Control Ultimate Edition (Impressions)

With the Series X/S update for Control Ultimate Edition finally out I finally dusted off my copy of the game which had been sitting in my backlog for a few weeks now and gave it run through. In that short time it didn’t take long for me to realise just how much I enjoy Remedy’s games. In Control you play Jesse Faden (Courtney Hope, who also had a role in Remedy’s previous game Quantum Break) who arrives at the Oldest House, home of the Federal Bureau of Control (basically a government agency for the supernatural) which is in the midst of a lockdown due to an invasion that appears to have taken over the building and a number of the agents inside. Soon after Jesse inherits the role of “Director” and picks up her new Service Weapon (a morphing gun!), she is tasked with bringing the situation under control (!) while the truth is slowly revealed.

The game is a third person shooter that starts off simple enough with movement and combat but as soon as Jesse begins to unlock abilities things change fairly quickly as do your tactics in combat. You soon gain the ability to throw objects which means soon enough you’re throwing furniture at enemies as much as you’re firing bullets. How the game handles this ability it actually really well done – you can be quite specific in what you want to pick up and where you want to throw it and Control assists with object highlights and an autolock for key targets but it’s also incredibly easy to pick up any random items to throw which is essential in combat. I also picked up the dodge move too which works like an air dash you see in other games so I think I’m seeing where this is heading. If I were to compare Control to Remedy’s past games in terms of atmosphere it slots in between Alan Wake with some strong doses of the supernatural and Quantum Break‘s sci-fi feel with the FBC’s scientific approach to containment. A lot of X-Files in there too perhaps? That atmosphere is enhanced by what you find in the game world such as notes and educational videos which all help to define the world further and it’s something that Remedy have always been good at providing.

The design of the Oldest House is unique – many of the interiors feel familiar enough even with it’s intentionally dated looking design but the scale of areas and how they all fit makes it difficult to figure out the size of the building itself. Like a TARDIS the size of an office block? I don’t know, I’m still figuring this out! But that’s part of the story too as the building apparently doesn’t remain static and as you reach control points in the middle of infested areas (ie. checkpoints, fast travel, unlocks) you get to see the build reassert itself and take on a more normal appearance which is a neat effect. Navigating your way around can be confusing though even with a map to help and signage to follow as it’s not always clear how to proceed. One section I was presented with an impassable barrier that I only learned to pass by luck, in this case destroying nodes that powered it. With many doors requiring specific ways to access them you will find that returning to areas multiple times is highly likely so the map design starts entering into Metroidvania territory… or perhaps more appropriately Batman: Arkham Asylum. That’s a bit of a first for Remedy’s games right back to Max Payne which all tended to have their worlds broken down into discrete levels.

I really need to make mention of the technical enhancements here in the console versions. By default the game starts in “performance” mode on Series X which provides a 60 frames per second mode (note: the only option available for Series S players) however I pretty quickly jumped over to the quality mode which reverted the game back to 30 frames but with the bonus of ray tracing enabled and I’m not regretting that at all as the game looks great and the framerate is perfectly fine. Remedy have always been good at adding visual flair to their worlds and this is no exception with particles flying everywhere on top of the mountains of debris that result from your more destructive skills. The building often seems like it is a sandbox for your skills with rooms filled with desks for you to smash or gas bottles to explode… and it’s fun too! The audio is really something and I find the background noises do an amazing job of creating a creepy vibe. If you’re familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation the collective chanting you hear in areas comes across as very Borg-like and I think that further reinforces what is happening around you.

It’s been great to finally get my hands on Control and find out more about what’s going on inside the Oldest House. The game’s story has a nice hook from the beginning that immediately has you asking questions and any information that may help is slowly drip fed to you as you make progress. If like me you’re immediately into the story then it gives you plenty of incentive to keep playing. That it’s all bundled into a game that plays well and looks amazing just makes for a perfect combination. 🙂

Control Ultimate Edition is out now for PC, Xbox and PlayStation platforms. Played on an Xbox Series X.

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