The problem with good things is that in the modern age it’s pretty hard to keep them to yourself. That wouldn’t be an issue…except that when the mainstream gets ahold of something it tends to mess it up a bit. For a great example, take a look at the entire Internet in 2019, full stop. It’s not always a pretty place. Popzara excepted, of course. We’re great, we’ve always been great and we’ll always be great.
This isn’t always true, though. Take the SCP Foundation wiki, for instance, a fan-written site all about the exploits of a government organization designed to Secure, Contain and Protect supernatural objects and entities. These entries are pretty great reading for anyone interested in paranormal fiction. Naturally, as more and more people discovered the site we’ve started to see me-too sites and fangames appear of varying levels of quality. Finally, the ultimate mainstream takeover of the concept occurred: we’ve got a high-budget AAA video game called Control, made by the creators of Quantum Break and Alan Wake.
We follow Jesse Faden, a woman who discovers the hidden office of the Federal Bureau of Control, which definitely isn’t the SCP Foundation but renamed so nobody would have to pay royalties. The FBC is all about guarding Altered Items and Objects of Power, which definitely aren’t SCP objects but renamed so nobody would have to pay royalties. Jesse has her own reasons for being here, though, and those reasons are actually pretty original. I kid because I love, and in all fairness Control does a great job of capturing the combination of horror and intrigue that makes the SCP stories so popular. Just wait until you see the killer fridge.
In practice, this represents a more action-focused take on Remedy’s storytelling style. Combat in Control is snappy, weighty and satisfying as Jesse wields a metamorphic firearm and psychic powers simultaneously. There’s a fair amount of progression throughout the game as you develop new gun forms, movement capabilities and psychic attacks ranging from telekinesis to mind control, and all of it feels great.
That’s not to say Control’s gameplay is perfect. The Hiss, the paranormal parasites that serve as the opposing force throughout the game, come in a number of forms but it’s rare that any given battle will use more than two or three. As a result, combat tends to rely more on your environment than the opposition. Jesse’s frailty might be my only other complaint, but using the underlying RPG elements to focus on skills and equipment mods that improve health can help with this.
Control’s one of the headlining games for Nvidia’s RTX Ray Tracing technology, so as you might imagine it’s a graphical tour de force. If you’re playing on PC and have the power to spare, you’re in for a treat, especially when it comes to physics and the light-based ray tracing settings. There’s plenty of particles on display here and the volume of them zipping around is incredibly impressive. On the other hand, the console versions are generally good but don’t look as good and struggle a bit in the performance department; in particular, first-gen PS4s and Xbox Ones are probably not the best choice of platform here, since only the more advanced models are able to keep up.
Control is interesting if you take it in the context of Remedy’s previous games. Combat and gameplay feel like integral parts of the experience here rather than something of an afterthought as they often did in Alan Wake and Quantum Break. Meanwhile, the plot and setting remain interesting enough to keep you motivated and encourage progression. With that in mind, if you’ve got the right hardware for it then Control is very much worth playing. Again, just watch out for the fridge.