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Great Moments in Gaming: Taking Control in ‘Control’

Control’s god-like power set reaches its absolute ep



One of the trippiest sequences in gaming history, Control‘s Ashtray Maze is an absolute jaw-dropper…

Great Moments in Gaming is a column wherein we look back at some of the great gaming moments that have made a significant impact on our view of this medium and how we have come to understand it. This time around we’re looking back at Control’s Ashtray Maze, and the ultimate version of the games eponymous “control”.

Control has one of the most badass, god-tier ability sets in the history of gaming. From mind bullets to levitation to telekinesis, Jesse Faden’s abilities are the recipe for an absolute asskicker. Probably the coolest set piece in the game, the Ashtray Maze, is the ultimate playground and testing zone for your mastery of these powers, and getting through it in one piece is no mean feat.

Teased throughout Control, the Ashtray Maze is unnavigable for the majority of the game. Though it is clearly marked on the map, attempts to overcome it for the first three quarters of Control will see the player looping back to the beginning over and over again. That is until an eccentric janitor borrows you his head phones.

It sounds bonkers (and much of Control is indeed insane) but these headphones turn out to be the missing link that Jesse needs to attempt a passage through the Ashtray Maze. With the madcap, early-era metal music of The Old Gods of Asgard (another of many Alan Wake easter eggs) pumping into her ear holes, Jesse can finally reach the areas of The Oldest House that have been off limits for her up until now.

What follows is one of the most trippy, vertigo-inducing sequences in the history of gaming. As The Old Gods of Asgard begin singing “Take Control!” into your ears, the old motel style walls of the Ashtray Maze start to morph and fall away with the consistency of shuffled playing cards and the look of the unfolding origami of reality.

Soon the possessed enemies of the game begin to attack, and with the first set dispatched, the player must walk through a seemingly endless path of doorways. Then the whole perspective of the Ashtray Maze shifts, with walls and roofs becoming floors, and the “ground” rising, morphing and transforming around Jesse.

Think Inception crossed with an MC Escher painting and you’ll be halfway there. What makes this sequence all the more impressive is how hard Control tasks you to fight while navigating the madness of the Ashtray Maze. While the first few waves of enemies are pushovers, by the end the player will be using every skill at their fingertips in hopes of surviving the onslaught.

The Ashtray Maze is truly a sight to behold and, as such, it was one of, if not the, coolest gaming moment of 2019. With Control‘s final piece of DLC right around the corner, we couldn’t resist looking back at it. Even if you aren’t interested in Control, even watching a video of Ashtray Maze will absolutely blow you away.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

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