No game this year surprised me as much as Control did. The first few trailers I saw painted a mysterious picture of what the game’s storyline entailed, but once I truly delved into the game itself, I was pleasantly drawn in. It hooks you in and keeps you guessing all the way to the end.
Control is a game about Jesse Faden, who walks into a large skyscraper in New York City called The Oldest House, a major division of the Federal Bureau of Control. They deal in all things supernatural, and paranatural. When they discover an “object of power” in small town USA, a slide projector, the life of Jesse Faden changes permanently. Her and her brother discover the object, which causes a cataclysm in the town, and her brother is changed from the event, becoming possessed by other-worldly paranormal ghosts. He is kidnapped by the FBC, but Jesse makes a break for it, and lived her life on the run ever since. As time rolls on, she is drawn ever closer to the FBC, and suddenly finds herself walking into the Oldest House to find her brother. As she walks in, she immediately assumes the position of The Director after a major paranormal event happens within the facility, killing and possessing many of its’ employees and inhabitants.
There is more to the story than I mentioned, but I will not spoil it because the discovery and exploration into the events and what is causing everything is what makes the game enjoyable. It is a standard third-person shooter game, with your weapon being a non-projectile type handgun that can morph into other variants (a shotgun style, a precision rifle, and others…). You’re fighting possessed enemies that were former employees of the FBC, and otherworldly entities. As you explore the Oldest House and many of its’ branches and levels, you find codex entries, diary pieces, audio and video clips that explain what the FBC does, how it operates, and what it is researching. It’s worth pouring over these finds to get a sense of what’s going on in the world, and they make the story so fascinating. It’s so fascinating that I almost enjoy finding these entries and collectibles in the world, which is something I generally disliked in games that almost require it.
Besides the occasional framerate hiccups when scores of enemies fill the screen, the gunplay is very fun and engaging, especially when you discover your supernatural abilities like being able to push, pull, and float. The pull ability allows you to grab items in the world, as well as even bits of the floor and walls, and use them as projectiles, which can help in a firefight against armored enemies. The particle effects during these fire fights are gorgeous to look at, and can create a sense of havoc if you begin to lose control (pun intended).
The atmosphere really sells the game, however. The Oldest House is a living breathing character within the game, and has stories to tell; from floating humans within the halls and rooms that chant otherworldly and cryptic words and phrases, to actual objects of power that transport you into other worlds that explain more of the paranormal. One of the most interesting objects of power is a refrigerator that requires someone to look at it the entire time. If not, the closest person in its’ vicinity becomes sucked into another dimension. Or the traffic light, that you can only approach if the light turns green. There are many side missions that require you to “cleanse” these objects of power, among other side quests and missions that breathe life into the story.
Jesse has inner monologues not with herself throughout the game, but with a being that possessed her during the event in her hometown years ago. Periodically she asks it questions and clarification as to what’s going on. It doesn’t talk back, but it shows to the player that the game Control is more than the sum of the characters and NPCs you encounter. It is a living and breathing world that we cannot easily understand, nor comprehend. The characters that you encounter as well all add something to the story, and are very well voiced.
The writers did a fantastic job of creating a mysterious world that begs for further exploration. Thankfully, more story DLC has been announced for 2020, one of which is a tie in to the Alan Wake universe. This game has become the biggest surprise of 2019 for me, both in terms of tight and easy gameplay, but mostly for its’ excellent story-telling and the lore that surrounds it. It’ll keep you guessing all the way to the end, which will shock you how little you understood even leading up to it. Jesse’s character is one you keep rooting for from beginning to end.
-Great storyline and lore
-Tight shooter-style gameplay
-Great particle effects/graphics
-Framerate hiccups during some fire fights