Control is a mind-bending love letter to pioneering sci-fi and horror

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How do you describe your favorite games to your pals who haven’t seen them?

“The new God of War? It’s like Thor from the Avengers has roid rage – it’s mint.” “You’ve never heard of Sleeping Dogs? It’s like John Woo made The Raid 2 – dead underrated.”

But with Control – the newest from Remedy Entertainment, the serial mind-melters behind Alan Wake and Quantum Break – you’re going to have much more explaining in your arms.

Visually, it has the sharp orange and blue color contrasts and daring typography of basic ‘80s (and earlier) sci-fi, the twisted, unknowable geometry of cosmic horror, and the stark brutalism discovered on the headquarters of many a fictional shadowy authorities organisation.

That’s to not say Control seems spinoff. It’s pure to attempt to blunt the sides of one thing new and cram it into acquainted packing containers, however Remedy has subtly blended these apparent inspirations to create its personal placing and memorable combine. The game’s arresting visible fashion calls for consideration, from the slap-in-the-face white location typography once you enter an space, to the gloomy lighting that hints at countless voids simply out of attain. It’s breathtaking and engrossing in equal measure.

Set in The Oldest House, house to the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) who hold paranormal goings on, incomprehensible phenomena, and all-around bizarre shit underwraps, you play as Jesse Faden, a girl trying to find solutions to the supernatural occasions of her previous. When she lastly will get inside, nonetheless, her long-awaited assembly with director Trench doesn’t go fairly as deliberate, because the constructing is overrun by the corrupting affect of the metaphysical Hiss, and the outdated Bureau chief is killed.

Chosen as the brand new director by the unusual and adaptable Service Weapon, Jesse units out not solely to resolve the thriller that introduced her to the FBC, however fulfil her newfound duty and restore order to the Oldest House with assistance from highly effective telekinetic skills.

I performed by way of Directorial Override, the third mission in Control, so as an alternative of the specced out psy-soldier we’ve seen in earlier demos, we took over a newly empowered Jesse simply beginning to the to grips with the mysterious Service Weapon. Rather than choose up a burgeoning arsenal of weapons as you progress, the Service Weapon transforms itself into completely different modes, letting you swap between an ordinary pistol, a shotgun, and extra as fight dictates.

Moment-to-moment, Control performs so much like Remedy’s final game, the Microsoft-exclusive Quantum Break, however with a way more open, sandbox-style really feel. The motion nonetheless performs out in third particular person, the place you employ your Service Weapon and powers to take out Hiss-corrupted enemies, however extra of the setpieces play out within the atmosphere as an alternative of by way of cutscenes.

The Oldest House is an interconnected rat-run of places of work, corridors, laboratories, and upkeep amenities, so it’s extra akin to the basic metroidvania fashion than the linear ranges in Remedy’s earlier work, with inaccessible aspect paths crammed with loot, intrigue, and the odd additional quest, that it’s a must to revisit once you’ve unlocked the suitable energy.

A draw back to this elevated freedom although is that it may be troublesome to navigate. The refined nudges in direction of your goal are nicely designed, however the lack of clear path generally ideas over into confusion once you’re undecided whether or not you may’t get someplace since you don’t have the proper energy or since you’re simply being silly. This is one thing that Remedy mentioned it had already labored exhausting to repair in subsequent builds.

To transfer rapidly across the House, it’s worthwhile to cleanse Control Points of the Hiss’ affect, which then act as quick journey areas and character improve centres. And whereas the story is perhaps extra in regards to the chin-stroking themes of paranormal exercise, quantum mechanics, and slow-boiling thriller, the motion is hard-nosed, quick, and hard. Although Remedy did say that the game steadiness was one other factor that was nonetheless underneath improvement, taking a Control Point wasn’t simple within the construct I performed.

In games the place you’ve got giant suites of weapons and skills I normally overlook to make correct use of them and simply shoot all the pieces – however that merely isn’t an possibility in Control. Instead of a traditional ammo depend, your Service Weapon mechanically regenerates bullets, leaving you defenceless for a short while because it spins again up. Conserving ammo by manipulating your place, throwing particles together with your Launch capability, or blasting enemies with melee is a crucial a part of your offensive technique, in any other case you simply get mercilessly ganked.

Jesse doesn’t regenerate well being mechanically both, so it’s a must to accumulate Source from fallen enemies to heal. This actually pushes a tactically aggressive playstyle, and forces you to change your plan of assault when earlier injury from environmental hazards places you at a robust drawback.

It’s not all screeching monsters although. Scattered all through the constructing are still-human brokers of the Bureau, completely happy that can assist you as the brand new director. Some are key to advancing the story, whereas others supply aspect quests and enjoyable distractions.

During these conversations, the digital camera is available in nearer and you may get an honest take a look at Control’s spectacular efficiency seize tech. While a number of the asides within the script felt stilted, the facial animations are actually cool, and add so much to the interactions.

In the hands-on I used to be set on the proper path to restoring energy and lifting the Oldest House’s lockdown by the likable Security Chief Arish, however the actual star was the splendidly bizarre Nordic janitor, Ahti. Slipping between accented English and Finnish – though we don’t know a lot about him but – he completely embodies the “strange dude that knows more than he’s letting on” horror trope that so usually pops up in stuff like Stephen King novels.

Your conversations with different brokers and employees present a pleasant counterpoint to the extra nebulous actions of the Hiss, and it’ll be attention-grabbing to see simply how hazy the finer particulars of Control’s supernatural phenomena are left.

At the top of the mission, Jesse expands the extra grounded aspect of the story, revealing that she’s come to the FBC to attempt to discover her brother, who was kidnapped by the Bureau after an unexplained incident at their household house. After working away and leaving her brother to be taken, the motivation of a responsible conscience provides one more potential twist to the unwinding thriller, and it might make sense for that search to be the driving thread of the story.

If that may come along with the extra fantastical parts of the narrative in a satisfying approach, and the wonkier parts of the game steadiness and signposting are certainly ironed out, Control has the potential to be certainly one of Remedy’s finest games.