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Video Game Review: Control – “A brilliant high-tech Lovecraftian and SCP inspired Tomb Raider type adventure.”

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I have recently been playing through Control, the new video game from videogame publisher 505 Games and its partner, developer Remedy Entertainment, Plc and it left me mightly impressed.

Here is the official blurb about it.

Set in a unique and ever-changing world that juxtaposes our familiar reality with the strange and unexplainable, Control is a third-person action-adventure game combining Remedy’s trademark gunplay with supernatural abilities.

After a secretive agency in New York is invaded by an otherworldly threat, players will take on the role of Jesse Faden, the new Director struggling to regain Control. This supernatural third-person action-adventure game will challenge you to master a combination of supernatural abilities, modifiable loadouts and reactive environments while fighting through a deep and unpredictable world.

What all that entails is wandering around a huge building called the Oldest House and wondering just what the hell happened and why there are people floating in mid-air continuously chanting. The Oldest House is the base for the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC). Its interior defies the laws of reality; an enormous, ever-shifting space existing outside of the laws of spacetime. Rooms in the Oldest House known as Thresholds are connected to alternate dimensions.

It begins simply. You walk around some well-appointed offices and corridors until you come across a dead body who appears to have been shot with a strange-looking pistol. Picking up the pistol, the Service Weapon, you realise just how strange it is when it begins talking to you and you are transported to a different place. A realm of floating black platforms dominated by an immense inverted pyramid.

I don’t really want to go into any more detail than that, as one of the joys in the game is figuring out just what exactly is going on and how to fix it. However, it does involve strange forces from other dimensions and ordinary objects imbued with strange powers.

It is these Objects of Power and the basic set-up of the FBC that reminded me of Call of Cthulhu’s Delta Green or the SCP Foundation. Both collect, secure and protect odd items, some of which could seriously damage the world. There is even a nod to SCP-173 in the game, with a poor field agent having to watch the Object continuously.

Throughout the game, you can pick up various case files and reports, which help build the history and the story of the game world. It also detailed many objects of power. Some made me laugh, some made me curious and some were just downright scary. There is a constant creepiness about the whole game from the deserted corridors, the chanting floating people who are not aware of anything, the rooms that have been twisted by unknown forces and the strange creatures you have to fight against.

Like many of these types of games, you explore new areas, pick up items and improve your own abilities. What I did like with Control was how you got new abilities. You certainly have to work for some of them and it all ties into the game’s lore. Upgrading to Service Weapon also works well, with each new loadout giving you new ways to tackle battles and puzzles. There are some great puzzles in the game and they often tie into the reports you may have picked up at some point earlier in the game. Again, I would love to tell you more, but it is best to go into it knowing very little.

Jesse Faden is a great central character. She is thrown into the deep end, but as things progress you find out more of her past and why exactly she wants to be there. She has a great story arc and I look forward to seeing her again.

The combat system works extremely well. Mixing up your abilities with the Service Weapon is an absolute joy and the geography of where the battles take place can also be used to your advantage.

One thing I noticed was the scale for some of the areas. When you get to the power station and look up you get such a sense of scale for this vast area and that continues with other, much stranger places. I don’t always get that sense of space in some video games, but Control knocked it out of the park.

On the whole, the graphics were great. I was playing it on the PS4 and it looked lovely and some great lighting effects enhanced the mood and creepiness factor. Some of the human characters faces seemed a little off, but it was not that distracting and may well have been due to the fact I was using an early review copy.

Sound and sound design were fantastic. I would like to play through it all again, but wearing headphones as it would also sound incredible, but may be a little too scary in places. It would also make it a bit easier to understand what the janitor was talking about!

All in all, I highly recommend Control. An excellent, creepy mystery wrapped up in a strange location with great gameplay and is a little bit different.

Control is out on 27th August 2019 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

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