released on Aug 27, 2019

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released on Aug 27, 2019

Control is a supernatural 3rd person action-adventure will challenge you to master the combination of supernatural abilities, modifiable loadouts and reactive environments while fighting through a deep and unpredictable world.

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The Oldest House builds its legend off of paranormal urban legends, conspiracy theories, and a heavy dose of the 1960s. It boasts labyrinthine passageways that twist and turn on themselves, spiraling into the unknowable in efforts to conceal its supernatural mysteries and experiments, making exploration and discovery an obstacle within itself - something else to unravel amid the redacted documents full of lines marked off with abyssal black.

Except, it just... isn't. I am an absolute sucker for anything paranormal, or conspiracy theories, or themes of horror and mystery that play off of the Unknown - House of Leaves is one of my favorite books, for example - and I thoroughly enjoy being confused, spun around, and lost in a sea of ever-changing reality. I should love this game. Control spends most of its time talking about those themes and boasting about its weirdness more than it actually incorporates them into gameplay and the world itself. The only reason the Oldest House is slightly confusing in the beginning is because the map has all floors layered on top of itself. However, the actual game world is filled with signs and constant reminders of where to head. There are no labyrinthine passages here. The world is no doubt fascinating to look at and run through, but it does get old quickly.

It's this line of half-baked gaslighting that runs through the game, tainting it like small bits of mold running through bread. Combat in this game is satisfying in the beginning - you're unburdened by ammo pick-ups, and launching bits of the environment at enemies in order to break them is incredibly visceral and fun. However, that's the whole game. You fight the same five enemies in the entire game, and there's nothing that sets apart the boss fights or ending sequences in a way that makes them unique. Even outside of combat, there are scant puzzles to solve in a game that banks itself on being full of mystery, and those that do exist are solved in a matter of seconds.

The main story follows a similar arc - built up to be something possibly mind-melting, but ends with a fizzle rather than an explosion of realization. There are fantastic characters in the game. Darling in particular is incredibly interesting, as he seems to hold the key to most of the mysteries in the Oldest House, but they are wasted in a plot of faux-intellection and hackneyed emotional sequences.

Somewhere inside of Control exists a first-rate game, world, and experience. The world-building is phenomenal and interesting. The visuals are stunning and varied. The combat feels intense and visceral. Unfortunately, that all fades away after the game never quite finds anything meaningful to do with it all. Control is still worth playing, and I certainly enjoyed much of my time with it, but its fascinating world is undermined by lazy choice and implementation of its themes. One of writing's biggest rules is 'show don't tell,' and though the world of Control is all about bending rules, sometimes they exist for a reason.

A pleasant surprise in story and gameplay. Some of the best shooting mechanics out there.

Visuals make me wish I had a better pc

There's a concise and creative third person action shooter at the core of this game, and then there's some other stuff that may or may not float your boat. I'm not sure if the bordering-on-pretentious narrative presentation worked for me, especially since it's sometimes at odds with the pacy action gameplay. Nevertheless, Control's oddities and failures were interesting to experience.

Beaten: Sep 17 2021
Time: 7 Hours
Platform: Xbox Series X

Control feels like it doesn't exactly know what it is. What it's about, where it's focus is, hell even what kind of game it is. Somehow, despite being one of the shortest AAA games I played this year, it felt bloated and meandering. The only thing I can say about it for sure is that it banks on sounding deep and mysterious very hard to get you curious about its world, and it never got me going at all. At almost all times it felt like Stranger Things starring adults, minus the nostalgia. Make of that what you will.

First I guess let's talk about what kind of game Control actually is. There's like, three styles of game mixed in here. The first one is the base: it's a third person shooter at it's core, like Gears of War or Vanquish. Actually Vanquish is a good comparison for a few reasons, but the first one is that where Vanquish got a lot of it's combat design from character action games, Control goes halvsies on superhero games. Infamous, Prototype, hell Jesse Faden (the main char) could star in her own open world version of New York City if she wanted to. That's where the moveset comes from. The encounter design itself is pretty much straight out of Gears of War, which isn't a bad thing. GoW has great encounter design. But when the other genres start coming in, that's where my issues come about?

It's also (kind of) a soulslite. That is, a soulslike game but without the punishment. It's in the way checkpoints work, to the metroid-ey style of the world design, to the rhythms of the combat. For any enemy besides the basic ones, you're gonna be dodging projectiles like they were swords held by the Capra Demon. It's a good idea, and not a bad mix once you get there, but you don't get an evade until halfway through the game? And so many enemies have hitscan weapons too. I'm not sure it works, but it's probably the most inspired part of the game. In general you're a little too fragile and the enemies are a bit too annoying for my taste, and none of the guns feel great, but at worst I'm meh on the combat, and once or twice in there I did have fun with it.

The bigger issue is the amount of combat. You'll fight waves and waves of enemies on your way to things, often blocked in each room for like, 5 minutes fighting, just to get to the next room where it's the same thing, repeat a few more times and you'll be at your objective. I got tired of it like, 3 hours into the game, and it's got such a huge amount of side content that's just more combat (and lore, i'll get to that) and I just can't imagine wanting to do it.

Maybe I'd want to do all the content if I was more into the world here. The game takes place in the Federal Bureau of Control, who basically research all the weird stuff in the country. Basically they're the SCP foundation, but less militarized and more government office building. It's not a bad idea, but something about it just feels so familiar. Maybe it's the SCP foundation like I mentioned, maybe it's Stranger Things' ever-presence these days, or maybe it's something else that's slipping my mind but I feel like I've seen this story a million times, and the only new ground broken here was the presentation.

Speaking of, that part is pretty fantastic. The environments at their best feel like large modernist sculptures and paintings, all clean lines and right angles and domineering colors. The normal office building parts are also pretty good, nice and detailed and all that. At it's worst, however, there's no effort made for naturalism in environment, with offices being designed like levels first and places where people presumably worked second, yet sporting all the drab "government building-ness" that so many games have used to better effect. Worst of all however, is the toll this presentation took (and still takes!!!!) on the game's playability.

This game came out two years ago and it's still buggy as hell. My friend started it at the same time as me on his PC via gamepass and it crashed so much he had to stop, and even on my Series X I had major audio glitches for the entire back half of the game. It's definitely come a long way in playability (aside from the pc gamepass version) but for it to still be in this state? With this budget and manpower and time behind it? It's just ridiculous.

Besides the bugs, it just feels like a game that tried to be too much at once, without all that much at the center. I'm really disappointed with the story in that regard, it just feels like a flashy way of telling a story whose stakes are never made clear and whose themes are nothing more than weak implication, when they're coherent at all. It's not as artsy as it thinks it is.

On the one hand, this game has a lackluster storyline, forgettable characters, boring enemies, dull environments, and poorly-implemented RPG elements.
On the other hand, you get to pick up dumpsters with telekinesis and throw them at bad guys.
The combat on this game is very fun, and mostly makes up for the game's many other weaknesses, although I did have to switch it to journalist mode to get through a couple of the cheap boss fights. Not a lot of replay value in my eyes. If you enjoy 3rd person shooters I would give it a shot on sale.