Review: Control (Xbox One) – Lynchian to an unpolished fault
Pretty dang good but technical issues stop it from being great.
At E3 last year, Remedy’s Control caught my eye. It more or less looked like the big sister of Remedy’s 2016 Quantum Break. I’m always up for pairing Remedy storytelling with shooting people in the face, so this kinda looked like my jam.
It’s way more of my jam than expected
Turns out that Control is more or less an evolution of the Metroidvania formula. The game has you running around all over the fairly large map, using abilities and security clearances acquired to venture deeper into the Bureau of Control.
Often, you will see items or pathways that are currently out of reach but obvious enough that you will make a mental note to return later. The same goes for doors as well, I’d run away from missions just to check on a door I saw a few hours earlier as soon as I gained access to it.
Let’s talk a little bit about what this game is
Control is a super-Lynchian action-adventure game that has you running around a “living” building. This building is infected with The Hiss, which seems to be some sort of paranormal entity that corrupts the environment and turns humans into wraith-like monsters.
The Hiss wants to escape the Bureau/The Oldest House and it’s your job as the new Director to stop it. It seems the best way to do this is either by throwing pieces of the environment at them in a way that would make your Jedi power fantasies proud or by dispatching them with the firepower from your Service Weapon. The Service Weapon is an ever-evolving gun that is almost any imaginable weapon stuffed into a handgun made out of cubes. It’s as wild as it sounds.
Just like the Service Weapon in the game, Jesse Faden’s abilities evolve as you play as well
This starts with Jesse just being able to fling objects at enemies or ripping chunks out of walls to bludgeon bad guys with to ultimately levitating and being able to throw enemies like deadly demonic projectiles. Some of these abilities are acquired through the in-game skill tree, side quests, or simply finding objects of power while traversing the Oldest House. You can also strengthen your abilities and weapons from the crafting menu too with mods you can slap on – or in – yourself.
Gameplay in Control comes in a variety of forms, there is platforming, gun combat, and even physics-based puzzles. The game throws you so many side quests that every time you visit a save point, you will be able to turn the completed ones in and grab a handful more. These sidequests can introduce you to new powers and mods, different outfits for Jesse to wear or other, major, sidequests.
The story in Control is told through live-action cutscenes, in-game characters, and crazy fever dream-like story missions and monologues from Jesse. She spends a lot of the game talking to something, but in true Lynchian fashion, you are a third party in most of the storytelling. Obviously, all the characters seem to know more than they let on and they are willing to share only enough information to not seem overly suspicious. It’s pretty great storytelling and I found myself bee-lining through main missions to get more story.
At the point of review, Control had a lot of obstacles as well
In our review guide, Control promises plenty of fixes with a day one patch that apparently happened already. I can tell you that at the point of me slapping a score on this game, it needs fixes horribly. The game freezes during multimedia cutscenes, chugs to a crawl if you ever make the mistake of pressing pause, and other general weird shit that just shouldn’t happen.
I had a bug happen where I used an ability once before acquiring it where I threw a projectile back at an enemy. I didn’t know it was a bug until I asked a peer how to repeat the skill and they asked how I got it so early. There are also times when you pull up the map and it simply doesn’t load the map. All of this pales though to just the muddy graphics and framerates that the game dips into and the aforementioned pause issue. I actually had to kill the game a few times after hitting the wrong button.
I really love what Control does well, I do
Control feels like a AAA game made on an indie budget. The game is polished in the areas that absolutely matter. The enemy A.I. is pretty clever, forcing you to make the most out of Jesse’s abilities. The gunplay and abilities work super smooth without any jankyness that you’d find in lesser games. The soundtrack and sound effects are crisp and awesome.
Its biggest drawbacks outside of the current bugs are that it doesn’t find it necessary to explain much to you. I died multiple times during non-combat story missions simply because I didn’t do things like pull a hanging chain three times. The Lynchian vibe is strong in this game but I can see some of the non-verbal queues missed by some players without some direction.
Control has the workings of a groundbreaking, revolutionary game. It really could be the culmination of everything Remedy has made up to this point. The only things it requires at this point is a few extra coats of paint with this day-one patch. It’s a pretty crazy game and something I’d recommend checking out but please check our review for a post-launch update.
Control is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
A review copy was provided for the purpose of this review.
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