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Remedy Games have always been the undisputed king of the ring when it comes to mind-blowing storytelling without shoehorning Oscar-bait emotional sequences, cue Max Payne and Alan Wake. They don’t need such tropes because at their forefront they’ve got Sam Lake who’s like the Christopher Nolan of video games when it comes to writing complicated narratives with wholesome twists and turns, thanks to the sheer amount of background research carried out to build a believable universe. And their latest outtake, CONTROL, is not far behind in this aspect, starring none other than Beth Wilde… I – I mean Courtney Hope and few other actors from older games whose faces or voices you might recognize. But does the game live up to its hype? Let’s take a look.

Story & Narrative

Imagine if Cabin in the Woods and SCP Foundation (an online collaborative sci-fi project) had a baby whose delivery was carried out by Sam Lake himself and voila! You get the premise of CONTROL, a title centered around similar themes consisting of a clandestine government agency with a superficial objective of protecting humanity from unpredictable otherworldly phenomena, the only difference being the evil forces here are extra-dimensional rather than extra-terrestrial. Hence the name Federal Bureau of Control or FBC, whose mandate is to contain, study and control those items that have been ‘altered’ by these supernatural entities (read: para-natural), which would be… let’s say… quite harmful for national security if left unchecked. This goes without saying that the FBC has its ulterior motives, carrying out morally ambiguous experiments to further its understanding of the unknown and ultimately ‘controlling’ such objects that defy the known laws of realityAnd just like any other secret government agency, they fail in doing so without a disastrous breach of containment. Typical humans, you know, total security failure!

You play as Jesse Faden (Courtney Hope), a woman searching for her missing brother who she believes had been taken by the FBC after a mysterious otherworldly incident during her childhood. For years, an entity, called Polaris, had guided her, helped her look for the FBC and eventually her brother until she was finally able to locate them after seventeen years, headquartered in a featureless, brutalist skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan. And the game begins as she arrives at the lobby of FBC, disguised from the public eye under the name of New York National Safety Headquarters.

But nothing is as straightforward as it seems because the building, the Oldest House, is a gargantuan, shape-shifting Place of Power existing outside the laws of causality, and is currently under invasion from a para-natural force dubbed as The Hiss that has corrupted most of its workers and employees, suspending them midair like trophies. The few remaining survivors are trying their best to prevent the Hiss from leaking out by locking down the whole building and isolating different sectors of the Oldest House. However, despite the lockdown, Jesse manages to sneak in.

After coming in contact with Max Payne… I – I mean the actor who voiced Max Payne, James McCaffery, Jesse is instantly assigned the role of FBC’s director who’s bounded to an ‘Object of Power’ called the Service Weapon that can transform into various other weapons according to need. With a gun in hand and a new role assigned, she dives deeper into the rabbit hole to unravel the mysteries of the House, find her brother and ultimately seek answers regarding her childhood.

Gameplay and Mechanics

CONTROL plays out from a third-person perspective and is far more than your average shooter. For starters, there is no auto-cover like Remedy’s previous title Quantum Break; you’ve to manually crouch behind objects to avoid incoming fire. Oh, and no bullet-time either. But Jesse, being a prime para-utilitarian, has a whole new loadout of para-natural abilities that enable her to launch random objects at enemies, dash short distances in the blink of an eye, create a makeshift shield out of debris, and even freaking fly to dodge bullets mid-air – levitating above ground for a few seconds literally taking the battle to new heights because not all hostile entities in CONTROL are ground-dwelling. This allows Jesse to mix her attacks creating unique combinations to pulverize the Hiss, like telekinetically launching fire-extinguishers or computer processors successively to shatter the enemies’ armor (some of the Hiss have a resonating frequency field around them that stops bullets) or getting closer to an enemy with a rapid dash then using melee to negate a large portion of their health, after which she can temporarily seize control over them making them fight alongside her before they die out shortly. However, most of these stunts require energy which is limited and Jesse has to wait for a cooldown. But have no fear, because the game has a few RPG elements like a Skill Tree, Weapon crafting, modification, and upgrade that will enable her to utilize the full potential of her para-natural arsenal.

Enemies, upon on dying drop health shards and assets which can be used to craft new Service Weapon forms like the Spin (assault rifle), Shatter (shotgun), Pierce (Single-shot laser weapon) or Charge (kind-of a grenade launcher), as well as ballistic and personal mods to accrue Jesse’s performance. And yet, the gunplay is pretty normal with the only downside being that you can’t carry more than two guns at a time, which is ridiculous since the same weapon can transform into other modes on the fly. So to change the weapon you’ve to pause amidst the combat.

In addition to the loot, there are hundreds of collectables scattered around the House, ranging from research documents and containment procedures on Altered Items, Hiss, etc. to audio and video files including a small puppet show that sheds light on the history and happenings within the FBC. Jesse also has to ‘cleanse’ certain Control Points which were installed to stabilize the warping nature of the Oldest House and hence had become the primary target for the Hiss. Cleansing a Control Point returns that section of the House to normalcy, and can be used to fast-travel to other cleansed Control Points across the building as well as unlock more skills in Jesse’s Skill Tree. In addition to it, you can take up certain challenges, completing which you’ll receive more loot/assets. Completing the main objectives would grant points anyway, however completing the side-objectives is much more important as many Objects of Power with which Jesse can bind and gain the critical abilities are the in the side-missions only. Though its completely your choice; you can wish to ignore them altogether and play the game with just your basic self but you’ll be missing out a huge chunk of content. At least don’t miss the Bureau Alerts which are timed events that will pit you against named enemies and their minions spawned at another location of the Oldest House because killing them will give you massive loot.

Level Design and Combat

CONTROL is largely non-linear unlike previous Remedy titles, and yet, is a narrative-driven adventure. You’re meant to explore the Oldest House in its entirety though you cannot initially because of the lockdown, clearance level or lack of powers like levitation, which will enable you to reach doors and gateways located at a height. As you progress through the campaign you’ll gain more powers and clearance levels that will allow you access to areas which you had to skip in your previous explorations, coming across new types of loots, collectibles, enemies and even bosses! This Metroidvania aspect will make you sit on the edge because you never know what you’ll encounter in those newly opened areas. Heck, Remedy’s procedurally generating enemy A.I. has been reworked from the ground up to spawn the right type of enemies at the right place based on what type of weapon modes and powers you have, thus, keeping the combat fluid and dynamic at all instances (with a better character movement than Quantum Break). And that’s not all! There are some areas where you’ll run into FBC Rangers desperately fighting the Hiss. Now watch them exclaim with awe as they see their para-utilitarian director take down the enemy with brand new abilities.

The environment is extremely destructible and fragile; Jesse can knock down any object not affixed to the ground with as little force as running into them. The reason for this being Jesse’s ability to telekinetically lift anything and everything including fallen corpses and use it as a deadly projectile, even chunks of tiles and concrete that she can mentally tear off the walls and the floor underneath. You can even pluck rockets and grenades mid-air and hurl them back at the Hiss to watch them blow up to kingdom come!

The enemy roster in CONTROL is quite decent. You got the pistol-wielding Hiss guards, rifle-wielding Hiss rangers, rocket-launching Hiss demolition experts, chaingun-wielding Hiss troopers, and quite often these guys are shielded by a Hiss Cluster – glowing red orbs that rapidly shift short distances while continuously replenishing their Health Bar, well, unless you kill them before they recuperate or destroy the Cluster before that. In addition to that, there are the Hiss Charges – hovering corpses bent over the waist that float towards you as soon as they see you only to explode in your proximity. Then there are the Hiss Warped – fat Hiss-corrupted FBC employees that can make a shield similar to Jesse – and the Hiss Elevated – airborne, Hiss-corrupted staff who launch projectiles. In addition to all these, there are special kinds of enemies suited to particular locations like the one that can cloak itself and some Demogorgons straight out of Stranger Things…. well, let’s just say you’ll face shit-ton of enemies, most of which will overwhelm you with their sheer numbers.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

The facial motion-capture in CONTROL is mindblowing! Casper Darling’s (Matthew Porretta) video presentations are a sight for sore eyes! I would go as far as saying that in terms of acting and mocap, CONTROL might stand next to L.A. Noire. But other than that, the visuals feel a bit blurry and washed-out like Quantum Break, as evident from the trailer itself. Many times objects render only on getting closer with dust from the strewn debris making everything appear smoky. The wall textures look jagged and in most areas, blinding light fills the rooms even if the light sources are small ones, resulting in a lack of shadows of most objects. In contrast to these, there are some places where the shadows are the blackest thing imaginable which will make you stumble in the dark because the devs have placed a collectible there too! An austere, grey-bluish color palette coats everything in the environment giving it a metallic look, well, apart from the Hiss-corrupted areas where everything is layered in a menacing blood-red light.

There are no good ambient tracks in this game other than the same ominous tune that plays during explorations and the same combat theme that plays during the enemy encounters. But that doesn’t mean there is a lack of soundtrack because they do exist, albeit extremely less in number, as music from radios and speakers with which you can interact. This means you won’t be able to hear the songs if you’re far away; so much for killing enemies while jamming to alt-rock. But to make up for all this, the sound effects are pretty much on point – the murmurs of the Hiss, the thumps of the projectiles hitting the enemies, the screeches of the Hiss materializing, the swooshes of the dash –  are all handled with expertise. Adding the cherry on the cake, there’s a dedicated room on the ground floor of the Research Sector where you can play The Dark Disquiet by Poets of the Fall at full volume!

Speaking of performance, the game was tested on an Intel i7 8th Gen processor paired with a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060  and 16GB RAM (too bad we couldn’t test it on an RTX to see the Ray Tracing). At 1080p and high settings, the fps juggled between 40-50 in narrow areas when there were no enemies but in open areas, it went as below as 37. And during most cutscenes, the game stuck at 30 fps. Save for this minor infraction, no bugs were observed…. apart from the tables repeatedly getting stuck between Jesse’s legs because of the highly detachable nature of environmental objects (sigh).


Though the initial hours of the CONTROL might feel a bit dull since the missions will be like “go there and do that” and you won’t be able to use all your powers or explore all the sectors, but once the real story kicks in giving you a host of new abilities, there is no stopping. It’s safe to say that Remedy aces the writing department with an engaging story and intriguing lore with a solid gameplay and level design to back it all up. Priced at 1644/- INR and an Epic Store exclusive for the time being, CONTROL is the SCP game everyone deserves (even though there’s a free SCP game on Steam). No doubt about it, this is a true Game-of-the-year contender.









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