CONTROL / DEVELOPER: REMEDY ENTERTAINMENT / PUBLISHER: 505 GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 27TH
Control is the latest game from Remedy, the folk responsible for 2010's Twin Peaks-esque cult favourite Alan Wake and the 2016 sci-fi epic Quantum Break. Building on the best bits of those two games, Control follows the story of Jesse Faden, who finds herself becoming the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, a secretive government agency in charge of researching and investigating “paranatural” events.
At the start of the game, events are shrouded in mystery – Jesse is already at the Bureau and weird things are already happening. People are floating in the air, the building itself is constantly shifting, and a force known as the Hiss is making its presence felt in some rather undesirable ways. To say much more would be straying too far into spoiler territory (much like Twin Peaks, Control is definitely best experienced with no prior knowledge of what's about to happen), and there's a heck of a lot of inexplicable weirdness, but just go along with it and find out where the game takes you. The tightly-scripted action-packed storyline that quickly unfolds should certainly be enough to keep any genre fan entertained.
During your time at the Bureau, you'll explore several sectors of the enormous facility to deal with the Hiss and complete various missions. The campaign pushes you along at a fairly fast pace, but you can always ignore your objective and check out your surroundings for a while. Finding Objects of Power – everyday items that have been altered through contact with other dimensions – gives Jesse some much-needed special powers which can then be upgraded using points earned by completing side missions. Most of these missions are found through exploring (the game doesn't give you any pointers, apart from marking the general area of your current target on the map), so taking the time to hunt around is definitely advised.
Jesse isn't the most durable person, even when her health bar has been fully upgraded. It's easy to feel massively underpowered for the first few missions, but things soon click into place after you get some upgraded abilities and install a few weapon and body modifications. Enemies are often ruthless though, and there are a few later difficulty spikes that threaten to spoil the experience (one particular boss fight gave us quite literally hours of trouble!).
Visually, this might just be the best-looking game on current-gen consoles. It's incredibly striking, with silhouetted shadows, immensely satisfying sparks and smoke that erupts from defeated enemies, and bright red and blue lights that add to the mysterious atmosphere. Cutscenes have a grainy cinema feel, and many conversations are directed as if they were part of a live-action film. There's some fancy cutting-edge lighting technology going on too, making things generally look much more realistic than we've seen before.
It seems that pushing the console to its limits might come with a downside though, as our trusty old original Xbox One struggled to keep up with the game's demands. There are some loooooong load times, and we encountered a fair bit of slowdown, particularly during hectic combat scenarios. Losing track of what you're fighting (or, more to the point, what's fighting you) because everything slows down to the point where you can't even turn the camera around (or worse, being killed for no fault of your own) does tend to let the game down.
Having said that, Control is still a fantastic game - a high 9, or possibly even a 10, if a few of the creases could be ironed out. Its presentation, storyline and action-packed combat are second to none, and combine to make what should be one of the best games we've played this year so far. Once you get past a few bumps in the road (some of which, we're sure, are fixable on the developers' end), you'll find a stunning sci-fi adventure that deserves every genre fan's attention.