Developer Remedy is shaking things up with their newest third-person action game, Control, in comparison to their other supernatural and cinematic games, like Alan Wake and Quantum Break.
From what I played at 505 Games’ booth during E3 2019, it seems Control ditches linear narrative for a more open-ended experience that feels like a modern Metroidvania in all of the best ways. Here’s what I learned in 45 minutes or so exploring the ever-changing Oldest House, a facility in New York that acts as HQ of the Federal Bureau of Control.
Control’s story revolves around a young woman named Jesse Faden. She’s an outsider to the FBC and winds up becoming the new Director of the Bureau due to the untimely death of the past director. It’s not explained how, but somewhere along the way Jesse gains special abilities, and she’s then tasked with having to face off with a supernatural force called The Hiss.
From a technical perspective, the first thing I noticed about this latest build of Control is that the framerate and stability has been sharpened markedly since the last time I played the game. The game’s performance was a key area of concern after having played it at Pax East, but I’m to report that these issues were almost non-existent in the demo that I played at E3 2019.
Instead of being thrown into a somewhat contained area in the Oldest House, my demo this time allowed me to explore whatever I wanted, giving me a taste of the vast locations that are found in this creepy building.
The folk at Remedy have spoken of the Metroidvania genre as inspiration for Control before, and I definitely felt that more noticable this time around. True to the tropes of the genre, inaccessible areas were made accessible once I’d obtained a specific ability.
Players will spend a bit of time wandering around the large property of the Oldest House, going back and forth between area and area. Instead of being hand-held, Remedy wants players to really dive into this world that they’ve created –as a huge Metroid fan, I was all in.
And even better, the gameplay is still as solid and satisfying as ever before. Jesse can use telekinesis to pick up pretty much any object that’s in the space around her, and then use said object to fling it at enemies and it’s the best feeling ever.
Jesse does have a transformational gun, but using rocks, boxes, trash cans, and containers as projectiles was just way more fun. You don’t waste any of your ammo, and you get to see all of the gorgeous particle effects on-screen because of all of the dusty objects littered around the area.
You can levitate the object by pressing and then holding down a button and you can then let it launch by letting go. You can shoot things pretty far and can even jump while tossing items too. But if you’re more used to shooting enemies rather than telekinesis, you have lots of options too.
Jesse actually only has one gun to use in Control, but this service gun can do a lot of things. By equipping up to two gun styles, you can play around with different mods like one that works like your basic pistol, one that acts like a shotgun, and another with a sniper-like setting.
I didn’t have these powers in this demo, but later on, you’ll be able to fly, charge toward enemies, and a bunch of other skills that allow you to dive headfirst into more challenging sections of the game due to her increased power and techniques.
The combat is just so improvisational. You can run around and throw rocks at guys, or stay back and snipe ’em one by one, or use melee attacks for some up close and personal brawls.
There are also mods that you can equip on Jesse herself that can affect things such as health, reload time, and attack power, and you can find these hidden around the House and from defeating enemies. Basically, there are plenty of options when it comes to combat and to how you flesh out the story as well.
Exploring the Oldest House is probably one of the biggest aspects of Control because you can do it however you want. There are sidequests that you can take on that are given by NPC’s like the creepy janitor who tasks you with fixing some of the broken vents in the facility.
This quest that I took on was massive and had me going from point to point on the map completing several different objectives. Of course, you can choose to skip these, but these quests are there and they help flesh out the world if you want to get a better look into the lore.
There’s no spoon-feeding here, as Remedy doesn’t want to force the player to watch cutscenes they don’t want to watch or accept missions they don’t want to complete.
You can play the game however you want to play and have fun in the open space of the Oldest House. I’m intrigued and compelled to find out more about the world and Jesse herself.
What I’ve played so far, Control is the modern Metroidvania game that I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to dive deep into this world and search every nook and cranny for secrets and audio tapes and such.
The presentation, combat, and depth of choice are reason enough to make this game a sleeper GOTY contender if Remedy follows through with what they’re promising that is.
For more Control, make sure you read our E3 interview with Brooke Maggs and Mikael Kasurinen, narrative designer and game director on the project, respectively. They went in-depth on how they’re approaching the narrative as well as exploration.