Pay attention to the janitor in the strange basement.
This is now the second time I’ve played Control, the single-player, third-person action-adventure from Max Payne, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break developer Remedy. My first test drive (which you can also watch below) convinced me of Control’s fundamentals – namely, that shooting things and using the director’s telekinetic powers felt really fantastic – and so in my second go-round, I was looking for the same level of polish and appeal in the rest of the experience. Remedy’s never given reason to doubt the Finnish studio, and Control doesn’t seem like it will end the studio’s run of quality offerings anytime soon.
The hour-ish long mission (which I only got to play 45 minutes of) was called “Directorial Override” and it’s the third one in Control’s campaign. In it, you as Control director Jesse Faden head into the bowels of The Oldest House to lift the lockdown that’s been set in place by the building itself, that only you as the director can override.
The janitor down there, Ahti, has been working down there for what must be decades. So long that he’s developed his own bit of gibberish language, not unlike Gollum. Some of it seems to be Swedish, but not all of it. I had to work to fix the mess of the lockdown, he said. Arish, a security chief, also needed the water and electrical systems fixed. And so I proceeded, and found a locked door guarding a glass room. To get through, I simply picked up a table using telekinesis and threw it through a glass pane adjacent to the room. Presto! New door made, and I found a new weapon mod as a reward. (Jesse’s director-only Service Weapon, as I detailed in my first hands-on with Control, is basically a super-cool shapeshifting gun that has different firing modes. The two I’ve seen have been, basically, a Desert Eagle-type monster pistol and a shotgun-esque blast.)
I fought floating humans in a blood-red room, fell into a hole and went to a strange place where I found an Object of Power – a merry-go-round horse, in this case, that I had to touch to “cleanse” – and upgraded my abilities to learn Evade, which is basically a super dash. The sights and sounds along the way add to Control’s onion-like mystery; the further into it you go and the more layers you peel back, the stranger it gets – in a good way.
Control seems to have an odd but undeniably compelling narrative, a la Alan Wake, while boasting intense combat that hearkens back to Remedy’s Max Payne roots. The result is an experience that eschews the narrative experiment that was Quantum Break’s pauses to watch live-action television and focuses on keeping you rooted in its Brutalist game world at all times. It’s an appealing mix, and one that feels very welcome in a gaming landscape lorded over by looter shooters and open worlds. Stay tuned for much more on Control; I’m very keen to learn more.