When it comes to the video game Control, offered to players for free on Epic some time ago, I think many people first think of SCP-like and American drama-style storylines. This game won 85 awards including Game of the Year for many video game websites in 2019. Major scoring websites gave scores close to full marks, and even IGN gave a high score of 8.8. So what is the charm of the game Control that earns such high praise from multiple critics? How did it win 85 game awards? Well enough of the delays, let’s dive into the game and see what it’s all about.
Before officially introducing this game, let’s talk about Remedy Entertainment, the developer of Control. This studio also developed two hugely powerful Video Game Engines, The Alan Wake Engine and Northlight. Some of the games developed using these engines include the Max Payne series, Alan Wake, Quantum Break and Control.
One of those games, Alan Wake, had such a massive impression on critics that it was named the best psychological thriller action game of 2010 by the American Time magazine, so it’s safe to say that Remedy is a very capable development studio. Psychological thriller and action are a perfect combination. Of course, their signature American drama narrative style was well received but this time Remedy boldly discarded the linear narrative style that it had always used before, instead going in a new narrative direction for Control. What Remedy have done instead, is merge many different narrative styles to make a beautiful blend of storytelling, more than worthy to expand on their previous games.
The main theme of Control is a supernatural science fiction setting The director of Control has also stated how the SCP formula had influenced this game. SCP styled games involve the observation of an unknown creature of power, and watching how humanity tries to overcome this new supposed threat. Control is as close to a major AAA game using this SCP setting players can experience.
Of course, in addition to this curious setting, the game is also very good in creating a thrilling atmosphere and artistic design. The areas covered by bright red in the game makes the player feel uneasy and nervous, but also warns the player of danger. Add in some eerie background music and players will get immediately sucked into this remarkable environmental design choice.
Not only is the setting impressive but the gameplay itself is massively enjoyable. Ranged combat feels weighty, you can feel the impact of the close ranged attacks and the feedback from the item destruction is sensational. Whether using a keyboard and mouse or a controller the combat is extremely well executed. Not only are you limited to close and ranged combat, players can use various skills to adapt how they play. The biggest factor to the enjoyment of Control is in it’s polish and optimisation. Even those with lower end PCs should be able to play with a smooth frame rate at the small cost of lowering some graphics settings.
Some people say that the plot of Control is obscure and difficult to understand, and to their credit some moments can be confusing. Whether it’s the setting, the characters or how the story is told, players who ignore certain details will be asking themselves many different questions when playing the game. This is the player’s fault as Control has an engaging story which deserves your attention. However the more we play Control, the easier it is to understand how the story sets itself up with clever foreshadowing and a complex yet understandable narrative. But for those of you wanting a broad term for the story, it can be shortened down to a sister looking for her younger brother.
Now with all that being said let’s talk a little more about our main character. We play as Jesse who works for a secret government agency in the United States which specializes in supernatural phenomena. This agency’s office is located in a huge building called The Oldest House. This building itself is almost like a supernatural creature in that it can be infinitely changed, and its internal space is infinitely large. I bet real estate agents would love to be able to sell this. The FBI has mastered the so-called spatial stabilization technology, which is to occupy a control point to stabilize the area in The Oldest House and not allow that space to change.
The heroine Jessie has now become the director of the FBC. She became the director because the previous director, Awei, had passed away, and a large number of monsters have appeared.Jesse’s goal is to find her younger brother who was taken away by the FBC when he was a child, yet she still has to help the FBC for the sake of humanity.
It's such a simple plot, but under the narrative of Remedy, it has become a mind melting story. I must say that the overall plot is interesting, however once you have started to piece the plot puzzle together, you start to see some of its flaws. For me personally, after completing it and thinking about it after a few days, it was memorable and thought provoking.
Even the overall architectural design is a little lacking. Other than a few great artistic choicesm the actual buildings themselves are generic and look like they have just come off an assembly line for a toy manufacturer. Some standout features and details would elevate this game even further. The atmosphere of the game is mysterious and a little depressing which may put some people off. Others will love being in this setting.
One thing to note about Remedy is their level design is so amazing, especially in the design of Ashtray Maze and Seaview Hotel. I would like to call it the strongest part of the game. Those of you who have watched Inception or Doctor Strange will appreciate the intricate details of space manipulation. The visual impact for me is unmatched by any other game. Coupled with the outstanding BGM, the entire game including the plot and gameplay have reached masterpiece levels of brilliance.. The design of this kind of space level is not only reflected in the designer’s understanding of space architecture, but also in the imagination and mature design concept of the level route. The last time I saw such an amazing level design was in the single-player campaign of Titanfall 2.
The gameplay not only includes battle, but also solving the maze that is each level. Although these levels are difficult to solve, you may even get stuck, but as long as you are patient and play slowly, you will be able to progress. This unique sense of accomplishment is different from the sense of accomplishment achieved during battles in the game. Each battle in Control has a certain degree of difficulty. Compared with the mindless action of previous games, Control adopts the more difficult and meaningful souls-like style of combat, with different skills and weapons, not only increasing the difficulty of the game, but adding more variety to the game.
The game itself isn’t particularly long either. Ignoring the side quests and progressing at a normal speed, Control can be completed within 6 to 8 hours. Control adopts a semi-open sandbox style turning a confined space into multiple semi-open spaces. You can obtain materials to upgrade weapons and skill levels in battle, and complete side missions to get more unique items as well as more lore to the story. Thanks to this design choice, players will always have something to do in the world of Control instead of being bored in the empty space like in Watch Dogs.
As a supernatural science fiction action shooting game, Control has some horror elements sprinkled in too. Although the game does not have much in the way of blood or terrifying creatures the horror atmosphere it presents will have those less courageous players panicking as they walk around every corner. Let this be a warning to those of you who are on the timid side, it’ll be a tough 8 hours for you.
All in all, the game Control is one of the most amazing games I have played this year. No wonder it has won so many awards and has gained massive amounts of praise from both critics and players. While it may not have the blockbuster story or action of the Marvel Franchise, the massive open world of Grand Theft Auto or even the spectacle gunplay of Call of Duty, Control gives an incredible feeling to players all of its own. It’s one of the best supernatural, science fiction games and with some of the best level design in recent memories. With so many genres mixed together, this game no longer feels like a game but instead feels like a piece of interactive art.