Remedy Entertainment has always been a company that makes quality games with a whole lot of heart and passion dating all the way back to the late nineties with titles like Death Rally. Later on, names such as Max Payne and Alan Wake have even taken their place as true video game icons.
Still, the star-studded cast and largely very competent time-travelling action of 2014's Quantum Break didn't quite reach the sky-high expectations set for it by publisher Microsoft. Now as their exclusivity deal has reached an end, Remedy's brand-new action-adventure Control will also see light on Sony's PlayStation 4.
During our studio visit, we got to play the game in its gold state, meaning the final code. It was an intense few hours of diving into the Oldest House to figure out more about Jesse Faden, the Hiss and everything else that goes on beyond the tall walls of the mysterious Bureau of Control. It's a fascinating world, but is it enough to keep you glued to your seat?
From a visual standpoint, the brutalist architecture supports the new weird genre of the narrative extremely well, confidently drawing you in. The adventure kicks off without dillydallying or too much exposition as Jesse Faden's seemingly ordinary bureau visit. Things are never quite what they seem, and it won't be long until our protagonist is knee-deep in the mystery of The Oldest House and its Remedy-esque original cast of characters.
The at-times overflowing weirdness of the game is still not too hard to follow, but rather very intriguing as the pace keeps ratcheting up nicely along the way. Tonally I would say that Jesse Faden's unique adventure into the heart of the Bureau of Control draws a lot from the goofy scientists of Portal's Aperture Laboratories, and the constant mystery of Lost's Dharma Initiative rather than the self-aware weirdness of David Lynch. There's a method to the madness here.
Uncharacteristically for Remedy, the basic philosophy behind Control's design is to let the player experiment and advance at their own pace. The Oldest House is a vast and open place, that begs to be explored. Also, during combat, the player isn't really funnelled to a certain playstyle as the protagonist's service weapon can be customized to suit many different approaches.
You receive this special weapon very early, and it's possible to tweak it into a shotgun-like blaster, a high-powered energy gun or just your trusty revolver. Mixing things up will be the key to success and good times. The basic evil henchmen enemies go down rather easily with just a few shots, but it won't be long until you're faced with shielded and more challenging bad guys as well.
Jesse's supernatural gifts are improved and unlocked throughout the campaign. In addition to the aforementioned service weapon, we also have access to telekinesis. With this, the player can turn everyday objects ranging from fire extinguishers to explosive barrels to concrete torn from the walls and floors into lethal projectile weapons. It's an absolutely brutal addition to the combat.
In the heat of the combat, the brutalist architecture really shines. The scenery reacts to gunfire and explosions really impressively, and your jaw will probably drop a few times while witnessing these visually explosive scenarios.
Structurally the adventure moves from one floor to the next as the player unlocks new skills and areas during the main story missions and smaller side activities. It's a fluid way of approaching the sandbox genre, but it also creates the structure of a narratively-lead game like this really needs. Think of Zelda and the like and you have a pretty good idea of the progress.
During the test session, it became very clear how advanced Remedy's motion and performance capture has gotten. The tech clearly captures even the smallest nuances of the actors to convey feelings and body language subtly, and generally in a very believable manner. The audiovisual aspects of the game represent the quality Remedy is known for, and this is probably the first time ever you will hear old Finnish adult pop songs in a game as big as this (you'll hear them in the radios sprinkled around the offices as well as from our Finnish caretaker Ahti). Unfortunately, We have to bring up the frame rate hiccups as well. During the most intensive gunfights and special effects the PlayStation 4 Pro, we were playing the game on choked to a crawl quite a few times. We certainly hope the day one patch will fix this. Remedy confirmed they are working on such a patch.
I feel quite positive after these couple of hours with Control. The shooting has Remedy written all over it and the story keeps you hooked from the get-go. What remains to be seen is how all these threads come together in the final experience. Will the complete story hold up from the promising beginning to the inevitable end?