First Impressions of CONTROL, A New Journey Into Horror From The Creator Of ALAN WAKE
I’ve always been an avid gamer across all mediums, but primarily due to the fact that it could end up being costly to upgrade and maintain, the PC gaming scene was never something I was completely enveloped within. Don’t get me wrong, I played my fair share of PC titles, which mainly consisted of games that were 1st person shooters. Doom, Duke Nukem, the early Call of Duty games, Soldier of Fortune and a myriad of other run-and-gun games were constants in my late high school and early college days. However, the games that I remember most fondly from my PC days is are actually a 3rd person action series that tells the story of a tragic cop and his fall from grace. The titles that I am speaking of is first two entries of the Max Payne series, developed by Remedy and series creator Sam Lake. Max Payne (2001) and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (2003) are simply classic pieces of gaming fiction, a master class of film noir storytelling and excellent voice performances, and when combined with amazing action sequences, ends up delivering one of the most memorable tales of crime, revenge, love and justice that has ever been told. Suffice to say, I was destined to follow the trajectory of series creator Sam Lake and the team at Remedy to see what they do next.
Their next title would wind up being another 3rd person action title, Alan Wake, which ended up leaning real hard into the horror realm. This ended up being turned out to be a labor of love and heartache for Sam Lake and Remedy, with development delays and disagreements with publisher Microsoft leading the title to release later than originally intended. In the end, it was still an unsettling atmospheric title that delivered on the story and vibe I expect from Remedy and Sam Lake. Now, after eight long years and barely a rumor or smidge of info, the gaming world was delighted to finally witness the unveiling of Remedy and Same Lake’s newest adventure at Sony’s E3 2018 press conference. Welcome to the world of Control.
Control has you take command of Jesse Faden, a woman who encountered a traumatic event in her early childhood that still remains unsolved and unexplained today. In her latest bid to uncover the truth, she finds herself at a location called The Oldest House, a towering skyscraper lodged within the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. This building houses a secret government organization that deals with and investigates strange and unexplained phenomenon, called the Federal Bureau of Control. As Jesse arrives at this building, however, a mysterious force known as The Hiss launches an attack on the Oldest House, possessing all of the employees and killing the Director. Now Jesse, armed with the Director’s personal sidearm, must go deep into this mysterious building to put an end to this supernatural threat, and perhaps find out answers to the questions she has been looking for in the process.
Based on what I have seen from the two trailers released, the initial one at E3 2018, and the just recently released “Oldest House”, I have really high hopes for this to be Remedy’s greatest game. The gameplay seems to be an amalgamation of what has worked successfully across Max Payne and Alan Wake, refining the 3rd person action gunplay that has been the staple across all of Remedy’s titles. We have the slow motion, “bullet-time”-like gunplay that was prevalent throughout the Max Payne series. While the slow motion in Max Payne was game mechanic disguised as an effect from the painkillers that Max downed in the game (which acted as his health replenishment), Contro’sl slow-downed action seems to be due to the constant spatial distortions occurring within the Oldest House, and with the Director’s gun that Jesse finds at the beginning of the adventure. The weapon is shown to be able to re-shape and modify itself on the fly based on what is required of it, and this could be a major asset for Jesse to contend with the disruptions currently taking place within the Oldest House.
In addition, we also seem to be getting the horror elements and aesthetics that were on full display with Alan Wake. Released on the Xbox 360 and PC in 2010, Alan Wake was more a full blown horror game about a mystery writer, his missing wife, the town of Bright Falls and his latest manuscript coming to life. Control is leaning more toward the science fiction element with their story, but various clips and screenshots of floating bodies, possessed employees, and some strong hues of red present across multiple locations give me the impression that some horror elements will make their way across the hours you play. Based on what I have seen so far, I have been sufficiently intrigued by the game’s premise of a building that contains connections to different dimensions, an environment that is constantly being warped and distorted at a moment’s notice. This feels like a culmination of years of work Remedy has put into their titles, and I believe that this could also be their most ambitious and large scale story that they have ever tackled.
When Control finally releases sometime in 2019, it will have been over nine years since we last got a Remedy game, and while that may seem like a long time between releases, I’d prefer developers take their time. Due to this long development, I am hopeful that this has allowed Remedy to fully realize the world and characters that they want to introduce to the gaming landscape, and ultimately deliver on their intended vision. Nothing is more compromising to a vision then having to adhere to a release window of having a new game out every year or two. Control has every opportunity to become the crowning achievement of Sam Lake and Remedy Games, and so far, based on the two slick trailers and early impressions leaking out, it looks like that will be the case.