I got hands on with a lot of games at E3 2019, but getting to play Control was absolutely the highlight of my experience at the conference. Created by Remedy Entertainment and published by 505 Games, the supernatural action-adventure title blew me away and left me wanting more, more, more. This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Control at E3, as the title was announced as a part of Sony’s 2018 presentation, but this was the first time that anyone has gotten to actually get hands-on with the title, and the experience was totally worth the wait. Honestly, if 505 had given me an opportunity to play the same demo level of Control all day long, I absolutely would have skipped out on all my appointments (don’t tell my editor, please) just to get my fill.
Similarly to Remedy’s past title, Quantum Break, Control is a third-person game that defies categorization, being part survival-horror and part action-adventure. Players take the role of Jesse Faden, the newly initiated Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, as she fights to take back the Oldest House — the FBC’s headquarters — from a supernatural enemy known as the Hiss. Utilizing a customizable pistol known as the Service Weapon, as well as a host of powerful paranormal abilities like telekinesis, levitation, and mind control, Jesse will fight her way through a variety of Hiss monstrosities to return the Oldest House to its former glory, and learn more about her mysterious past.
To put it simply, Control’s gameplay is spectacularly fun and intuitive. In battling the Hiss, which take the form of possessed security guards and SWAT officers, players will have a variety of weapons and abilities at their disposal, offering countless ways to approach combat in any situation. Throughout the levels, various upgrades and extra abilities can be obtained, leading to new Service Weapon gun types and various defensive or offensive supernatural abilities for Jesse. When in combat, health and ammunition need to be conserved and used wisely when in confrontation, similar to more survival-horror style franchises. Jesse’s health bar does not recharge, and can only be replenished with objects found from defeated Hiss, while the Service Weapon and Jesse’s supernatural abilities all use the same energy bar. This makes planning a confrontation an essential part of the core gameplay, adding an extra challenge on top of everything else.
Initially, I had a bit of trouble learning how to balance finding cover, shooting the Service Weapon, and appropriately using telekinesis abilities, but very quickly I was ducking behind objects, picking up the best projectiles, and running and gunning my way through Control’s hallways. There were a number of times where my projectiles clipped to something right next to me, which led to disastrous explosions and damage taken, but I found that this was a more realistic enactment of the physics engine, and it resulted in a much more immersive world, forcing me to consider my surroundings to be just as dangerous as the attacking Hiss. The Service Weapon is also a huge amount of fun, and I had the ability to switch between its pistol and shotgun settings in the demo. With the touch of a button, the gun fluidly transformed from a ranged pistol to a devastating, close-range beast, and led to some incredibly satisfying kills.
In telling Jesse’s story, Control’s greatest strength is its ‘Metroidvania’-style gameplay and level design, as this guarantees multiple playthroughs and repeated adventures in order to uncover all the secrets that the game has to offer. For those unaware, these kinds of titles break from the traditional linear game structure, and encourage exploration at an almost open-world level that offers multiple passages to accomplish the same goal. Combine that with a variety of unlockables and acquirable skills interspersed throughout the world, and you have a recipe for a particularly engaging title. During my hands-on time with Control, I kept looking around at other journalists to see where they were in the game, and more often than not I found that they were somewhere in a place that I had never seen before, doing something incredible while either gaining a new skill or exploring an intriguing room. I found myself to be a bit jealous while watching them using abilities that had not found myself, although I’m sure they looked on with envy as I utilized something outside of their skill set.
In terms of graphics and in-game world, I found that Control feels like an incredibly polished Ubisoft title, offering what I can only describe as a ‘stylized, life-like’ game world. Characters look realistic and original, seeming to have the ability to project great emotions through animations that mimic reality. The Oldest House (at least in the parts of it that I saw) looks dark and foreboding with spectacular lighting physics, creating a sinister and inviting world. In my demo, it didn’t appear that enemy design varied all that much, although I am sure that other Hiss monsters will appear as the world evolves. This all combines to create a truly dynamic world for Remedy to use to tell Jesse’s story, offering a perfect mix of exciting combat and incredibly storytelling to make Control a hit.
As of now, Control is top on my list as a must-buy title from E3 2019, although it is closely followed by Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. Look for it on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC when it releases on August 27, 2019. I know I’ll be first in line!
What do you think? What are you looking forward to most in Control? Will it be a day-one purchase?