Control, from Remedy, is a technical masterpiece.
On PC, it’s unprecedented use of advanced technologies, including ray-tracing, makes this one of the most visually stunning games to date. And while it’s average combat and meandering story don’t push it as far as it could theoretically go, Control remains an engaging experience and one of the highlights, if not must-plays, of 2019.
You start the game as Jesse Faden, a sister looking for her long lost brother. Finally discovering the true location of the secretive Federal Bureau of Control, she enters the shifting, brutalist concrete structure to final all is now well. A hostile force, which she quickly dubs the Hiss, has invaded and all but wiped out the federal agents contained within. As she explores the building, she encounters and gains strange powers in her search for answers. Control isn’t great at giving you lots of this information up front, and it was only by thoroughly reading the collectibles strewn throughout the facilities and talking to every single NPC that I was able to piece together the story properly. There’s a lot of proper nouns here, “Object of Power”, “Hadron Resonance Amplifier”, ‘The Board” and so on, but in the end it’s really about a sister who gains magic powers to help her defeat a Big Evil, so don’t worry about it too much.
The story does however, give you great opportunity to explore the sprawling home of the Federal Bureau of Control. Up against you is the Hiss, who has taken over and mutated into strong, empowered foes. While the enemy AI wasn’t the best, it did show some spark in not simply rushing towards me.
At my disposal was the Service Weapon, a shapeshifting gun that can turn into a sniper rifle, shotgun, pistol and more. Each of these modes can be upgraded and outfitted with mods that you find around the facility. You yourself also have personal mods, that can grant significant extra health or reduce the cost of energy. I never really felt these systems were that important, and while I did have to make choices about what mods to use and what play style I’d therefore go for, I could have just been happy with a choice of five or six great weapons with no upgrades.
Instead you can only swap between two modes on the fly, though you can simply pause and select another mode if the situation calls for it. It is a strange decision, on the one hand limiting your gun choices, while allowing you to pause and swap them instantly anyway.
Alongside your Service Weapon are your powers – essentially magical abilities that can turn the tide of battle. You main power “launch” lets you shoot objects lying around at enemies, for significant damage. You can also dash around and seize controls of enemies on low health, among other abilities. They also can be upgraded to be more effective, and you will have to make tough choices about where to spend your ability points. You have an energy bar that does refill, and slinging random debris at enemies never really got old. There’s no automatically regenerating health in Control, so in particularly difficult areas picking up health gems is an all-important task.
And you’ll want to explore all of Control, even the tough parts, as the game is one of the most gorgeous games that I’ve played this year. Both in terms of the aesthetic and art design, and technical prowess, developer Remedy have outdone themselves. There’s a fantastic use of light, and environments really feel dark and gloomy while safe areas have a familiar fluorescent white saturation to them.
Now Control is one of the few games to feature ray-tracing for compatible graphics cards on PC. And the game looks absolutely gorgeous with it turned on. While the overall image is quite soft, the inclusion of reflections across so many of the game’s surfaces was a real treat. With ray-tracing turned on, the game just looked “right” and more natural to my eyes.
However, this level of graphical fidelity comes at a significant cost.
Even with a top-of-the-line RTX 2080 Ti, an Intel Core i7 8700K, and 32GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM, I was only able to push out around 40FPS with all the settings turned up at 1440p. Even worse, there is no 30FPS cap in-game, for those of us who dislike swinging frame rates. Playing on a G-Sync monitor made this bearable, but with that hit to performance I can imagine most people wouldn’t consider it a trade-off worth making on current hardware. For without ray-tracing enabled, I was able to roughly double my frame rate.
Control is an interesting game. Everything in it is done more than competently, but it nevertheless feels hard to recommend as a must play. If you’re looking for more Remedy-style bananas plotline, full motion video cameos and solid third person shooting, Control will make you feel very happy.
It’s a great, schlocky action game, that may just go under the radar for many.
Apart from it’s expensive ray-tracing option, it doesn’t do anything particularly spectacularly, but I had a great time with it, and you may too.
Released: August 2019
Platforms: PC (reviewed), also on PS4 and Xbox One
Publisher: 505 Games