Top 100 Games of All-Time: #67


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.

Review: Control

Control is a very unique game because it may be the first game I’ve reviewed here that I’m not sure on what my recommendation is. Usually I go into a review leaning either positive or negative on a game. Control…I’m conflicted on.

Control is Remedy’s latest, and they’re a favorite studio of mine – they produced Alan Wake and the first two Max Payne games. Ten minutes into the game I was all in on the world, the aesthetic, the lore of Control. Remedy knocked that out of the park and I was ready to put this game at the top of my GOTY contenders.

Then the rest of the game happened.

I love Control. But I also hate Control. I’ve never felt so strongly for and against a game – normally either I love it despite its flaws, or it’s terrible despite a few bright spots. Control is somehow both. So I’m going to hash out everything I love and hate about this game in this review and let’s see where I end up.

Continue reading “Review: Control”

The Case Against Fail States

So I’ve been thinking a bit and I’ve decided that video games need to rethink the “game over.” In fact, I think the idea of a fail state in games is an unnecessary holdover from the games where you had lives and continues. Yes, having a game over and having to restart from a certain point adds challenge to the game. But in general, with the way games are developed nowadays, often times the fail state just adds aggravation to what is otherwise a wonderful gaming experience.

The problem, of course, is that most games are based around death. Killing enemies to progress is a large chunk of gameplay loops, and the easiest way to add challenge to the loop is for the enemies to, you know, kill back. Health bars/indicators/numbers are the main tracking agent and when you hit 0, time for a fail state to show you didn’t live up to the challenge!

But, and bear with me here, what if that wasn’t the case? What if we figured out a way for games to keep their challenge but eliminate the need to make the player feel bad because they didn’t shoot the guy with the one-hit KO attack fast enough? What if we eliminated the silly QTEs that if you missing pressing a single button you have to do an entire sequence over again?

I’m going to talk about some games that have recently opened my eyes to how good a lack of a fail state is, and how some games have been hindered because of fail states, and how some games have given you an illusion of a fail state but don’t actually have one and that’s what games should try to live up to.

Continue reading “The Case Against Fail States”

Episode 42 – I Can Be Your Keanu

It’s been one whole year of Make Me A Gamer! Join TMan and HarveyZ as they celebrate one year of podcasting by doing what they do best – making everything up as they go along!

This Week On Make Me A Gamer

Harvey Z Snaps: Genesis Mini vs Switch Lite

New Segments: Topic Thunderdome and the Make Me A Gamer Minute!

Main Course: The Nintendo Direct (Smash Bros characters, Overwatch on Switch) and what co-op games we’ve enjoyed.

TMan’s Game of the Week: Control

(This episode was recorded September 5, 2018.)

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As always, thank you so much for listening and please leave us ratings and feedback however you’re listening to our podcast!