Ever wondered what happened if you mix Twin Peaks with a shooter? Control is the closest thing I have ever found.
Remedy’s Control is a game that sounds like it was made for a niche. The storyline is laced with paranormal elements. It’s a shooter that emphasis exploration and interaction.
On PC, it was hailed as the ‘right’ way to implement Ray Tracing. I know a few gamers that were put off. The thought they needed to buy a new graphics card to enjoy Control.
Like a meal that sounds wrong, if you are brave enough to take a bite, the rewards are worth it. This is one of those times where your worst fears are unfounded.
So what is Control?
You play as Jesse Fayden, and all you know is you have walked into a government building. That is empty. You have no idea what is going on, or what your goal is.
You get some objectives to give you direction, but you have no context to help you. If you watch an action movie, you know the first few minutes are the setup justifying the ensuing mayhem. The first few minutes of Control are you investigating an empty office building.
Jesse talks to herself, and then suddenly you realise she is talking to someone. She reacts to a soft geometric ring that we see as the player. At first, I thought this was an immersion technique, where Jesse talked to the player.
Spoiler – I was wrong.
Eventually, you pick up a weapon. In the world of Control, this makes you The Director of the Federal Bureau of Control. No, it makes no sense. But it becomes a substantial part of your game world.
From here, you explore The Oldest House (the office building) and help others to stop a potential invasion while finding your brother.
Why play a game that makes no sense?
Why stick with a television series that makes little sense to you? There are small elements that promise potential and draw you in. For me, I just had to know what was going on.
Remedy nailed the opening story pacing. I spent maybe three minutes walking around thinking “Huh? What’s all the hype about?” Twenty minutes later, I knew I was playing until I couldn’t anymore.
That’s a bit vague. Details?
I know Control came out a while ago, but I also know that many people haven’t tried Control. Because of this, I don’t want to spoil any of the stories for anyone.
Yes, stories. Control evolves from a relatively short story game (maybe 6-7 hours?) into the story you want to make. Side quests can be a massive grind in adventure games, but I was genuinely looking forward to helping others in Control.
Now, these side quests don’t change the ending. There is a definite ending, and The Foundation DLC picks up right after this ending. There is no ending for this story yet in the traditional sense.
That said, the ending of the main game isn’t a cliffhanger. I would describe it more as a good season 1 ending where you don’t know if season 2 is coming.
OK, so what actually is Control?
You can sum up Control as an adventure game with light RPG elements and shooting. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?
This is where I try to get across that Control is greater than the sum of its parts. The exploration of The Oldest House is satisfying. Even though I got the Platinum Trophy, I have much more to explore. I grabbed the Deluxe version on sale on PS4, and now I have even more to explore.
By introducing the Astral Plane and having The Oldest House literally move, it makes progression feel satisfying. When you unlock new powers like Levitation, areas you have already explored suddenly have new paths available to you.
The Service Weapon, your gun in the game, changes forms. Having one weapon sounds boring, nut you unlock these forms as you play. It means you get a pistol, Gatling gun, rocket launcher and sniper rifle all at the same time. It also makes sense of how you can carry so many weapons at the same time.
Most of the previous paragraphs sound strange, and yet in the context of Control makes perfect sense. Every character looked at in isolation is just weird, yet make perfect sense in the story. Actions and powers you utilise or set pieces you come across make sense.
Even the Threshold Kids, the video series that initially freaked me out, became fun things to find. The lore you come across in the form documents and videos is interesting. Files and letters redacted nature serves as a hook rather than an annoyance. Videos that made you pull a face suddenly make something else click later.
But. There is always a but.
Yep. Control is no different. Side quests are fun, but some of them are so hidden that many people can pass straight past them. One of these quests was a room investigating luck. The instructions for how to ‘solve’ the puzzle were in plain sight, but there was no mission in my objective list.
The missions that are spelled out for you are relatively obvious fetch/hunt type quests. There aren’t many, so the ‘fetch grind’ that many adventure games suffer from. You can skip most of them, but if you do, you won’t end up as powerful as you could be.
The other catch is the action. People that don’t like shooters (like myself) can get turned off by an action-oriented game. While Control has a lot of action happening, it rewards patience and practice. Boss too hard? Level up and come back. These bosses tend to be optional – such encounters aren’t a wall.
The biggest hurdle to me is the story itself. It won’t click with everyone. A lot of people could give up purely because they are lost in the story. Every other ‘negative’ of Control has a subtle fix, except for this.
If you don’t get the story – ignore it. Control will let you do this very easily. I am not trying to say the story is irrelevant. People that dig will be rewarded. But you can focus just on the next objective and levelling up your powers and enjoy it.
Console, PC, RTX?
So here is a big one. I bought Control on PC cheap on the Epic Store, and again for my PS4 Pro. The PC version I bought to show how good it plays on my laptop compared to my PC, and that comparison is coming. I haven’t played it on any system that can take advantage of Ray Tracing.
A few people have commented that I am an RTX hater. This isn’t correct. Two years after the release of the Nvidia RTX line, only a handful of games take advantage of it. That is changing this year, but right now it’s still a very niche tech.
What does RTX bring to Control? Real-time reflections, beautiful lighting and realistic shadows. The cost to do this though is pretty staggering. I personally wouldn’t play Control on PC with Ray Tracing on with less than a 2070 Super.
This video shows Nvidia’s examples of Ray Tracing in the game.
Differences between my laptops 1660Ti and my desktops 1080Ti were slim. I don’t remember any difference in the experience. Sure, if I examined individual frames, I am sure I could spot differences. The feeling of awe is what I remember, and Control looked great on both.
I only played a tiny portion on PC though. I played the game ‘properly’ on my PS4 Pro. Even at 1080p, there were some very noticeable frame rate drops on PlayStation. These only occurred in larger battles with a lot of powers in use. Not enough to ruin the experience, but it’s evident that Control is pushing the older consoles to their limits.
My personal feeling is paying anywhere from AUD$300 to AUD$2000 more depending on your graphics card (e.g. RTX 2060 Super to RTX 2080 Ti) is a lot to make one game look better. Hands down it looks a lot better, but I can do a lot more with that extra cash!
Digital Foundry did an excellent tech review of the different technologies implemented in Control you can check out below. But bottom line, I think you will enjoy Control on any platform you want to play it on.
Comparing Control to Twin Peaks is very apt. The story is deeper than it appears, but it doesn’t drag everything out while feeding you the lines to follow. It also allows the player much more choice than might be immediately obvious at first glance.
The story won’t be for everyone. The action won’t be for everyone. But the way that Remedy has blended everything into an experience that is both familiar and unique is phenomenal.
If you are on the fence, with various sales now that it has been out for a while, Control is a safe buy for many people.
- Gorgeous graphics
- A lot more room to explore and customise than it appears
- The balance between story and playing is pretty spot on
- Much more to discover than the objective lists suggest
- You get over close-ups of Jesse quickly
- Frame rate dips even on PS4 Pro in battles with lots of enemies and powers can be distracting for that battle
- Paranormal heavy storyline not for everyone
Until next time,