After a secretive agency in New York is invaded by an otherworldly threat, you become the new Director struggling to regain Control in this supernatural 3rd person action-adventure from Remedy Entertainment and 505 Games
Publisher: 505 Games
Reviewed on: PS4 (PS4 Pro)
Also available for: Xbox One, Windows
Cast: Courtney Hope, Matthew Porretta, James McCaffrey, Jennifer Armour, Martti Suosalo
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Concept by: Mikael Kasurinen and Sam Lake
Directed by: Mikael Kasurinen
Story by: Sam Lake
Music by: Mikael Kasurinen
I’m a huge fan of Remedy’s Control. Not only was it one of my favourite games of 2019, but it also made the Explosion Networks list of the Top 10 Games of 2019. It’s an exciting action game with some genuinely next-generation systems and technology. Unfortunately, consoles missed out on much of Controls biggest visual showcases including ray-tracing as the last-gen consoles struggled to even pause and un-pause the game without a struggle. It was easy to understand why the PC was the only platform to receive ray-tracing. But everything’s changed now, and with the release of Control Ultimate Edition for the new consoles, the game looks better than ever, and more importantly, plays better than ever before.
There are two visual options available in Control Ultimate Edition, and you’re able to switch better them at any time in the pause menu, without having to reload your game. The first is “Graphics Mode” and the second a “Performance Mode.”
Graphics Mode targets 30fps with ray-traced reflections at 1440p with temporal upscaling to 4K. The most impressive feature of this option is, of course, the ray-tracing. Control features many shiny and reflective surfaces and is undoubtedly a showcase for how RT can make a video game world look more realistic. There’s no level or location that doesn’t benefit from RT reflections. From the glass in the many office rooms you pass to the reflections off the marble hallways, it’s all beautiful. As for the frame-rate, I’m sure Remedy stated it “targets 30fps” to cover their ass, but as far as I could tell, it is hitting 30fps without a drop. A significant improvement over the 30fps target of the PS4 Pro which dropped constantly.
The Performance Mode targets 60fps with 1440p render resolution and an output of 4K. This mode does not use any ray-tracing. What you do get, however, is that buttery smooth 60fps, which is a real game-changer. Control is a very fast-paced action game where you’re whipping the camera back, forth and all-around to shoot and throw objects, and at 60fps it makes the game easier. Boss fights where I struggled to hit the enemy on PS4 Pro have been so much more comfortable at 60fps. The amount of debris and exploding enemies and abilities also look substantially better at 60fps.
For my money’s worth, Performance Mode is the way to play Control. As much as I love ray-tracing, once you experience the game at 60, it’s impossible to go back. With that said, however, it does bring me to my one major critique of Control Ultimate Edition. A “Performance RT” mode that ran the game at 1080p/60fps/RT as seen in Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales would have been the option of choice for many if that had of been included. Maybe Remedy could patch this in down the line as Insomniac Did, but we’ll have to wait and see.
One of the PS4’s most annoying issues when playing the game was a constant FPS drop and stutter when exiting any of the game’s menus. It didn’t ruin the experience but was a pain nonetheless. Well, I’m happy to report it is completely gone and in both of the visual modes. Top marks for that fix.
Loading has been improved across the board here as you’d expect. Booting up the game now takes 4-5 seconds. Reloading from death around the game, and fast travelling just a couple of seconds. A staggering improvement from the 30-60 seconds it’d take to do any of those on PS4 Pro.
Control Ultimate Edition also uses all of the PS5’s nifty new features to good effect. Haptic Feedback produces small taps as you walk across a metal bridge, and firing the different Service Weapons forms all make different feelings in the triggers. The game also uses PS5 Game Help. And it’s nice to have it an option for the handful of puzzles in the game, or if you get lost.
As a package Control Ultimate Edition includes, as you’d expect, everything that’s been released for the game. That’s both “The Foundation” and “AWE” expansions, as well as free updates like expeditions and the photo mode — which, by the way, is even better to use with ray-tracing. The only downfall is you cannot import your save from PS4 or any other console. Which is disappointing as I’d love to have just jumped to the Ashtray Maze to test the game out and I’m sure some would have enjoyed being able to play both expansions on PS5, without having to replay the game from the beginning.
Control is Remedy’s finest work and the foundation of what they’re building towards as a studio. I loved it on PS4, and I love it even more now. With all of my technical issues removed, this is the ultimate way to play one of 2019’s most exhilarating, and weirdest games.
Like all good episodes of The X-Files or The Twilight Zone, there is a fantastic mystery at the centre of Control, a game that seems inspired by both the weekly adventures of Scully and Mulder and the tone of The Twilight Zone. Remedy Entertainment are definitely fans of serials, just look at their last work, Quantum Break, and horror as well (see Alan Wake), and now they combine many of these past inspirations into the deep, intriguing and mysterious world of Control.
Jesse Fayden has been appointed the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, but as she arrives at the rather normal exterior of the FBC building situated in the middle of New York City, something seems off. She makes her way through the lower desolate levels, only bumping into one maintenance worker the entire time and when she arrives at the Director’s office, a strange weapon awaits her. It’s a pistol, but its body contorts and changes shape as if it’s alive. Jesse doesn’t have much time to piece together what’s in front of her though as she’s quickly confronted by security workers that are ominously being controlled by an outside force and the mysterious gun is put to work.
There is more to Jesse, of course, and the performance from Courtney Hope is nuanced and emotional. I just don’t want to spoil too much, as Control will be much more fun the more you learn as you play.
After you make your way through the first few sections of the inside of the FBC Jesse will save a few employees and get details on what exactly is going on. Something, a thing Jesse decides to call ‘The Hiss’, has made its way inside nearly every person inside and the building has been put on lockdown. Jesse shouldn’t have been able to get in, but she did, somehow. Now the job falls on Jesse, as new Director, to take Control of the FBC and find out what The Hiss is, how it’s affecting people and what other secrets lay deep within the FBC.
Combat in Control starts relatively simple for a third-person action game. Your gun titled the ‘Service Weapon’ shoots energy and recharges when not in use. You have infinite ammo, but run it dry and it’ll take several seconds to cool off. There is no cover mechanic in Control, and at first, this may seem odd, but this isn’t a third-person-shooter, it’s a superhero game and Jesse is the star.
Jesse starts the game with basic telekinetic powers that can rip cement blocks out of walls to fling at enemies or lift tables, chairs and other objects to throw. Eventually, she’ll unlock other abilities including a fast-dash and the ability to levitate which makes Control feel most like Sucker Punch’s inFamous games.
Jesse is powerful and you can shape the way you want to play, or adapt to the variety of enemies you’ll encounter. Different forms of the Service Weapon can be unlocked by forming them with materials found, earned and dropped from enemies. A close-range shotgun variation will obliterate lesser enemies in a wide scope in-front of Jesse, while a sniper variation allows you to pick off enemies from afar, or deal tons of damage with a charged-up shot.
You can modify the Service Weapon’s formations with equipable perks that’ll decrease reload times, increase damage and more. You’ll find these Weapon Mods dropped by enemies or hidden throughout the game in containers. You’re also able to craft them, and can also upgrade your crafting level to be able to make higher tier mods. Jesse is also customizable in a similar fashion. She can equip up to three Personal Mods by the end of the game and these can increase your HP, energy, or decrease the time it takes to use certain abilities. The customization is about being adaptive to the situation your facing and it’s often a good fall-back plan if you’re struggling in a section to see what mods you have that could help out.
Exploring the FBC isn’t scary, but it’s often unsettling. Walking into a giant open room with bodies all floating in the middle of the room is eerie. And Control’s sound design seems to exist solely to keep you on your toes. There is a constant whispering of souls in the distance throughout nearly every section in the game, which, as I played entirely with headphones on, was at times disturbing. The original score from Martin Stig Anderson and Petri Alanko adds to the mood as well with a combination of pieces that range from an anxiety increasing drum patters that signify bad-news to string pieces more atypical of the horror genre.
Not since Bloodborne have I been so amazed at the intricate world-design that features in Control. Its interconnected levels and locations are very smart and I’d often enter into a new section only to realise its a higher level than I’d been a couple of hours earlier. The design makes the building, as confusing as it can be, feel very tangible and helps ground what is a very sci-fi space.
Eventually, you’ll learn that your weapon, the Service Weapon, is an ‘item of power’, one of many, which the FBC collects, holds and experiments on. You’ll come across others eventually, mostly behind thick glass, but each and everyone makes you wonder what they do and what the story behind each is. The FBC has a rich history and I was happy to indulge in every bit of lore I could find with audiotapes, and documents hidden around as collectables.
The FBC building itself is considered a place of power and is called The Oldest House, which has deep connections to alternate realities. The deeper you get inside The Older House, the weirder and less likely the laws of physics, or reality will have any effect. One second you could be in a rather normal looking office building, the next, a trip down the rabbit hole.
The art design is fantastical with some areas you enter inside the FBC building being utterly otherworldly. You’ll think you’re in the pits of hell, the depths of space, the utter ninth circle at times. Control is nothing short of absolute madness, but it’s beautiful, and I want the artbook.
While Control’s story is rather simple, it’s the world-building and characters you meet along the way that offers rich tapestries to be explored and offer the most intrigue. It’s an odd-game from Remedy though, as the story is mostly optional. What you get out of Control is going to rely on how much you invest into listening to audio logs, and watching optional video content that plays around the building from the Head of Research at the FBC, Dr Casper Darling, who is played in live-action by Matthew Porretta.
By the time the credits roll, there is still more to be done and learned inside the FBC and Remedy has more content planned for post-release. Before that comes though, there’s a substantial end-game between side-missions and random FBC Alerts to respond to. Some of the side-quests I left until I completed the game because they were kicking my ass. Several optional bosses were harder than anything seen in story missions. That said, Control is often difficult and requires you to make the most of every ability at your disposal. It does help to spend time doing some side-missions when you can to break up the main quest-line, especially when a really good mod could be life or death.
I had significant FPS drops a handful of times over my 12-16 hour playthrough. Combat in Control can get very hectic and with so much destructible items and debris, it seems my PS4 Pro struggled to keep up at times with drops to what felt like to the 12fps range. I also encountered mild freezes a couple of times and the load times, particularly when you’re dying several times in a row trying to beat a boss, become very tedious. None of this is experience ruining, but it was annoying any time it happened.
If silhouetted, mysterious, cigarette smoking characters shrouded in mystic and spouting rather philosophical nonsense is your kinda afternoon, Control is probably going to be one of your favourite games of 2019. I dove into its world headfirst and came out soaking in an urge to watch The X-Files. Control is my kinda sci-fi trip and easily one of the year’s best games.