements, in which both faithful fans of the studio and people who deal with the creations of Finns for the first time will have fun. How I envy you! A really wild ride awaits you.

On the plus side:

+ Graphics knocks you down
+ Sound is very popular
+ Dense climate like outdated natural yogurt (don't ask how I know)
+ The combat system never gets boring
+ The oldest seat has a huge number of surprises
+ Absurd chases absurdity
+ The history of the world depicted in documents stimulates the imagination
+ References to previous Remedy games are a beautiful nod to fans

On the downside:

- Exclusivity in the Epic Games Store (for PC) is a mistake
- The finder is actually too much, especially at the end of the game, when there is nothing to modify
- CHECK POINTS ARE BAD
- Level designs are very uneven
- Sometimes it is clichéd
- Dialogues with NPCs do not add much to the game

Most of these drawbacks, however, are small things. Control in general is an excellent game on which it is worth spending hard-earned money and devoting several hours of life. If Remedy is in such good shape today, I'm trembling with impatience to see what Alan Wake 2 will be like.

Because it's high time for Alan Wake 2, right?

My Control Rating: 8/10. Go and play it, everyone.



A wild ride after the festival of absurdities. Control is the strangest game worth playing in 2019 - a review

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