- Developer: Remedy Entertainment
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Release Date: August 27, 2019
- Platform: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
- Genre: Action, RPG, Shooter
Control is Remedy unleashed. It's the best game Remedy has ever made, hands down, and serves as the studio's magnum opus. It's everything Alan Wake and Quantum Break could've been, and it taps the full potential of the team's finesse, prowess, and skillset.
Remedy are sorcerers who weave a magic spell that makes you think. In a world full of live games with repetitive content, Control is a welcome surprise. It's the kind of experience that lasts with you after you beat it, the kind of game that permeates your mind and makes you think.
Control is a pure evolution of Remedy's finest talents: explosive gunplay, immersive storytelling and worldbuilding, immaculate graphics, tremendous in-game physics, and a truly bizarre and unique style. In a way, the game redefines Remedy while also underlining its expertise.
It's a mesmerizing escapade in Remedy's bizarre imagination, creating one of the most exotic and visually striking games in the last decade. It might be the best-looking game of 2019. The graphics are spellbinding, and the lighting is vivid, realistic, and finely tuned to each scene--it looks like a cinematic feature, but plays like a hardcore action game.
Remedy's art direction is second to none and Control is beautiful, haunting, enchanting, and incredibly strange, igniting that deep well of curiosity within all of us.
It reaches to the darkest corners of our minds, those weird abysses Serling and Lovecraft and King call home and pulls the bizarre and weird right into the limelight. It's clear the team put thousands of painstaking hours into this project and that it's a pure labor of love. Every area is oozing with flavor and creativity, crafted with perfect precision like a work of art.
Set in The Oldest House, a kind of ever-shifting haunted building that's between multiple worlds, the game has this eery vibe straight out of a horror movie. It's a fascinating feeling that never goes away, and the game is all the better for it.
Control is something new, something different, completely original but also extremely familiar. It's a Metroidvania with crafting, grinding, and Remedy's best shooter mechanics yet, all wrapped in dynamically destructible environments and a surreal condensed world. This blend is exceptionally hard to mix, but Remedy does so with the deft grace of a master developer.
Jammed full of pop-culture references and themes, Control borrows from some of the most intriguing sci-fi and fantasy media of our time. You'll find doorways directly to the Twilight Zone, strange canvases of the macabre right from Night Gallery, Twin Peaks' dash of quirkiness blended with its mind-bending dimension-jumping and parallel worlds, and X-Files' covered-up government operations and conspiracies.
There's even shades of Men in Black and Ghostbusters too. The Federal Bureau of Control is basically like a mixture of MiB's secret government ops with The X-Files and a splash of ghost activity right out of Ghostbusters. But in Control, you're taking on forces worse than the undead.
The game is like a surreal Outer Limits episode and has all the trappings for a big-budget film or a mega-popular TV show like Black Mirror. It captures all the right feelings and hits all the right beats, keeping you guessing the whole time.
That's really the magic of Control: it's intriguing.
The game never really reveals its full hand. It keeps you wondering, feeding you only enough answers, so you have even more questions. Remedy finds creative ways to do this visually without having to say anything; the entire game world exudes mystery and breeds this intense feeling of curiosity and makes you want to explore.
What's that giant inverted black pyramid? What's with these horrid tainted monstrosities and their sinister red light? Is a haunted refrigerator really that dangerous? Why is a jukebox locked up like it's killed someone? What happens if I levitate over to this ledge...hey, why's the room suddenly morphing and shifting??
These are all questions Remedy makes you ask using visuals, not words. It's an immensely powerful mechanism for immersion and storytelling.
But you don't always want to explore by floating around or teleporting. Sometimes you simply want to explore with your mind by gallivanting across its bizarre landscapes, taking in the warped M.C. Escher geometry or admiring the astral plane's marbled towers.
From the moment you jump into the last segment, the game has a grip on you. It slides its weird scarlet tendrils in your mind and has you second-guessing reality, looking at everyday objects like a refrigerator or a balloon and wondering if they're actually from another dimension and have secret powers.
PC Performance Notes
This Control PC review was conducted on the following hardware:
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (4GB VRAM)
- Intel Core i7-4770K
- 16GB DDR3-1600MHz
- Acer 1440p 144Hz monitor
While playing Control on this setup, I was able to hit roughly 22-30FPS in 1440p at High preset while rendering in 2560x1440p with V-Sync on, and roughly 55FPS in 1440p at High preset while rendering in 1920x1080p.
All of the screenshots in this review are stamped with FPS indicators, GPU usage percentages, and GPU temps to help gauge what kinds of performance you may get.
Also here are Control's PC spec requirements for good measure:
You'll need at least an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU or AMD RX 580 (or equivalent), an Intel i5-7500 CPU or an AMD Ryzen 3 1300X CPU, and 8GB of RAM. To use ray-tracing, you'll need at least an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060.
Remedy wants you to have an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or an AMD Radeon VII, Intel Core i5-8600K or an AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, 16GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for ray-tracing.
Story: The Federal Bureau of Control
Control sets itself up like a movie, possibly written and directed by Rod Serling. Apart from the mind-blowing visuals, the story is one of the main reasons to keep playing this game. It only tells you enough to keep you interested, to keep you guessing, and then drip-feeds answers here and there.
Control has a few basic premises.
It's set in The Oldest House, a building between worlds that's alive, shifting, and changing. It has a creeping energy you're aware of as you play. There's also Objects of Power, everyday objects like carousels, TV sets, floppy disks, phones and safes that are enchanted/cursed with what the game calls para natural abilities. OoP's are unpredictable and cause crazy things to happen in The Oldest House. Jesse has to go around and claim these objects and kind of cleanse them of their curse, earning powers like levitation, shielding, telekinetic throws, and even mind-control in the process.
This injects some real intrigue into the experience and is responsible for a big part of that non-verbal storytelling mentioned earlier.
The game is centered around Jesse Faden; a young woman imbued with abilities from another realm. Like the Men in Black, the Bureau is extremely secretive and hidden away, but Jesse finds her way into the Oldest House. Our introduction is extremely sparse, and we're thrust into a confusing balance of power that all makes sense later.
There's so much about the story that shouldn't really be talked about until you actually play the game, so I'll leave it at this: Jesse is searching for her brother, Dylan, after encountering an Object of Power in her youth. Her quest leads her to the Bureau, where everything changes--including Jesse. The story is so much more than this, though; it's a tale that spans multiple worlds and realities, a yarn pulled right out of some of the most creative minds in the games industry.
As the newly appointed Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, Jesse has to battle the Hiss, a strange force that manipulates time and reality to catalyze paradigm-shifting events in The Oldest House. This culminates in a series of interesting repeatable battles and encounters, all of which tap Remedy's excellent gunplay.
Jesse Faden talks to herself throughout the game, and it's clear from the get-go she's not alone inside of her head. There's someone--or something--else there. This internal monologue also raises some questions and keeps the player wondering.
But the best part of Control's story is the one that's not directly told.
It's the story you create, the story you imagine while you traverse The Oldest House and fight the weird inter-dimensional Hiss monstrosities. The game is both linear and nonlinear. The story is linear, but it's always taking you back to areas you've already been, which are sometimes different. Usually, there's just more baddies to kill, but sometimes you'll get to unlock doors and collect gear.
There's an air of mystique about the entire experience, but there's also sinister overtones throughout. You're now the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, one of the good guys, one of the watchers on the wall who defends the masses from reality-breaking horrors they'll never even know about.
The more you explore, the more you find, both visually and narratively. Be sure to uncover every little tidbit and read every single thing you come across. Every little note, every case file, audio log, or Darling presentation fleshes out the storyline and the universe of Control. It's an incredibly ambitious universe, and it's a place you really want to delve into.
There's also something off about the Bureau. You feel like you're never getting the whole picture. You might run the show, but the show is always changing channels and broadcasts and you never really are in control.
The story takes us across a winding journey through Remedy's wild imagination, with a few stops at familiar places adapted right out of pop culture.
Combat: Supernatural Power Fantasy
Control's gunplay is explosive, chaotic, and just plain fun. I think the game could've survived based around its third-person shooter elements alone, which are a clear evolution of Remedy's Max Payne days.
There's five different types of guns that all do some serious damage. There's Grip, your basic accurate pistol, Shatter, a handgun-shotgun combo for short-range kills, Spin, an awesome gatling gun with rapid shots, Pierce, a great charge-up weapon that eats through shields like a hot knife through butter, and Charge, a supernatural grenade launcher that annihilates Hiss. All the weapons are basically modular forms of the Service Weapon, an Object of Power that never runs out of bullets (but has to reload) that's only accessible by the Director.
Players can swap between two weapon types on-the-fly.
And every weapon has up to 3 mod slots that can boost damage, reload speeds, blast radius, and ammo consumption. You can find these in the world, craft them, and/or upgrade them to build a powerhouse armament...but you'll need to seriously grind for materials.
Remedy also throws some powers in for some of the most satisfying--and challenging--combat I've experienced in 2019.
Control is all about manipulating the world around you to decimate foes and traverse the weird shifting environment, but it's also about creativity and synergy. Using your guns and powers together is essential for progressing and taking on those heavy-hitting Hiss bosses, and Remedy gives you some nifty options.
Throughout the game, you get access to four powers that open up Control in exciting ways. There's Levitate, which lets you float, hover, and rise high in the air for a period of time (great for combat and finding hidden boxes of loot), Seize, which takes control of an enemy for a small period of time (this is fantastic during boss fights), Shield, which literally breaks the world around you to form a shield of debris from oncoming attacks (useful in all situations), and finally Launch, the first telekinetic ability which blasts nearby objects at enemies.
Powers take Energy, so the game becomes a careful management simulator during dire sequences like boss fights. That's where the personal mods come in. You can equip Jesse with passive mods that boost her health, energy, recovery speeds, and even dash speeds/energy costs for improved efficacy in battle.
Using these skills in conjunction with one another, is the key to Control's amazing combat.
Every skill can be leveled up and boosted with modifications, too. Control has light RPG elements where you find, craft, and upgrade mods using materials gathered from slain foes or from completing missions. You really don't have to go too heavy with the mods to get good at Control, but prioritizing certain skills is important (go with Shield first, and Launch second).
I didn't like this at first, and I pretty much am tired of crafting in every game. But Control isn't heavy-handed with its mods, crafting, or grinding. A lot of the time, you inadvertently grind by killing things because you don't know where to go next. It's both frustrating and entertaining at times, reminding me of Metroid
The bad thing about the abilities is that they aren't given to you all at once. You have to find Objects of Power and complete their trials to unlock them, and there's no set order to doing so. In true Metroidvania fashion, it's possible to get through a big portion of the game without unlocking some of the powers--I spent a long time without the Shield power--and it'll get you into trouble. Without Shield, the Salvador boss fight was tremendously difficult.
At the same time, this is also good as it promotes organic exploration and discovery, which is a true hallmark of Control's magic. The game pretty much lets you run around and experiment and try to find the way out based on the process of elimination. The more you play you get wiser to the game's tricks, and it's harder to pull a fast one on you.
The enemies themselves keep combat fresh. You'll always find new methods to take on certain Hiss foes, and experimenting with Jesse's abilities is vital to innovating and surviving. Bosses can be pretty tough until you find that one perfect strategy, that conjunction of skills, mods, and weapons that tears through hives of sinister baddies.
There are enemies that shoot rockets, enemies that float around in chairs and fling debris at you, huge bosses that blast out clocks, enemies that fly up and self-destruct, and even shielded enemies that fire grenades at you in volleys. Crowd control is a must-learn skill in the game simply because you'll be inundated with all types of enemies all at once--and each of them requires a certain tactic to take down.
Memorable things I saw and did in Control:
(Some of the best things are omitted from this lists due to spoilers)
- Pulled a light switch, teleported to a motel that's basically a waystation between worlds
- Dead Letters - Singing Fish and Fake Airplanes
- I fought a boss that was a haunted anchor that spewed out clocks as its main attack.
- I explore an area very much like an M.C. Escher painting
- The post-it note room was hilarious
- The millions of clocks in the Threshold
- Threshold Kids, a warped kids TV show with puppets
- Discovered some nifty easter eggs for Alan Wake, including Night Springs, mention of Bright Falls in documents, and a dream from Dylan Faden
There are various side quests available, too. One quest had me solve a puzzle with a bunch of clocks in that in-between worlds Oceanview Motel and Casino, then teleported me to some distant threshold. Everything had that Giant's Causeway volcanic-style geometry mixed with the blood-red taint of the Hiss. We were chasing an Altered Item that cloned a bunch of clocks--there were millions of clocks in the area, just littered everywhere.
Innocuous everyday items are imbued with supernatural energy, almost like they're cursed. Objects like picnic baskets, thermoses, postboxes, refrigerators, and even a rubber ducky can all be super deadly. Altered Objects are basically possessed by ghosts and react wildly unpredictably, and as you play, you collect notes on these weird enchanted items. Keep an eye out, and you'll even see them peppered throughout the game in carefully contained observation areas.
I saw a bunch of altered items including a haunted clock, a child's toy hammer, a birthday party balloon, a swan ride boat, a water cooler, and even a normal every day standing fan. But like the objects in Prey 2017, these objects are anything but ordinary.
The refrigerator is special, though. It has to be watched at ALL times or it "deviates." You meet a guy who's sole job is to stare at this spooky fridge from the 1950s complete with children's drawings plastered on its front â€" poor guy.
Remedy pulls inspiration from The Twilight Zone, The Night Gallery, and even Friday the 13th: The Series with its cursed objects. These weird, otherworldly Objects of Power will affect reality in bizarre ways and even cause things to duplicate randomly, often to hilarious degrees. We mentioned the clocks above, but there's also an office that suddenly spawned thousands upon thousands of sticky notes without warning.
Wrap-Up: The Best Remedy Game Yet
Control is like nothing I've experienced before. But it's also somehow so familiar.
It's kind of like Deja Vu: The Game, but also something so new that it breaks the mold. If you love Max Payne and adore Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and The Twilight Zone, buy this game right away. You won't be disappointed. It's a convergence of some of the best sci-fantasy themes ever created, but with Remedy's own unique spin.
Control pushes new boundaries with its innovative world-breaking and world-building mechanics and incredible visual style, but also treads old ground with Metroidvania mechanics, crafting, and mods.
The storyline is some of the best in the industry because it's not just told in the world. The story is the world, a world that feels alive and creepy and strange like some living, breathing entity. In many ways its your story, one that you create not with intense grinding or level-ups, but with mystery, wonder, and the same kind of inner curiosity that pulls us towards the darkness and the unknown.
Remedy games are immensely special experiences that come around only once every few years. But Control is something extra special. It's the game the studio was born to make, the penultimate Remedy game that underlines everything the devs stand for, a monument to their past games and a trophy of old and new victories.
Control speaks to me in ways I didn't expect. And I have a feeling it'll speak to you too, if you're willing to listen.
+ Unparalleled art direction
+ Incredible graphics, atmospheric and lighting effects
+ Unpredictable storytelling keeps things fresh and bizarre
+ Combat is empowering and fun
+ Levitation is the best ever
+ Destructible environments add tremendous immersion
+ Humorous overtones intermingled with originality and creativity
+ Old-school tech like analog computers from the 1980s and rotary phones add more style to the world
- Bosses can be ultra frustrating
- Glitches here and there
- Metroidvania pacing can get frustrating
Bonus: RTX Thoughts
Playing Control with NVIDIA RTX Enabled
Both NVIDIA and Remedy prove that ray tracing is the future of gaming. Going from a GTX 980 to a RTX 2080 Super is an insane leap in power that opens up all kinds of new gaming doorways, including a completely new visual experience unlike any I've seen before.
I have to admit I was skeptical of ray tracing before. I've always been of the camp who prefers performance over visuals. But playing Control with RTX on has made me a believer and I see the true potential of this new tech.
I've always liked cinematic experiences, and Control is definitely one of the more visually striking games I've played in the last few years. It's kind of like playing a TV show, one that combines Lynch's otherworldly weirdness with Serling's opportune and exotic tales and Spotnitz' government paranoia together. Ray tracing adds tremendous new depth to this cinematic scope and feeling by significantly amplifying Remedy's powerful non-verbal storytelling.
The visuals are so absorbing and rich they pull you right in and become part of the core game. The immersion takes over and you're actually having an experience rather than playing a game. It's actual game-changer that breathes new life into interactive experiences that fuels your imagination--as things become more realistic, the game hits home even harder and pulls you in.
I thought Remedy were wizards before, but now I think they're archmasters who bend reality to create some of the most spell-binding illusions PC gaming has to offer today. Playing with ray tracing is like playing the same game but only from the future: everything is pristine, illuminated, and positively glowing. Ray tracing offers an entirely different world of interactivity that's more of a feast for the eyes and consequently the mind; the weird architecture of Control completely pops out and becomes even more artistic, even more defined, and even more thought-provoking.
Playing with RTX on vs RTX off is like looking at a blurry Polaroid versus an insane 4K photograph. The tech is nothing short of magic.
The Federal Bureau of Control's marble floors reflect everything. The windows are so clear they capture and reflect everything like a stainless mirror. The weird metal structures gleam and catch every bit of light, even the weird sinister corruption of the Hiss.
Nearly everything in Control was designed to use ray tracing, every surface seems slicked and waxed and it positively radiates with this eerie kind of power. The game's architecture itself is already a beautiful work of art, but with ray tracing there's a
Everything looks so polished with hyperealism that I genuinely have to stop and simply look around to revel in the visuals.
Perhaps the most surprising bit was how perfect the reflections were on a normal TV set. In Control there's lots of analog tech around, complete with old-school VHS tapes and computer terminals right out of the 1980s. You'll find the TVs around with the incredibly weird Threshold Kids puppet show playing on the screens. I was caught off guard from how perfectly the room was captured on the small condensed screen.
The entire room was clearly seen in the convex bubble of the screen--not the half-baked reflections you see in most games where the room doesn't even look like the one you're standing in, but a 1:1 reflection of the actual area. The same reflection quality was seen in a simple framed painting hanging on a wall.
Another small moment with huge impact that blew me away was projector reflections.
Control has various projectors set up that will play cryptic videos that slightly explain the supernatural plotline. These projectors are old-school reel-fed affairs that beam light onto a pull-down screen. Not only do the light rays look immaculate, but a nearby window showed a perfect reflection of the projected image in real-time, and even captured my character's movements, shadows, and interactions like a mirror.
With ray tracing, everything in the game is outlined in such clear stark detail that the gameplay takes on a new depth. In games it's often the small things that matter. The little decorations seen throughout an office or a specific room, memorable buildings and areas, etc. Control taps these things in a big way by making nearly every single area into a tantalizing work of art.
There's a new world of light dynamics that's fascinating and appealing. The way light passes through slits or grates in the ceiling, the way it gleams off of metal and bounces around. And it's even more interesting because you're moving in a three-dimensional space instead of just looking at a picture; you're actually interacting with the light, changing it and affecting it.
Through ray tracing, Remedy has added another layer to its wonderfully weird vision. Everything is a marvelous glimpse into the future of game, and Control harnesses the power of ray tracing to create the best-looking RTX optimized game to date. Every single area in the game is enhanced with ray tracing, making each individual pocket of this experience a masterpiece that glows and bedazzles with a myriad of lighting and reflection effects.
The Bottom Line
Control is the best Remedy game yet. It's like The X-Files, Twin Peaks and Twilight Zone mixed with a creative Metroidvania, all with explosive Max Payne gunplay and otherworldly powers.