Control is Remedy Entertainment’s 2019 title that explores a secret government agency dedicated to dealing with otherworldly events. It’s also one of the best-looking games I’ve seen and made me a believer in the promises of Nvidia’s Ray Tracing technology.
The graphics in Control are exceptional. While the gameplay and story will always be the core of the experience, using Ray Tracing technology has elevated Control’s visuals to a major accomplishment.
Admittedly this is one of the first games I experienced Ray Tracing in and it was also one of the first that had Ray Tracing. While it’s good that the technology is getting adapted into games, there are certainly a few bugs that hopefully will get ironed out. Perhaps this will one day be like Toy Story, which was a visual accomplishment at the time but was eventually superseded by its sequels.
The Ray Tracing technology is impressive, but it’s a bit too strong in places. Reflections in glass windows are so strong that the reflected objects appear to be on the inside of the window, rather than a reflected object. The lighting and environment look wonderful but the ambiance feels a little too noticeable and some of that could be graphic design.
However, Control also has a lot of visual flair outside of the Ray Tracing technology. With the game based on apparitions from other worlds, there is an effective use of particle effects to give a look of miasma after damage is done to an enemy.
Also, areas will get heavily damaged as the battles rage on. Ducking behind a solid wall, players will notice the wall slowly gets destroyed as they trade shots with the enemy, and small touches like that make Control feel more variable and less scripted. Each gunfight and battle feels unique because of how the game looks.
Control also has many moments that are just a visual feast for the eyes and, succeeds at being memorable just for the style and locations the game chooses to explore.
It’s a shame that Remedy’s visual masterpiece struggles outside of that. Control’s story works for the pieces it wants to accomplish. It tells a story about the Bureau of Control and an incursion brought on from an otherworldly intruder known simply as the Hiss, and this conflict is at the core of Control’s story, and it works extremely well.
But Control’s biggest problem is what it leaves unsaid. Multiple questions are teased and characters are introduced and left to flounder. The enigmatic Ahti being a major one. While he looks like a simple janitor it’s clear there’s far more to learn about Ahti, except Control never spends any time to develop him outside of having him appear at a few points to give critical items and advice to the player.
Similarly, Jesse Faden, the main character, is treated as a level of messiah that gamers might be accustomed to. She enters the Bureau during a lockdown and then instantly becomes the highest member of the team known as the “Director” after the last director dies of an apparent suicide. However, every member of the staff treats this as a normal occurrence, but often addresses Jesse as Director moments after meeting her without hearing any part of that story.
At the same time, the Hiss is named by Jesse one time with a character remarking that’s a good name for the enemy. From that point on every staff member of the Bureau uses the term “Hiss” as if it’s a known fact rather than a new name for the invaders.
The problem is the story is unable to fully encompass this large strange world the player appears in. And rather than explain key parts of it, Control seems to want to push the strangeness to 11 and just act like this is a normal operating procedure for this organization. But it never spends the time to establish that procedure satisfactorily, leaving the player feeling a bit at odds with the story as it’s delivered.
With the strength of the visuals and the acceptability of the story, we come to the problem child of Control. Control’s gameplay starts strong, giving players a gun that can morph into different shot types and eventually a telekinesis power that allows players to fling various objects at enemies.
Both of these powers are gained in the first couple hours, however, Control will take players on a journey that lasts about twenty hours, only the gun and telekinesis power are needed to beat every encounter. While there are a few additional powers gained through sidequests, players will neither need nor use any of those powers. If players upgrade the launching power of the telekinesis, the game becomes even easier, and without difficulty, all combat becomes trivial.
But the combat in Control isn’t just a story element. Control seems to keep presenting reasons for players to engage in combat, even offering 6 different strength levels for the enemies that the player finds and hints players might do better if they level up and come back to hard encounters later.
There is also a radiant style quest system that promises rewards for completing random tasks, usually involving players going back to old areas and farming kills. Previously cleared areas will have enemies reappear at random times, and enemies drop currencies for upgrades and weapon mods. Finally, there are also random alerts where players can go back to areas to kill enemies for different purposes.
But all of these elements feel like they are put in the wrong game. Control is a story-driven adventure game, but Control’s combat is being presented like a looter shooter. Running to certain areas to farm loot or mods, going to events to get minor rewards, farming enemies, all of these ideas seem to exist only to extend the gameplay.
The problem is Control’s combat is never fun enough to make any of these moments worth experiencing and it’s the story that drives the player to keep moving forward. If Control’s combat was more streamlined and just became an element of the story, where you shoot people because that’s what the player would expect you to do in those situations, the flow would be better. It would become the necessary part of getting to the next segment of gameplay, that Control is otherwise lacking.
With Control continually pushing the gameplay towards the player, the lackluster nature of the combat becomes more apparent and feels like it should have been solved through development, rather than a part of the game that was forced in by expectations of the eventual players.
It’s a shame because Control is a beautiful game with a compelling story, but it’s the combat that it seems to dwell on as if it’s showcasing it to players as something just as good as the rest of the game. Sadly, that’s not Remedy’s strongest point and ultimately becomes the biggest hindrance of the experience.
Control isn’t a bad game. If players stop asking the obvious questions, the story is enjoyable. The graphics are beautiful and the experience is good. But it becomes a flawed game, mostly through the repetition of the combat that never really lives up to what Control needed to become a complete package.
It’s a shame, but hopefully one that can be fixed in Remedy’s next title.
I give Control an arbitrary
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