Control is an action-adventure game that takes place inside a Bureau in New York. This Bureau functions as a secret organization that is doing a lot of quantum or para science experimentations. The main character is Jess Fayden; a woman that seeks the Bureau to find answers about her lost brother but finds herself appointed as the Bureau’s new director struggling for “control”.
At the start, the game gives little attention in spelling out the events for you. In fact, I kept wondering whether perhaps I was playing a sequel, but I wasn’t. The course of narrative in this game is very hazy and for the most part it stays hazy till the end.
The Bureau itself was fun to explore. I heard there are plenty of references in Control to other games, among those are: Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Max Payne. I’m pretty sure Prey also played a role in influencing Control. The level designs were very reminiscent of Prey, which happens to be my top favorite game. The level of detail in each room is wonderful. I absolutely love walking into companies, labs, or tech centers and this game did not disappoint in that regard. What it did end up disappointing however was not giving you enough to actually appreciate the level design.
In Prey, for instance, there’s plenty to do exploring, aside from memos and inside culture (which this game has), you can also collect raw materials and then recycle them to upgrade tools and weapons. In control, the only thing to collect aside from notes and audio clips, is basically a box with random materials. It would have been better, for example, if those materials were scattered in the level design instead. Another thing, each floor has an aid kit hinged on a wall, 80% of the time that means you’re picking up a healing item. Not in this game. In other words, there’s plenty of enticing detailed elements that are basically pointless. As a result, it brings a lacking experience to exploring. You stop feeling motivated to unlock new destinations and just focus on moving ahead with the main mission.
Next, there’s a wealth of memorabilia and lore to pick up in this game and while plenty of it adds some value to the main story, for the most part, yet again, feels lacking. In Fallout, The Last of Us and Prey, often notes allude to certain locations or to a specific ‘incident’ or character. In the Last of Us, you read correspondence between two people. You then visit that location and you visually see the remnants of that incident. Similarly, in Prey (and it does this so well), you read about a work event, you visit that location and you find that particular door, secret item, or special weapon mentioned. Even if it’s not for the purpose of finding an object, you find yourself wanting to go to a place mentioned just to put in context a touching story you just read. This adds a great deal of depth and culture to the world you’re exploring and often times gives you a fun ‘aha’ moment that’s very much missed in this game. In comparison, Control’s world feels empty and meaningless.
The other major let down for me is the battle system. The game has unique battle features such as manipulating objects and launching them from a far. Additionally, you can unlock cool skills like floating and conjuring up a shield from nearby ruble. These are all creative tools to appreciate if it wasn’t for the tedious battle designs. Enemy attacks are unvaried, frequent and hardly changing. It was exciting in the beginning but I found myself getting seriously bored halfway and I stopped bothering about taking parts in battles. A good game will make you care about side missions and battles, even the idle ones. I would go far as to say that the game plays out as button-smashing sometimes due to lack of inventiveness in battle designs. And to make things worse, the frame rate drop is inexcusable. You can get away with one or two enemies undisturbed but add a fourth one and the game lags so badly, and it gets worse till the end. Even the ending credit roll lagged- how is that even possible? There’s also no apparent way to increase the difficulty for a bit of a challenge. Random battles can be very easy but boss level designs are absurd. Difficult and absurd are two different things.
Having said all of this, now that I look back on the game, I don’t consider it a total waste of time. It had its charming and memorable moments. I definitely won’t play it a second time though. I just hope that if and when they develop a sequel, and judging from the ending, a sequel is possible, they would take into consideration all these shortcomings. There’s a lot to work with in Control and I think once it’s polished, the game could turn out to be very interesting.
My final score is 3/5 ★★★
- 2/5 for gameplay
- 4/5 for design
- 3/5 for battle system
- 2/5 for plot
Game Platform (played on): PS4.