Control: The Foundation DLC Review
It’s surprising how rare it is to see good DLC these days. In this brave new world of microtransactions, season passes, and third party cash grabs, downloadable content has almost become a dirty word in the gaming community. It’s not that players don’t appreciate being able to spend more time in the worlds of their favorite franchises. It’s that often times these releases feel like content cut for time or half-hearted attempts at capturing the magic of the main title.
Enter Control’s first “season pass” DLC offering, The Foundation. Now, full disclosure, we’ve had a long history with Remedy’s surprise hit, calling it “one of the best games playable at E3” and later our “favorite 3rd party release of 2019.” Although it didn’t end up winning Game of the Year, Control definitely felt like it should have (although Fire Emblem: Three Houses wasn’t even nominated).
Still, Control feels like it’s at a franchise crossroads. Does the title fade away into a one-off feather in Remedy’s cap? Or does it find a way to build upon its success and unify the disjointed but interconnected universes of Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and the Oldest House?
Fortunately for all of us, Control’s The Foundation DLC lays the groundwork for the future of the franchise by opening doors into new narrative paths. Like the main title, it’s clever, atmospheric, and absolutely fun. Without giving too much away, The Foundation builds storylines that change the way that the events of the main game should be viewed, and gives the original title enough value to warrant a second (or even third) playthrough. And, most importantly, it does what all good DLC should do, reminds players why they fell in love with the game in the first place.
Absolutely Nailin’ the Story
When we first reviewed Control, it was best described as an action game with a great story, but the release of The Foundation represents a shift. Instead, this DLC shows that Control is moreso a story game with great action, and in all the best ways. That’s not to say that the combat took a backseat to the narrative. While still incredibly awesome, the gunplay and powers feel like dressing on an amazing story, breaking up the revelations to give players time to ponder the full extent of what’s unfolding in front of them.
The Foundation‘s narrative takes place immediately following the events of the main game, sending Jesse on a mission to the depths of the Oldest House. Sent by the mysterious Board, Jesse uncovers an artifact known as “The Nail” that has been corrupted by Hiss forces and threatens to tear apart the dimension. Using some new skills and relying on familiar (and unfamiliar) friends, Jesse must battle paranormal forces to save both the Bureau and her entire world.
Unfortunately, the biggest disappointment of the DLC is simply that it’s over too soon. In just about the 5 or 6 hours that it takes to binge watch Tiger King on Netflix, The Foundation comes to close. It’s a very fast paced jaunt that catches players up to speed and throws them headfirst back into the mysteries of the Oldest House. In a way, Control’s DLC felt almost like a teaser for more exciting things to come, priming gamers for the big questions that are going to dominate late summer’s AWE DLC (and hopefully future franchise releases). There’s a lot to discuss here and even more to speculate on.
Telekinesis is Like Riding a Bike
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, Control absolutely nails the feeling of being a total paranormal badass. As usual, Jesse has all the same powers and weapons from the first go around: the varying Service Weapon styles, launch, levitate, etc. But The Foundation introduces a new “break” and “build” feature that works with certain rock formations within the sprawling caves beneath the Oldest House. It’s a simple addition, but it adds new elements of platforming action that work really well, most of the time.
When first jumping in to the DLC, there was a bit of a nagging worry that the controls were going to be difficult to remember and that it was going to take a while to get back into the rhythm. No one likes having to relearn a game after putting it down for a bit. But The Foundation put those worries quickly at ease, offering some early hoops to jump through to remind players of the basic mechanics and movements. Although the gameplay is pretty versatile, Control’s controls (don’t you hate that) are surprisingly intuitive and like riding a bike.
Who Knew the Indoors Could be So Cool?
In The Foundation, Control’s world design still looks as beautiful as the day it was released, and the DLC introduces some killer new landscape elements that steal the show. Instead of the sterile hallways that dominated most of the main game, The Foundation features sprawling caverns, bright red desert sand, and countless trips to the geometrically interesting Astral Plane. And, of course, the David Lynchian story sequences and intermissions are still in full effect. For those that loved the look and feel of the main title, The Foundation delivers yet again.
Of course, The Foundation is still affected by some of the same graphical gripes that existed when the main game was released. But at this point, they come as no surprise. Arguably the most egregious is that when too much is happening on the screen, Control still absolutely lurches and can feel like it’s on the very brink of crashing. The game consistently recovers time and time again from these pitfalls, but it definitely led to a few held breaths. Also, although it didn’t register on a first playthrough, some of the faces feel a little “uncanny valley” at times. Perhaps it was the subtle advancing of graphic quality over the past year, or just more experience, but it wasn’t enough to completely break the experience.
Rock Bottom or a Solid Foundation?
If one doesn’t mind the short length, Control’s The Foundation DLC is a solid kickoff to what is hopefully a long and in-depth narrative that (again, hopefully) unifies the worlds that Remedy has spent the last decade building. It captures all the magic of the main title and does what quality DLC should, reminds fans of the franchise why they fell in love with the narrative in the first place. It’s a stylistic, interesting, and narrative-driven game that really forces one to wonder, “is this an action game with a great story or the other way around?” We’re all in on Control, and if you’re in as well, The Foundation is a solid pickup.