Control: A trip down the slightly unnerving

Control has a pretty good photo mode, too.

I don’t tend to get on with games that touch upon supernatural themes so maybe that’s why I’ve only just picked up Remedy’s Control now, several months after it came out and many awards later.

My reason for picking it up now was initially purely financial: It was on sale on PSN a couple of weeks before Easter for $NZ41 so I thought “For that price, why the feck not?” I mean, I’d heard good things about it and if I hated it, I’d only dropped $40.  The game had also been recommended to me by gamer friends.

Now, I’m only about a handful of hours in, but as I made my way deeper and deeper through the Oldest House, uncovering the secrets of the Federal Bureau of Control, I realised I wasn’t quite prepared for the overarching feeling of unease I felt as I played the game.

I don’t mean unease in the sense that the subject matter was difficult to stomach, but in the sense that at lot of what was going on around me was, to be honest, just unnerving (for those of you who have played it, when communications director Tomassi first turned up I just uttered a stunned: “What the fuck is that?”).

Unnerving in the sense that I was never quite sure what was waiting for me around the next corner, friendly or not, as I gingerly wandered through corridors with warped architecture and rooms with people floating just below the ceiling.

Control is a whole lot of unnerving – and this is from someone who has played the Alan Wake games that just freaked the fuck out of me.

Now, I wouldn’t call Control a horror game like, say, Resident Evil where gruesome horror is to the fore. I’ve played the Alan Wake games and they freaked me out due to the sheer horror element but Alan Wake’s horror theme was to the fore: With control there’s an underlying supernatural theme with just bat shit crazy stuff happening all around you.

Game play is where Control shines, although it slowly introduces abilities through a mechanic called Objects of Power, relics that when controlled offer supremely useful abilities that turn the tide in the player’s favour. Telekinesis, or launch, is one such ability.

Telekinesis, for example, lets you pick up objects from the game world and launch them at foes, especially useful for larger enemies that have shields that need to be broken [it’s a similar principal that Remedy used in Alan Wake where Alan had to break the shield of ghostly entities using his flashlight first].

Let’s talk about the ability to launch just about anything at foes for a minute. It is a supremely strong ability and it is made all the better thanks to the game [almost completely] destructible environments which lets you pick up anything you can lay your hands on: Think chairs, think benches, think lamps, think masonry, think books, anything. Think of the game world as ammunition against the evil lurking in the Oldest House.

Movement is also a key to success in Control’s combat and at first, I played things safe, too safe, frequently standing on the spot as I fired upon advancing enemies. As a consequence I died a few times until I realised that, indeed, movement is the key to success here [There’s even a tip on a loading screen that says as much].

That said, I feel that so far Control’s gun play is actually weaker than the abilities side, especially given how powerful the telekinesis/launch power is. The guns you get are neat but I just felt that perhaps the weapon side was overshadowed dramatically by the powers/abilities.

I’ve always been a fan of Remedy’s games [Quantum Break was, probably, my least favourite] and Control is another one that has its claws dug deep into me and is my go-to game while we’re in lock down here [another week or so to go, at time of writing].

I’m sure the story is going to get freakier as I delve deeper into the Oldest House and uncover its secrets but so far, it’s one of the best games I’ve played in a long, long time.