After completing Control, it’s hard to hold back a laugh when looking at some comments on the game’s trailers on YouTube. Say, well done these Finns! So many promotional materials were released, but still managed to maintain a sense of intrigue. And then it’s usually like: until you wait for the release, everything will be spoiled by interviews, trailers and gameplay videos.
But in fact, this paranormal casket opens even too simply: as it turned out, Remedy Entertainment did not reveal all the cards, because they did not have any cards. Neither in the sleeve, nor behind the starched collar of Sam Lake’s shirt.
From a gameplay point of view, Control is a simple third-person shooter with an open world. And from the point of view of the plot – a rather ugly sci-fi soap that any reasonable person would release immediately on DVD, without disgrace at the box office.
Red-haired Jesse Feyden wanders around rainy Manhattan, while the voice in her head – in his role is the player himself – does not lead her to a huge monolithic building. This is the oldest house, the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control. The doors are open, but there is nobody inside: neither the girls at the reception, nor the guards at the metal detector. After a couple of minutes, Jesse finally comes to the office of the Director of the Bureau – though he will not help much either: the venerable Mr. Director is already lying in a pool of his own blood. The girl notices an orphan pistol next to the body, picks it up (because why not) and at the same time becomes the new head of FBK. Congratulations! Here is your service weapon, personal chambers and theoretically endless building, packed to the brim with yisses – an extraterrestrial life form that has infected most of the personnel. Now they are your problem, Miss Feyden.
It sounds mysterious, and in any other case, such a vague, even slightly absurd tie would definitely be a plus. But Control crawls out of his way to make the person on the other side of the monitor guess, and does this to the detriment of more important parts of the plot. Sam Lake clearly did not care more about the meaning of what the characters were saying, but about making their cues as mysterious as possible. Sometimes there is a feeling that Remedy was so carried away by the creation of intrigue that they simply forgot to add everything else.
Jesse loves internal monologues, but this doesn’t really help the plot. They wanted to make a heroine who knows nothing so that she receives information with the player, but it turns out to be some kind of simpleton
The main character has a dark past, somehow connected with the events of the game, but why is this needed? What difference does it make if the past has no effect on the present? Jesse does not make difficult decisions, does not grow as a person, does not develop and shows almost no emotions. The new FBK director simply goes with the flow, like a piece of polystyrene in a leather jacket: runs from point A to point B and does whatever she asks for. She comes to the Bureau in search of her lost brother, wholeheartedly hating the damned feds who kidnapped her loved one … And leaves the Bureau with enthusiastic top manager, ready to work for the good of the company. Just like that, I took it and out of the blue fell in love with an organization that I could not stand.
The cartoonish Finnish cleaner Ahti is the only memorable human character in the entire game. And even then his human nature, let’s say so, is in question
The script, of course, aggressively pretends that everything is wrong. That everything is serious and real – from a spectacular beginning to a terribly crumpled ending. The heroes in the dialogue sprinkle with names and terms, abundantly seasoning speech with pseudoscientific rubbish, but gradually even a decent acting play turns into white noise. You wait hour after hour when Control finally blows under your breath, knocks the soil out from under your legs with a powerful plot twist, but this moment does not come.
As a result, you continue to move along the plot not to see what interesting happens to Jesse (spoiler: nothing), but just to see what else the endlessly cold corridors of the Bureau will surprise you with. Because Control is not a game about characters, but primarily about the place where they are.
Control has much more in common, not with Quantum Break and other previous Remedy works, but with BioShock and Prey . They have a plot, even good in places, but it serves one specific purpose: to make the player plunge into a world with a rich history worked out to the smallest detail. And damn it, in this regard, the Finns did something truly amazing. All creative, all human resources, which are so desperately lacking in the plot, are poured into the oldest house to the last drop. This is even ironic: the most striking character of Control is not homo sapiens, but a silent reinforced concrete skyscraper.
The deceased director Trench periodically gets in touch from the next world to throw Jesse an important piece of information. How? Why? It is unclear, but I personally am for it, because it is voiced by James McCaffrey – the voice of Max Payne!
The Federal Bureau of Control is not an abstract government structure, but a very clear organization. With its own rules, principles and way of life. FBK is ridiculously similar to the SCP foundation – except that their employees do not omit experiments on those sentenced to death. But everything else is one to one.
Moreover, the Eldest House is an SCP object in itself; or, as the game calls them, “an alternative world event.” Outside, it is absolutely invisible to everyone who does not try to consciously find it, but from the inside breaks all the laws of Euclidean geometry, physics, logic and common sense. This is a crazy, completely absurd place. It is living, and it is changing. He has veins, nerves and mood – Bureau employees need to carefully conduct special rituals so that the House does not gobble them up at the next shift. The warning for the workers recorded on the tape is especially pleasing: they say, if you find that the room around you has changed, get up and leave it, talking quietly with yourself. So you will calm not only yourself, but also the room.
Of course, the oldest house never transforms right before your eyes … well, with the exception of a couple of modest script scenes (apparently, there was not enough money for the bigger one). The maximum that can change in the location is the place of the respawn of opponents and their number. In general, in terms of gameplay, the open world of Control suffers from the standard set of sores of all open worlds in video games: it is large, empty and rather arbitrary. After completing the introduction, you can really go to any sector of the Bureau, but this is pointless – although you can really go anywhere, the game will not budge until the story quest indicates exactly where you need to go. Freedom of movement is needed here only so that you can get lost and feel like an insignificant insect, wandering in concrete labyrinths.
But with all these flaws, the Control world is still fascinating. I want to slowly explore it, savoring every landscape and clicking screenshots. Look into every corner, even if you know in advance that you won’t find anything useful in the gameplay. And all thanks to only two things: visual design and atmosphere.
With the help of geometry and playing with chiaroscuro, even from the most ordinary view of any interior, Control makes a conceptual photo. Level designers who worked on the look of the Bureau loved their work very much
It’s not for me to tell you that office space is already a rather hackneyed type of environment in games. Gray boxes of cabinets, empty booths, faded walls – boredom, the eye is blurred; we learned this back in FEAR . One always wants to break out of such a cramped space, but Control developers do not try to diversify locations, take novelty or “wonder”. On the contrary, they constantly emphasize how the oldest house is real and familiar.
Have you ever been to old-fashioned Soviet buildings where overhaul has not been carried out since the seventies? Strict, aggressive geometric shapes, a minimum of colors, a tricky layout … The oldest house is the quintessence of all such buildings. In truth, one doesn’t even want to call him “level” or “open world”, because he does not feel like a piece of a video game. This is not a level design, but the real architecture, thought out and rational – like, for example, the Talos-1 station from Prey.