Published on September 8th, 2019 | by Chris O'Connor
Control PC Review
Summary: One part David Fincher, one part Chris Carter, one part David Lynch, all thrilling supernatural experience! Respect the Janitor!
When I was younger I was quite a big fan of the paranormal, absorbing books and any stories I could on the matter. When I was a bit older I was a big fan of The X-Files and the bunch of similar shows that popped up around that era. The topic is still one that I find engaging and rich for storytelling. Control puts you right into one of those worlds, with it’s own personality blending many of the best elements from material that has come before it.
You start the game finding yourself inside the building (that you later learn is called “The Oldest House”) that forms the offices of The Federal Bureau of Control and things don’t seem right. You make your way to the Director’s office and that’s when things really take a turn and before long you find yourself the newly appointed director (with all the former directors portraits replaced with your own). Various people appear levitated throughout the rooms of this intriguing building and the few people you can find who are capable of conversing with you may just provide more questions than answers. But throughout your journey you have an inner guide… an “old friend” you have had since a childhood incident that you will learn directly ties you to this location.
My first impressions of Control (other than the frustration of using the Epic Games Launcher to download and use it)… was of what I felt was a very David Fincheresque introduction… NIN soundtrack aside, it certainly set the mood… a bit edgy, dark and grungy. Then elements of the story began to unfold and it felt very much like it could have come out of an episode of The X-Files or perhaps a David Lynch series (especially the motel… I love the whole rule of three thing). As you make your way around The Oldest House you will come across case files and recordings, both audio and video, of things that the Bureau have investigated and they all add a fascinating texture to what is already a fully immersive world.
Visually the game is quite stunning! I had moments in which I felt the motion capture of characters talking did a much better job than some big budget hollywood movies. There are the odd uncanny valley moments… but that valley is starting to shrink and Control is a great example of that. The CG characters are so well done that the integration of video footage is not all jarring…. it feels quite natural (as natural as possible in the circumstances) and provides a lot of great content (keep your eye out for Darling’s music video in the latter stages).
The audio is also highly commendable. The enemy are given the name “the hiss”… partly due to your descriptor of them when you first talk about them… but also because that is what they do… there is an audible hiss that comes from many of the possessed people around the Bureau. I also love the astral plan conversations with their “alternate” translation options… the sound tech/crew really did a great job adding to the overall feeling of unease throughout.
Gameplay is yet another area that shines here. I’ve found as I get older I get less capable or willing to keep track of all the different load outs, combinations etc you can use in games… I just want something a bit more simple. Control handles this beautifully… there are plenty of options… but they are also constrained to just a handful of choices. What I mean by that is, you have a Service Weapon which has four main firing modes… but you can only have two “active” at a time (reduced complexity in the middle of a battle)… but each of those has a number of enhancements you can select for them. Your paranormal abilities are a bit more varied… but I found that they had such specific uses that it wasn’t hard to move between them when needed. This “simplified complexity” made me feel more capable of engaging the enemy and any time I did get stuck… typically after two or three attempts I would figure out the best way to proceed and I was off again (important for keeping the momentum going).
The game is a bit pricey (when I just checked it was around $114AU) but it is a fantastic story that draws you in and drives you on. If you are a fan of The X-Files or similar genre shows, material… I have no doubt you will enjoy this. An exceptional job from the whole team!