Probably the hardest thing to deal with in regards to this game is it’s title. If I want to find something in, say, Borderlands, I just search for “Borderlands s-” and the search engine usually autofills what I’m looking for. However, with Control, even trying to control the search by typing something like “Control video game chest behind bars in Warehouse” would give a bunch of false hits, in this case for chest exercise control.
Anyway, the woman-with-paranormal-powers art for the game pretty much says it all. You travel around a building that is home to a Federal agency tasked with investigating and mitigating supernatural events while acquiring Jedi-like powers to defeat an inter-dimensional evil that threatens the operation. Yes, before you ask, all of the standard PC story elements of the day are in here: The tough as nails female black security chief, expert in their field women scientists, the stodgy white guys holding back the organization, “mystery meat” characters who are supposed to check a bunch of boxes at once, etc.
Unlike other games though, it is just PC window dressing for what is an otherwise well designed game and is a bit of a nostalgia trip for an old tech hand like me. The office is stocked with the best tech the late 70s and early 80s had to offer wrapped up in an X-Files-like feel. The office design features a huge vacuum tube mail system, reel-to-reel audio decks, copiers the size of small cars, and one of my personal favorites the vending machine for smokes that features a pack of smokes with a gun for a logo:
Although the overall design is a little gloomy, the designers went with varying wide and narrow approaches, never letting the game get too dark and cramped (and thus unpleasant to play). This was even more apparent in the DLC where an inter-dimensional rift causes some areas to be as if they’re inside of a florescent bulb even though the whole thing takes place deep underground. The controls are tight and at higher levels it gets to be a blast sawing through waves of enemies with your super powers, or, at least it used to be…
I had taken a break between finishing the game and awaiting the DLC and in the interim various changes were made, the mods/upgrades I was using were stripped off of my character (and “nerfed” if I had to guess) and enemies were scaled higher in difficulty. In playing the DLC it reminded of one of the most grating design issues with the original game: although the individual pieces worked great, I got the feeling the game was not sufficiently play tested from beginning to end. There would be missions that were pretty normal in difficulty, then almost impossible, then sleepwalk easy, and it didn’t seem like there was any rhythm to it: a chapter ending boss might be a cakewalk only for you to be stomped by peons the very next section.
Aggravating that it can be at times I did have a hard time putting down the game. The mix of powers gelled well, some of the NPCs, especially Dr. Darling and Emily Pope, made up for your character’s cardboard personality, and the huge trove of interdependent lore in various formats brought the game-world alive in a very personal way. Three and a half stars, it’s great in a lot of ways but it’s not for everyone.