Originally posted on Wordpress on 16 June 2023

I became aware of this game a couple of years ago after watching a stream play through the beginning on Twitch. I actually closed the stream because I was so interested that I wanted to experience things for myself. I didn’t get to play the game until December 2021, but I didn’t get too far into the game before I set it to the side and moved on to other things. It wasn’t until February 2023 that I had the time to pick up the game fully.

I finished playing the game in late April and decided to wait a couple of weeks to write this blog post. I knew that if I wrote it then, I’d do nothing but gush over the game. I loved Control! I’ve since had some time to actually think over things, so I’m hoping this post will be more subjective and less uncritically positive.

Jesse stands in front of a light switch hanging from the ceiling. The hotline is visible in the background.

First things first: this is an incredibly pretty game. It takes place almost entirely in a brutalist building, with a couple of trips to a few other distinct areas (the Astral Plane, the Quarry, and the Oceanview Motel, to name a few). Before playing Control, I thought brutalism was hideous. This game single-handedly changed my opinions on an entire architectural style.

I played through most of the game on low graphics (I genuinely thought I'd had them set to medium until the endgame, where I encountered a blurry texture), getting around 30-40 FPS and with a render latency of 110ms. At the time, I didn't have access to a graphics card that had ray tracing. I even encountered a glitch that happens when your NVIDIA GPU drivers are a couple of months out of date:

GPU glitch.

None of this negatively affected my experience. If anything, the glitches added to it. The Oldest House is, after all, a constantly shifting eldritch location where all kinds of weird things happen - like, for instance, a sticky note deciding to duplicate itself and cover an entire room.

An office room covered in sticky notes.

This has, however, left me wondering just how many glitches and bugs I experienced without even realizing what was happening.

Wait. How have I gotten this far into the review without even explaining what the game is about?

Jesse stands at the entrance to Central Research.

Jesse Faden arrives at the Federal Bureau of Control, an obscure government agency headquartered in New York in a building called the Oldest House. The Bureau contains and studies paranatural phenomena and events while keeping the general public ignorant. She's there to find her brother, Dylan, who was taken by Foundation Agents when the two of them were kids after an event in their hometown, Ordinary. Upon arriving to the Bureau, she finds that it's under lockdown due to an invasion by an extradimensional entity called the Hiss. Very soon after that, Jesse becomes the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, gains a shapeshifting gun called the Service Weapon, and sets off to end the Hiss invasion. And find her brother.

Despite finding Dylan being Jesse's entire reason for going to the Bureau, he isn't actually utilized very much. You don't actually get to meet him until over halfway through the main story of the game, and he doesn't do very much after that. You have a couple of conversations with him, cleanse him of Hiss possession, and then he spends the rest of the game in a coma. Dylan is spoken of as a threat, and definitely comes across that way in collectibles you can find, but in the actual game? He doesn't really do anything.

Jesse is predominantly preoccupied with clearing the Oldest House of the Hiss. Aside from a few (all internal, never vocalized) token protests that she wouldn't do a good job as the director of a federal agency and would instead be better off as a janitor, she doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by what's just happened to her. In fact, at one point she realizes that she's happy to be at the Bureau and that she doesn't want to leave.

Later she learns that the Bureau has been tracking her movements (confirming the suspicions that she's had for most of her life) but this doesn't seem to change her opinions much. She's still fine with being the Director, but definitely wants to make changes and reforms so that none of this ever happens again.

A whiteboard with notes on Jesse's life.

I'm not convinced that Jesse wanting to stay in the Oldest House is a want of her own, and not some kind of (subtle?) influence of the Service Weapon, or Board, or Oldest House itself. It just seems strange/suspicious that it happens so quickly, and that she spends more time thinking about how to keep the Bureau safe than her own little brother. You know, the entire reason she's there.

The Merry-Go-Round Horse.

The abilities in this game are obtained through Objects of Power - items like the Merry-Go-Round Horse above. One of those OoPs, the Floppy Disk, gives you "Launch". Launch is probably the best implementation of telekinesis I've ever seen in a video game. It's also the most overpowered of all the abilities, especially when fully upgraded. I'll admit that after obtaining Launch, it was what I primarily used in combat. I rarely bothered using the Service Weapon before running out of energy to use Launch.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the Shield power. You can obtain it fairly early in the game, but I found the task annoying enough that I put it off until I'd finished the main game and was doing the Foundation DLC. And then I never used the power, because I had no reason to.

Jesse stands in front of the NSC monitoring station.

There are a couple of areas in Control that are easy to miss - not official Hidden Locations, but places that are simply easy to walk past and never look twice at. One of those is the Mold Threshold. I looked at the hole in the floor of the Research Sector that led to it early in the game and then completely forgot about it because I didn't have any reason to go back to that one part of the building. It wasn't until I was almost done with the main game that I found out there was an entire area with a chain of quests down a broken elevator shaft.

The screenshot above is neither a Hidden Location nor an area that's easy to walk past. In fact, it's a little difficult to get to. I just like the screenshot and think it's appropriate for this section.

The Foundation.

There are two DLC for Control - Altered World Events (AWE) and The Foundation. AWE can be started during the main story, while the Foundation can only be started after you finish the base game.

The Foundation DLC takes place in the Foundation, the lowest levels of the Oldest House. It's a completely new environment, different from anything else in the game - with the exception of the Astral Plane, which is leaking into the Foundation. It's an incredibly aesthetically pleasing area with new, high-level-incredibly frustrating varieties of the Hiss. I never had any trouble with the Hiss (outside of boss fights) until I did the Foundation DLC. They're probably the worst part about the DLC.

The Rangers in the base game had the durability of wet tissue paper for the most part, but this was much better in the Foundation DLC. They were actually useful every time I called one for help clearing an area.

There are two new abilities gained in the Foundation, and they can only be used in the Foundation. What's interesting is how they're obtained - not by binding Objects of Power, but one is given by the Board, and the other is given by Former. Former is heavily implied to be a Former member of the Board, and this isn't the first time you meet it. Those other times, Former was hostile; now, it's much friendlier.

Overall, the Foundation DLC was pretty good. You get to learn quite a bit about the history of the Oldest House, and there's possibly a tiny bit of setup toward Control 2. My main complaints are the new Hiss and the final boss fight. It was way too red - literally, everything about it is red, from the environments to the enemies. That made it genuinely difficult to tell what was happening at times.

Fra's head.

The second DLC is the AWE DLC. It introduces the Investigations Sector, a sector of the Oldest House that was sealed off a couple of years prior. There are no new powers in this DLC, and the environments are more similar to other sections of the Bureau. Along with learning about various Altered World Events and what the Investigations Sector studies, you also learn why the sector was abandoned in the first place.

One of the antagonists in Alan Wake, Dr. Hartman, was brought to the Bureau after the Bright Falls AWE. He escaped confinement and killed a large amount of the staff of the Investigations Sector. This DLC is what confirms that Alan Wake and Control take place in the same universe, after a couple of hints in the base game.

At the end of the AWE DLC, there is a boss fight with Hartman. It's one of the more irritating fights, and I found myself more annoyed by it than any other boss fight in the game, even the 1st Tommasi fight. Not even the Foundation final boss annoyed me this much.

One of the criticisms of this game I've seen is that there wasn't a final boss at the end of the main story. Considering the boss fights in both DLCs were more annoying than enjoyable, perhaps this was a good thing.

A very red Astral Plane.

Overall, this is a good game. The combat does get repetitive and it's got some incredibly annoying enemies, but it's fun enough that I didn't care. The story kept me interested the whole time, but some things weren't quite followed up on or fleshed out as much as I would like. I'll definitely be paying close attention to Control 2's development and I'm sure I'll also review it when it comes out.