Control – A Dark Horse for Game of the Year

Two words: Ashtray Maze

Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind Max Payne, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break, have created what is possibly one of the most under-advertised titles in recent memory in Control. But here’s the thing, the game is fantastic and is quite possibly the best title the studio has ever developed.

Players will assume the role of Jesse Faden, a young woman, who while searching for the Federal Bureau of Contol, ends up becoming its next Director. From there, players will have to uncover the mystery of the Hiss, a supernatural phenomenon that has corrupted the Bureau. Control does an excellent job of world building and while players will have a multitude of questions, mostly stemming from what the hell is happening, the game does a pretty good job as many of them are answered while playing through the campaign.

Everything and everyone feels off as you make your way through the Oldest House. Characters seem to be far too calm considering the circumstances. Ahti in particular, will constantly leave you wondering what role he plays besides being the Janitor. Control constantly keeps you guessing as the more you explore, the more knowledge you’ll uncover. It’s rewarding and fun, even if it’s all batshit insane.

At its core, Control is a third-person action title that deftly blends shooting and the various abilities you gain throughout the game. Jesse has a number of supernatural abilities, she can lift objects and enemies, create a shield from debris, levitate, and use mind control once an enemies health is lowered. Players will utilize all of these abilities during combat as you can quickly get overwhelmed by staying stagnant.

Enemies will fire rockets, throw objects, and blow themselves up all in the hopes of halting your progress. There is enough variety that enemy encounters never feel old. Stronger enemies will have shields that need to be depleted and while your gun and its different variants are effective, the special abilities you unlock will do the most damage. Experimenting in combat is highly recommended and a lot of fun.

Outside of the conventional enemies found throughout the game, there are boss fights peppered throughout that will provide unique challenges. These are typically found in side missions and players will need to come prepared otherwise it will result in a quick game over. Most of the bosses tend to have exploitable attack patterns, but they do incredible damage if any of their attacks connect.

Control is structured very similarly to a Metroidvania title as many areas will need to be revisited as you progress throughout the game. Luckily, there are multiple fast travel points that allow for quick traversal. The only downside is that the load times can be fairly lengthy. While the environments themselves visually appealing, the fast travel system is greatly appreciated.

Beyond the campaign, which is fantastic, the side missions in Control are strong and all generally interesting. Some will even grant new abilities and completing side missions can provide further insight into the game world. The other benefit to completing side missions is that you’re rewarded with crafting material which you can use to upgrade your guns and abilities.

Jesse carrys a unique firearm that can morph into different forms. Players will be able to snipe, shoot rockets, and shotgun enemies as long as they press square to change. Your firearm reloads automatically and there are modifications that can provide different buffs. As you upgrade your firearm more modification slots will open, granting players the opportunity to mix and match.

Production-wise, Control will remind players heavily of Inception and other science-fiction films. Rooms constantly shift and transform during the game and seeing the effect occur out of a cutscene is incredibly jarring. This is a title that oozes with style and is one of the best animated titles in gaming. The rag doll physics are amazing and the everything just comes off fluid and smooth.

It’s a shame that Control wasn’t heavily advertised because it is easily one of the games of the year. There is one segment during the game that was immediately captivating and quickly became one of the most memorable moments in gaming. It’s that good. If there are any real gripes in the game, it’s the load times and the framerate, which can stutter during heavy actions scenes. Beyond these minor complaints, this game is an overall fantastic experience and well worth your time.

Control is a winner.

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