How Control Uses Gameplay and Story to Craft a Unique IP
I love Control. Remedy Entertainment’s sandbox action shooter is easily the best brand new title I’ve played in five years or more. With the game readily available alongside the first expansion, it’s a great time to take a look at Control and its story.
On the surface, Control feels like a mainstream western action RPG. In the game, you explore a haunting government office invaded by a hostile force. However, where Control really shines is turning the mundane into magical. While your setting is a 20th century office building, the geometry feels just as twisted as the enemy you face. Wide-open Brutalist architecture carved from concrete and wood gives you a feeling of a once bustling workplace. The huge cubicle farms and corridors also serve another purpose: aiding in combat.
At its core, the player fights in Control by taking control, your ability to absorb Objects Of Power, imbued with abilities through the collective unconscious. The first power you gain is the ability to exert control over your surroundings via telekinesis. A typical cubicle suddenly becomes an arsenal, and after a tense fight, the ordered office transforms into abject, yet deliberate chaos. The chaos is where Control for PC shines, with added graphical options showcasing the minutia of your destruction. Columns will be stripped of their masonry, furniture turned to splinters, all of it viewable via the photo mode. Here, the additional graphical fidelity is on full display with photo editing options available. Constantly through my playthrough, I would pause to examine the level of detail in the clutter I’d used as ammo. In addition, Control gives you plenty of lull time to appreciate the hand crafted levels and atmosphere.
While you’ll often be too far away to appreciate the enemy models, a close look is never wasted. Your foes, called Hiss, mix mid century middle class aesthetic with a startling conformity. The balance between human and not is sewn into their presence, casting eye straining visual noise in their wake. Ironically, it’s you who doesn’t fit in the office casual empire, with Jesse looking like a proper leather jacket badass. While an outsider in look, the unique narrative of Control will have you right at home with its strangeness.
Based in Jungian psychology and the post-surreal genre of New Weird, brand Control in a word would be: otherworldly. The first four hours are intensely strange, and borderline on downright scary at times. As you uncover what has caused such a dereliction of duty, a sense of wonder begins to grow. Despite the setting being somewhat ordinary, everything is new and fresh. Delightfully witty video collectibles dot the landscape, in addition to fleshed out documents to read at your own pace. After the second boss fight, things start to open up. Here the world of Control takes on a dense, lived in yet horrifyingly large state of being. For fans of alternate universe horror fiction like Local 48 or the SCP Foundation, you’ll find similar themes here. Even if you don’t read every scrap, Control paces its story in a way that won’t leave you in the dark.
When so many action-adventure RPGs turn to endless dialog and massive open world quests, the story of Control takes the path less traveled; true environmental storytelling. While it will eventually explain things, a whole new layer of depth is waiting upon a closer look, or a jaunt to the collectibles tab. I look forward to seeing how Remedy Entertainment continues upon the fantastic foundation of the base game and first expansion.