The resulting hallucination would be Remedy’s latest mystery. It’s the videogame that connoisseurs of absurd cinema and the surreal have been waiting for. But thanks to sharp writing, a set of awesome and varied psychic combat abilities, and an impressively thought-out world, it was easy to wrap my head around what made this adventure tick.That concrete, with so many 90-degree angles, should be boring, but the Finnish developers at Remedy make it fascinating. Somewhere in the stew of fluorescent lighting and soul-deadening desks, filing cabinets, and office supplies, beauty sprouts. This is what it would look and feel like if the Ghostbusters were a bureaucracy that planted a cubicle farm in the most haunted house it could find.But the FBC appears to be empty, apart from Ahti, the Finnish caretaker who lets her in, apparently under the impression she is there for an interview as his assistant.
I know this because Jesse knows this, and Jesse knows this because the last director pretty clearly used the weapon to kill himself, and he seems to be speaking to us through the bullet lodged in his brain.Her ability to use it instantly installs her as the new Director – and there’s work to be done, since the FBC’s building, known as The Oldest House, is in chaos, thanks to an invasion by entities from another astral plane known as the Hiss.That search brings her to the Federal Bureau of Control, a secret government department that she believes kidnapped her brother as part of its mission to safeguard the country against other-worldly phenomena. But the FBC, housed in a New York City building called The Oldest House, is under attack by the Hiss, a malevolent, hive-like entity from another dimension that infects the minds of its hosts to bend them to its will.They’re disturbing at first, but the more you explore the game’s paranormal world, the less unsettling they become. They’re just a fixture of the landscape, like stairs or cubicles or coffee makers. But while I became accustomed to seeing them, I never quite got comfortable with hearing them: a steady drone of nonsense words that gets louder as more bodies cling to the air. After hours of playing that, chanting still made me uneasy.the sort of thing you don’t even realize you’re doing until you try to stop. Other actions can be laborious, like smashing the grab button in Dishonored as you rummage through a stranger’s belongings, not because you enjoy it, but out of fear that you might miss something if you don’t.
As the automated glass doors slide shut behind her, you can see the people of New York living their daily lives; a yellow taxi drives by as a couple of pedestrians wait for a bus, huddled together under the stop to take shelter from the rain. That’s pretty much the last time you see anything normal in Control. Yes, there are still some unaffected members of staff that can be found hiding in rooms across The Oldest House but, as Jesse says as she walks into the mouth of the FBC, “the room is not the world. The world is much bigger, and much stranger.”In Control, every conspiracy theory, ghost encounter, and alien abduction happened, just not quite for the reasons you’d expect. It’s a collection of stories about seeing through the banality of everyday life, a story about language, mass media, and statecraft delivered with a dry sense of humor and no tether to reason. I still don’t understand it. I don’t need to. Bless this mess. This includes Altered Items, ordinary household objects that have been imbued with supernatural potential spoken into power by urban legends and the collective subconscious. The Bureau’s headquarters seems like a drab, nondescript office building at first, and Jesse’s search for answers to events in her past was equally mundane at first. But Control quickly reveals what lies behind those concrete walls: within the first chapter I became both the janitor’s assistant and the new acting director of the Bureau.Everything we pull toward our raised right hand is an interactive part of the world, whether we’re picking up items like filing cabinets or, when those aren’t available, literally yanking chunks of cement out of the walls and floors. And those objects are as deadly as bullets.
That’s partly because Jesse – who has carried in her head an otherworldly entity called Polaris since the incident in which Dylan was taken away by the FBC – develops superpowers such as a Gravity Gun-style ability to pick up objects and hurl them at enemies, a heavy melee attack, levitation and so on. Also, all of Control’s action takes place within The Oldest House which, as well as being sufficiently vast to accommodate a quarry and a power plant, provides a gateway to other dimensions. It feels a bit like a grounded spaceship, except even more fun to explore.It became neither monotonous or unconscious. At first the objects accelerate toward you, crashing into whatever might be in their way, before slowing down as they approach until they’re hanging idly in the air, only to speed back up again when eventually launched. This slightest bit of simulated resistance is visually and tactilely convincing.It’s very satisfying floating through the air while using psychic powers to toss fire extinguishers at bad guys. There are times when the action becomes too much, though, and in these moments, Control devolves into a mostly generic third-person shooter where you’re hiding behind cover. It can make an otherwise excellent experience drag. But it’s worth pushing through to see the uniquely uncomfortable world Remedy has created.An Object of Power, a gun called The Service Weapon, chooses her, granting her the ability to wield the weapon and traverse The Oldest House without worry that The Hiss, another unexplainable entity that’s invaded the FBC and has been turning its employees into glowing red monsters, will infect her mind. Control’s a doozy.
Previous employees linger in the air, twitching in unnerving unison. You see, they’ve been corrupted by The Hiss, an unknowable force that has wormed its way into The Oldest House and turned it into a psychosomatic nightmare theme park. Control’s combat encourages constant movement, and finding cover is frequently necessary to survival, even if you have to summon it yourself. The standard difficulty level isn’t unfairly hard, but I died a fair number of times when I didn’t think to balance both offensive and defensive skills and got too cocky with jumping into the fray, for example. Getting up close and using the psionic wave force melee ability can be advantageous when you’re down to just a couple of foes, but any more than that and short-range combat usually led to a swift death, in my experience. But again, it’s not just a pretty effect. Watching a fire extinguisher rip through an enemy and collide with a desk whose papers explode, scatter, and flutter down to the ground around us as we continue to fight has a secondary purpose: It makes the absurdity of Control believable.Dead and even wounded Hiss drop blue shards that restore some of Faden’s health, so you pretty much have to stay on the move constantly, picking up objects to launch at enemies (satisfyingly fast, and with a large amount of snap so pinpoint accuracy isn’t required), ducking behind cover when you’re about to have rockets or furniture fired your way, emerging to replenish health and so on. In addition to being able to grab hold of almost any object, nearly everything in The Oldest House can be destroyed. With a press of a button, wood splinters, rock crumbles, and stacks of paper detonate. The world eventually resets once you’ve wandered off long enough, which is part of the ancient power of The Oldest House. But the sumptuous sounds and visual detail of destruction never get old, whether hurling a filing cabinet at an enemy or just to see what kind of mark it leaves on the wall. It makes the world feel alive.