The first rocket-propelled grenade I dodge, shifting out of its path with a violent burst of kinetic energy which smashes tables, scatters chairs, and sends papers flying. I hear a second grenade being fired from somewhere behind me. Not sure if dodging will take me straight into its path, I instead whirl around, at the same time summoning up a shield of concrete ripped straight out of the ground. Letting the grenade explode harmlessly against my shield, I send what’s left of my concrete barrier hurtling towards my attacker. This spray of rubble doesn’t do much damage, but it does throw him off balance. The same can’t be said about the large chunk of wall I summon from behind him. It smashes the unfortunate grenadier in its path, before I deftly redirect it towards the first grenadier, taking him out as well. Two down, about a dozen to go.
A third-person action game, Control follows the story of Jessie Faden, a young lady gifted with paranormal abilities, as she attempts to track down her missing brother. The game opens with Jessie having located the shadowy Bureau of Control – a secret government department which occupies a strange building known as The Oldest House. Unfortunately for Jessie, she manages to arrive just as the Bureau is attacked, and most of its staff possessed by an entity known as the Hiss. One of the few people not to succumb to the Hiss, Jessie finds herself unwillingly thrust into the role of Director, trying to stop the invasion before it can spread further.
If ever a game could be a contender for ‘best Jedi simulator in a non-Star Wars game’, then Control would be it. While players do have access to the Service Weapon (an Object of Power which can reconfigure itself into various gun types, including shotgun, machinegun and rocket launcher), the bulk of the fighting is done using Jessie’s impressive psychic powers. While these start off with a relatively weak ability to hurl pieces of the environment at Jessie’s foes, by the end of the game players will find themselves flying around rooms, ripping large chunks of concrete out of the wall with the power of thought and raining destruction down from on high whilst cackling insanely (much like Palpatine vs Yoda from The Revenge of the Sith). It’s smooth, intuitive, and oh so much fun.
Adding to the satisfaction are the visuals. Yes, while there is the occasional misstep (people, for one, look decidedly odd), there’s no denying Control is visually spectacular – especially if you’re lucky enough to have an RTX card and can enable ray-tracing. Fights quickly turn into visual chaos as debris, dust and paper get sprayed into the air, wooden office walls and glass windows disintegrate in a hail of bullets, balconies crack, and all before you start pulling pieces out of the environment to use as shields or projectiles. The 1960’s brutalist style of The Oldest House (you know, ghastly concrete everywhere) serves as the perfect backdrop for the carnage/violent-interior-redecorating that takes place.
If the combat isn’t enough to entice players, Control also boasts one of the most engaging stories and game worlds around. For players who enjoy ferreting around, there are tonnes of documents, recordings, and videos to find, each adding a bit more depth to the game world. And what a world it is! A jukebox which literally transports people with its music, a mirror that you can step through and find yourself in a realm where everything is back-to-front, a fridge that attacks people if not watched (Douglas Adams’ Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, anybody?) and a directive which states that no smart phones, 2B pencils, rubber ducks or anything representative of an archetypal concept be brought into the building. It’s strange, weird, and always slightly disturbing (especially the sucker-punch at the end – I’ll say no more than that).
While players who are looking for a light-hearted game may want to give this game a miss, there’s no denying that Control is a modern masterpiece, boasting great gameplay, visuals and an engaging story. Highly recommended. ■