From the obtuse beginning through to the god-like-powered ending, this was an awesome game!!
From the opening moments where it feels like you’ve just been dropped off somewhere that you don’t know, Control keeps you in the dark. In fact, there is very little exposition throughout this game. Apart from Emily’s seemingly endless, excitable blurtings and some video/projections to be accessed. And that is something that frustrated and endeared this game to me: For the first couple of hours, whilst acclimatising to the Control controls, I had practically no idea what I was doing, where I was meant to be going and what I was even doing in this building in the first place. And who bases their game in a rigid, minimalist, very grey office building? I mean, couldn’t you choose somewhere more interesting? Oh….
What is evident from early on, is that this is going to be weird. And not just normal weird, but weird weird! Our protagonist Jesse likes to talk to herself. Or does she? There’s definitely an inner monologue going on as she/you are trying to figure out what is going on here in this office block, this Oldest House. Oh, and there’s someone else. A person, yey! Hi, old man. OK…. Hi very strange old man who thinks I’m going to be his janitorial assistant. Just go with it, smile, it’ll be fine!
This whole opening sequence just feels like an opening to a film, including showing the cast members, but it is very stylishly done. And that doesn’t stop with just the opening sequence. All throughout the game there is a polish, a feeling of quality that pervades everything: movement, combat, cut scenes, graphics, title cards, combat….
OK, we have a mystery to solve. What’s that? You aren’t giving me any clues? Well, thank you very much. In that case, I’ll just pick up this gun and go do things my way instead! Wha…? Where the hell have I just been transported to? The Astral Plane you say? Seems a bit strange, but I’ll go with it as it looks pretty damn cool here.
What is it with this game? Hinting. Always hinting and never revealing. And a constant underlying muttering, much like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice that is unnerving (apart from when it gets to the repeated “baby, baby, baby, yeah” part when my ears start listening intently. Every time). And there is a good deal of that going on here: where the hell am I and where am I trying to get to? And that isn’t helped by either a map that was confusing to me, at least in the early moments, until I started to learn my way around the levels. I’m going with this being another clever device to aid in the confusion and disorientation of navigating the Oldest House.
But, that aside, we are properly up and running now. A gun that recharges it’s own ammo, this game just got a lot better (for me anyway, with my wasteful aiming and shooting). Which leads to combat (Yeeeessss!) and enemies. And more enemies. OK, too many enemies! Stop appearing out of nowhere now! Please?? Aaaarrggh. Run away!
It is a slow progression as you make your way through the Oldest House, picking up upgrades for your weapon, developing your abilities. And once you have a good variety of both, that is when this game really hits its stride. Being able to levitate across a room, whilst picking up objects (even enemies!) to throw at enemies, then aiming and shooting various different assailants feels like you are a one-woman, psychokinetic, hurricane of power and destruction. That isn’t to say that the combat becomes easy, as it doesn’t. They level up as you do it seems, more powerful enemies appear and need a different approach but mostly there are a shit-ton more of them to deal with. And you know what? Those upside-down floating, exploding Hiss, freak me out big time. Especially the first ones that I saw as they sneaked up on me, I turned around and there were 4 or 5 of them right next to me, all upside-downy and freaky-looking. And then they exploded. Repeatedly. And…. death. First impressions last it seems!
The puzzles are interesting and sometimes do need a little bit of thought or just need to be returned to when you have the requisite ability. There are mini-bosses to fight, who do provide a good challenge but mostly this is about clearing and cleansing the Oldest House of the Hiss enemies and their effects on reality. And you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
I majorly dug the aesthetics of this game. Minimal yet vibrant, normal yet expansive. The utilisation of sticking two fingers up at the laws of space within the building itself is a masterstroke of what you can do with a game to help with the whole experience. It looks stunning in its harsh beauty, punctuated with the vibrant, red warning flashes.
The DLC content is equally fantastic, continuing on with the excellent combat, new enemies and new locations, expanding on the universe already created, fitting everything together really seamlessly. A great example of how to do extra content. And to top it all off, this is another great game with another, really great female protagonist. After Horizon Zero Dawn dominating my gaming a few years ago (it was pretty much all I played for a year), through to The Last of Us Part 2 and now to this, it certainly feels like there aren’t limits to who you choose to be your main character these days and I would say that I’m positively drawn to games that choose a more diverse protagonist.
Hugely worth the outlay of time to squeeze every last trophy out of this game and the DLC content. I can’t believe that it was a PS Plus freebee! I don’t think that I would have picked it up otherwise to I am so grateful for it being thrown into my lap! And once again, I have been left sad that everything has been done but reflect happily on the journey that Jesse, the FBC and Control (and by extension – Remedy Entertainment) took me on.
Wooooahh, there. Hold your horses! How could I forget this? The mother-flipping Ashtray Maze!!!! OMG! How I loved this section. So visually stunning and astoundingly inventive, all overlaid by pounding rock music. It was just *chef’s kiss*