Review: Control

Imagine turning up for your first day of work only to be told you’re the new director. That’s the plot of Control.

Playing as a lady called Jesse, you rock up to the Federal Bureau is Control (FBC) – a mysterious Government agency who investigate weird goings on surrounding things that impact reality. It’s taken a while to track them down – all stemming from a past interaction involving your brother. Sneaking in for a janitor’s job, Jesse is pretty surprised to find she’s in charge after the previous Director kills himself and the talking gun chooses her. Err, yes.

If only it were that simple. Of course, it isn’t. Imagine rocking up to work on your first day, and the building is basically empty. You’re trapped inside, and an unknown entity you refer to as ‘The Hiss’. The Hiss have overtaken the bodies of the stuff previously working in the building, and they want to kill you.

Uncovering why this is happening, with help from the existing non-Hiss people left on your side (and a telepathic dialogue with the previous director) is the main concept behind Control. Of course there are a number of subplots, and to explain too much about it would be a spoiler. I’ve probably already given a bit too much away. But what about the game itself? Well, for me it couldn’t quite match the intrigue of the plot.

Obviously the building has been emptied and overtaken with the Hiss, but this results in a lot of running about through generic offices. There’s an open world-ish feeling as you can go anywhere you have clearance from to achieve the next mission – which are given to you and you can select which one to focus on. I didn’t find this especially exciting however, and the enemies didn’t really help.

The Hiss-possesses baddies pop up by spawning into certain areas, and keep spawning in until they don’t. Generic foot soldiers get upgraded over time, they’ll fly, have shields, some will be kamikaze soldiers – there’s a variety here of red-glowing enemies trying to kill you. Thankfully you have a variety of abilities to fend them off.

Jesse doesn’t get too phased with her new found abilities to handle guns with deadly precision, force blast enemies with her palms, pick up and throw inanimate objects, or move short bursts at the speed of light. It sounds like a fair fight for the various abilities of the Hiss.

What makes it all more impressive is the level of destruction. Control runs on PS4 at 30 frames a second, and once you start to see bits and pieces smashing and exploding all over the place, you can understand why. Big items dent and crumble, bits of concrete chip and wood splinters. Everything can be damaged, smashed or broken. When it’s all kicking off, it’s a sight to behold.

I found myself wishing that a bit more time was spent on finessing the combat than the package as a whole. Shooting is a simple, classic third-person affair. Aim, fire. In a neat twist, you never need to reload. Instead, the gun had regenerating ammo, so once you run out you need to wait for a few seconds. This forces you to switch to the other abilities Jesse has and guide your hand in mixing up combat styles. The execution of each of these is a bit frustrating though. The aim acceleration lends an uneasy twitchiness to the shooting and aiming. Being able to quickly focus on an object to throw never fails to grab something, but often it isn’t what you want to grab. Often I find myself aiming for something next to me but grabbing an item behind an enemy. Releasing to throw then had an awkward animation whereby the object is more pulled towards the baddie and smashes into them. Force pulling objects into the backs of enemies is still cool, but not really what was intended.

Control is trying to do many things at once. There’s an interesting story, great looking combat, varied enemy types. There are upgrade trees, crafting, mod slots for personal abilities, mod slots for weapons. A currency system, ability points, and about 6 different types of collectives ranging from text files to audio files. It’s overwhelming, but I’m not convinced that it really excels in any one of these areas.

Control is probably one of those games that is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s a lot to like here, and it’s generally it’s good. Yet frequently I am thinking, “not another combat situation”. Which probably isn’t the best sign.

Reviewed on PS4

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