Erase Her Head - Control Review

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Sep 7, 2019 4:00 PM
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How well optimised is Control for PC? 3.1
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Quantum Break was a commendable idea that ultimately saw Remedy dig itself into a deep hole with the TV-style interludes and superficially branching plot which could never hope to deliver. At that point, it felt as if Microsoft dropped Remedy faster than you can say Max Payne. The one-time pioneers of the third-person shooter found themselves in the doldrums. What a way to make your comeback though. Control is a Lynchian, physics-bending third-person shooter that’s equal parts The Twilight Zone, X-Files, and the aforementioned Max Payne.

The basic remit of Control is secretive, to say the least. This is a world of intrigue. Of secrets and smoking cigars. Redacted comments, cover-ups, conspiracies and crackpot theories. It’s a world where all the craziest things you’ve ever heard are true. Control is quick to get going and yet refuses to play many of its cards too early, trading kills for access to a growing stack of secrets.

 

You play as Jesse Faden, the very-soon-to-be Director of the Federal Bureau of Control. Turning up to her first day at the office, she finds the FBC building, the intoxicatingly named ‘The Oldest House’, practically abandoned and over-run by a strange force known as ‘The Hiss’. The Oldest House isn’t just any old building though. It’s capable of morphing and twisting due to the powerful objects held within; a gargantuan place of dry bureaucracy and, contrastingly, achingly beautiful sights, with multiple floors and ceilings which stretch into the sky, and home to a cast of characters who range from the banal federal grunts, to the off-kilter lonerism of Ahti, the FBC’s janitor who’s capable of cropping up anywhere and everywhere.

 

 

It’s a world dripping with evocative imagery, one where you believe just about anything around the corner, whether that’s a tentacled poop monster blocking up the sewer pipes, a magic fridge with a dark secret, or an x-ray machine capable of keeping an army of enemies in thrall.

 

And you know those little notes everybody just loves to sprinkle around the environments since BioShock really lit the touchpaper on the narrative environments? Control’s filled to the brim with posters and notes and videos and cryptic emails. Unlike most games though, it’s almost universally absorbing and interesting to pick through it all, attempting to decipher some meaning. Slotting in nicely alongside the FBI tone, many of these documents are heavily redacted, teasing further story elements which will be eked out down the line. The concept is nothing new but the delivery provides truly excellent world-building the likes of which we’ve rarely seen. Little tidbits of information and tantalising asides to what’s going on outside the shifting walls of The Old House. Each note you find, each video you watch, peels off an additional layer as you work toward Control’s mind-bending core.

 

The scene-setting is all well and good but it’s important to remember this is a Remedy Entertainment joint. That name conjures up a lot of thoughts for those who’ve been following them for the past 20 years but most of all it means glorious, balletic, bullet-spewing action. Max Payne was a pioneering giant in this regard and let me tell you - Control does not disappoint on this front.

 

Being limited to just a single weapon sounded like a cop-out at first but the Service Weapon is an impressive beast. It’s a supernatural firearm which can morph into several different forms, each of which can be variously upgraded with modifiers and enhancements. They’re fairly boilerplate, to be honest, such as your standard pistol, shotgun, and SMG versions. However, using it just feels awesome. Even the humble pistol version can pack a big punch, the booming audio feedback aided by environments which splinter into pieces if you so much as breathe on them. Control is both aesthetically similar to that Matrix lobby and it also crumbles just like it too. Desks are ripped parts, monitors fly through the air, actual chunks of the floor are ripped up, and pillars break apart like cheap styrofoam.

 

 

On top of all this, Jesse earns a range of supernatural abilities such as telekinesis, a shield and levitation. It’s telekinesis which is the pick of the bunch though, allowing Jesse to pick up just about any object in the environment and hurl it at enemies in an explosion of violence. It makes this sort of sucking and thumping sound which is just oh so satisfying, topped off by the sort of scenery destruction which is enough to get any action fan giggling.

 

Playing with these toys literally never gets old, and it’s been too long since I’ve played a game just to mess around with the systems. Control’s tight, structurally speaking, and almost overbearingly brutalist in its architecture, but beneath it all lurks a weaponised sandbox filled with mayhem. There are rules though, to keep you penned in, such as all weapons sharing the same rechargeable ammo, along with a separate bar for the paranormal powers. The constant expenditure of resources in a firefight mean you’ll literally be forced to make use of every tool in your arsenal while you wait for the others to recharge. It’s not often to find a game where you can’t just settle safely on one or two of the most reliables weapons or abilities and it’s refreshing to be given such a versatile and useful toy box.

 

But, Control isn’t a game without a few foibles. They’re minor but they’re jarring all the same, such is the quality of the rest of the package.

 

First and foremost, Control is built around the archetypal Metroidvania design. There’s plenty of exploration, back-tracking, and secret routes which can only be unlocked with new abilities or items. However, neither the act of exploration nor the rewards themselves are satisfying enough to justify a jaunt across the map to see what was behind that locked door. Control has a terrible map system, you see. That’s if the map even appears. Sometimes it doesn’t and you have to close and reopen it. Good luck using the map to navigate in a logical manner though, and you’ll need even better fortune remember where those nooks and crannies you couldn’t access. No secrets or unlockables are marked on the maps and you can’t make your own markings either. It’s an unforgivable sin for a Metroidvania as these games typically live or die based on great, readable world design.

 

As for the rewards, you’ll invariably find a crate which can be opened to unlock a weapon or character modifier. They seem to be randomised and can be attached in limited numbers to offer increased health, faster reloads, less recoil and the like. The problem is, you’ll be picking up literally hundreds of these. Not just from secret areas but wrenched from the evaporated bodies of the fallen. I ended with way too many in fact, leading to occasional bouts of downtime where I would deconstruct dozens of the things for their constituent parts. As you can imagine, doing the Metroidvania thing of backtracking for secrets loses its lustre when you’ve already got hundreds of the very thing you’re collecting.

 

 

Fortunately for Remedy, the rest of Control more than makes up for it.

 

This is a studio dear to my heart from the Max Payne days but one I feared may be on a steady decline. Alan Wake was enjoyable enough and thrived on its intoxicating atmosphere, yet its combat left a little to be desired. And Quantum Break… Quantum Break was a great idea poorly executed. It didn’t so much leave a sour taste in my mouth as it gave me the droopiest of eyelids.

 

Control is an excellent return to form. Not only is Control comfortably the best Remedy game since Max Payne 2, it may well be the best Remedy game ever. It helps as well that it's astonishingly beautiful, both technically and artistically; from top to bottom, beginning to end, Control is a feast for the senses. Tantalisingly, the very concept of folklore and urban myths being believed into existence is a truly rich template from which this franchise can build. It’s rare to finish a game and already find myself lusting after a sequel.

Pros

  • Fantastic combat flow
  • Incredible graphical showcase
  • Tight world design

Cons

  • Confusing navigation sometimes
Score

9

Exceptional

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18:06 Jan-11-2020

Control is a great game, it has beautiful graphics and uses RTX technology, i bought it very cheap at allkeyshop.com which compared the prices of all offers

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15:42 Sep-08-2019

I find that the shadows on her face don't really look great, I have tested all the settings and it looks a bit meh - with RTX or not.

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15:42 Sep-08-2019

But game is intriguing and does many things fantastically

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17:53 Sep-07-2019

IDK I don't have the game, but for once I spent time watching gameplay even if it wasn't for the gameplay, and I can say that the gameplay isn't very good and neither is the AI and enemies, the abilities are great though, level design seems very good too, don't know the story, but knowing who made the game it's probably great, also the graphics are good, but it's just the core gameplay looks very clunky and poor to me, but then again as I said I don't own the game.

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22:55 Sep-07-2019

ohhh yeah the AI is super dumb and easily "broken" by not even trying to break it. The gameplay does look a little funky when watch but in practise it's very fluid but there are a few akward sections in the game. Level design is very good similar Arkham Asylum but if you don't like backtracking that's also a negative.

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22:58 Sep-07-2019

The one word i would use for this game is "inconsistent" to describe it best. Inconsistent performance,inconsistent difficulty (no diff options) so it ranges from piss easy to ridiculous bullet sponge enemies that kill you in 2 hits but take 5 minutes to bring down and inconsistent experience the game ranges from a 6-9

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23:00 Sep-07-2019

on the numbers scale i'd say it's constantly shifting between an above average game and an excellent game it really depends on what you are doing. Side missions? easy 9/10..main story? depending on which one it's gonna be a 6 or higher. And the map is horrible for navigation in the game completely useless XD

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09:57 Sep-08-2019

What are you talking about? Map is horrible? You have to find it in your way without the navigation, like try find a way without GPS. For me, it was easy to navigate through map. Maybe you have some problem with the map, hence you need a navigation :)


AI is indeed a bit dumb but sheer numbers makes up for it so it was quite enjoyable and I died many times, too xD

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17:53 Sep-08-2019

@Karibes you are talking about level design which is great im talking about the actual map which has no way to select levels too see what floor you are on. No markers on it never updates never marks locations that you've been to so you could go back my memory isnt bad but it aint perfect so im not remember where all

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17:54 Sep-08-2019

the doors with the keycards were. Thats why i said its useless for navigation and i barely used it i just looked around as the level design is much better but comparing this map to Arkham Asylum its just badly made. The numbers dont help the AI when i can hide behind the corner and gun them all down 1 by 1 XD

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09:39 Sep-09-2019

Quantum Break had alot of New Graphical Innovations are there any over here or is it simply using the quantum break engine and using RTX for visuals spectacle. i dont intend to upgrade my GTX 1080 anytime soon so are there any visual WOW's

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09:41 Sep-09-2019

for me to enjoy here?

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10:30 Sep-09-2019

I'd suggesting trying the game out or maybe wait for a sale the gameplay is a lot better than Quantum Break's. Visually the Global Illuminati was better in Quantum Break but that game destroyed PC's and also used like 720p upscaling cause the GI was so heavy. Overall its not the best looker ever but the effects

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10:35 Sep-09-2019

and physics are some of the best looking yet. The reflections already look great but RTX is a big step forward however its mostly going to be a slideshow with anything other than RTX cards since the game already hammers performance lowering setting and using 1080p helps out but its still all over the place

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14:03 Sep-09-2019

was waiting to grab it when it launches on steam anyway guess i can wait for a steam sale. but in the same league as MAX Payne 1,2 i dont even put 3 in that category those were exciting gameplay and are a benchmark in storytelling till date

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19:10 Sep-09-2019

It's got momemnts when it's up there but the game isn't consistently up there at least not for me. i liked the gameplay in MP3 just the story felt all over the place and unfortunately the writing in this game doesnt have those amazing MP,MP2 lines but the lore is very deep and interesting at least.

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16:06 Sep-07-2019

I'd probably put this game up there with Max Payne and MP2 aswell. The combat i thought was more of a mixed bag for me it has similar issues to Quantum Break where the regular enemies are way too easy and uninteresting to fight but then youve got great bosses like the fridge giant snail thing which was challenging

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16:08 Sep-07-2019

but it is repeated once more later which isnt a good thing imo. Graphically it looks impressive but the performance is all over the place and i found her internal "monologuing" annoying the more i played the game as she repeats everything twice...i felt like something was off with her jaw animation in some scenes

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16:24 Sep-07-2019

not sure what happened there but the powers in combat are so much fun and by the end of some fights entire rooms are destroyed. Abilities are a lot more interesting than QB's powers were i also like how Trench or the previous Director was voiced by Max Payne's VA (James McCaffrey) that was a nice touch.

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