Release Date: August 27, 2019
Platform Played On: PS4
2018 Placement: Unranked
What It Is:
If you’ve ever read anything from the Secure-Contain-Protect archives, Control is just that in game form. You play as Jesse Faden, who enters the Federal Bureau of Control in search of her missing brother and guided by something she considers a friend that communicates with her telepathically. The FBC investigates Objects of Power (objects that do weird supernatural shit) and Altered World Events (events where weird supernatural shit happens) and contains them within their headquarters in the Oldest House, which itself is an Object of Power – a building that is larger on the inside than outside and shifts its structure at a whim. You quickly discover that all hell has broken loose within the building and you’re thrust into the role of the Director due to picking up an OoP called the Service Weapon.
From rubber ducks that play hide and seek to a malicious refrigerator, there’s all sorts of weird stuff going down in the building. It makes for a spooky, unsettling atmosphere that is tinged with humor if you read all the reports scattered about the Oldest House. Mundane things like officer workers getting upset they can never find the bathroom because the walls keep shifting are mixed in with terrifying redacted reports of people dying. Oh, and I guess the main game mechanic is shooting and using a few cool supernatural abilities like flying and mind control, but really it’s the atmosphere that makes the game.
Why It’s Important To Me:
As I’ve said before, horror is not my genre. However, Control is exactly the right amount of disturbing and unsettling while also keeping me on the edge of my seat. This game was everything I could have asked for in terms of a spooky, supernatural game. From the creators of Alan Wake (which is another spooky game right up my alley of spooky), they absolutely nail the idea of a government agency trying to control the uncontrollable. I read over every document I found, I listened to every audio file and explored every nook and cranny to eat up all the possible material I could about this universe. Including the brutalist architecture of the The Oldest House, this game has probably the most captivating world-building and atmosphere of any game in the last decade.
I got into this game so much I Platinumed it on PS4, which isn’t something I do often. So when I do put in the time to get every trophy you know it’s a worthwhile cause. In addition, it has some really cool optional bosses that keep with the Object of Power theme and make you use your abilities in neat ways. Jesse Faden is a great character and a solid protagonist, who is as unsure of what’s going on in the FBC as the player. The supporting cast is also stacked, with Dr. Darling carrying the brunt of the work through live-action film sequences and his role getting more and more weird and disturbing as the game progresses.
My Strongest Memory:
So first, obviously, the Ashtray Maze. I’ve already talked about it on my podcast but this was the absolute top setpiece of the entire game. I don’t want to spoil it so just play the game and when you get to the Ashtray Maze be prepared to be amazed. (Pun intended.) It’s just pure joy in action-shooter form and the best sequence Remedy has ever put together. Topped off by a wonderful soundtrack, it is absolutely the highlight of the game because it makes you really feel like a badass using supernatural powers.
The other strongest memory is on the disturbing end of the spectrum. Throughout the Oldest House you can find different videos, one of which is a series called the Threshold Kids. It’s a puppet show, ostensibly aimed at training children to understand the FBC and supernatural entities. The puppets are creepy and the show is just a little off-kilter every time you watch it. There was one that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, simply because it ends on a creepy line and then the puppets turn to look at the camera, their gaze lingering in an unsettling matter for just long that I thought they were going to reach through the TV and grab me. Finally the video ended, but I’d never been more nerve-wracked by a video game. No thank you.
Why It’s #67:
The atmosphere, characters, and world-building of Control are absolutely top-notch. The gameplay, however, is standard boring third-person shooter. Even if it does give you cool abilities like telekinesis and floating in the air, most of the enemy encounters involve shooting and hiding and shooting and hiding. The enemies are also overtuned, to the point that you can be killed by something off-screen without warning even if you’re at a high level. For such a wonderfully creative world, 90% of the combat is lacking that same inspired creativity. I think if it had nailed the actual gameplay better, Control could have been a top 10 game of all-time. Let’s hope for a Control 2 that improves the combat, everyone.