Control, Remedy Entertainment’s newest title, all kinds of awesome. I learned that by playing through one area of the game called Old Boys’ Club.
At the beginning of the demo, I was dropped into a large hall inside the Oldest House, the headquarters of the Bureau of Control and the main setting for the game. I wasn’t literally dropped – I arrived there via an elevator, but I had no context and no instructions beyond “just mess around”; so I did.
The Old Boys’ Club is an excellent example of Control’s unique structure, both in visual and level design. Its grayish stone walls draw the eye towards the high ceiling where federal agents float suspended. The monolithic staircases lead down into a series of landings, with side rooms that hold secrets and collectibles.
I never found out what lies at the bottom of the stairs, since there were so many other paths to take and things to see.
One of my favorite moments came when I discovered the Ashtray Maze. It’s a series of sitting rooms that look suspiciously like they belong in Twin Peaks’ The Black Lodge, changing and shifting locations. I spent a few minutes there trying to figure out if there’s more to find other than the handful of rooms that kept repeating, but I eventually grabbed a weapon upgrade and left. In another area, I found a small recording room where I unlocked a track by Poets of the Fall – creative director Sam Lake’s favorite band.
Apart from exploring and collecting, I was also fighting against the Hiss, the game main villains. Their agents mostly look like blurry humanoids with supernatural abilities half shrouded by a weird shimmer that makes them harder to hit. Luckily, protagonist Jesse has quite the arsenal of her own.
In the demo, I was already equipped with the Service Weapon, a special gun that can change its shape and function. I had two forms to choose from: a pistol and an SMG, both fun to use against the Hiss. But Jesse’s true power is her telekinetic abilities.
Jesse can lift anything that isn’t nailed down (and some things that are) and fling them with force at enemies, walls, and other objects. At one point, I entered an office and decided to go full Carrie – throw everything I could find and see how much destruction I can do. While the walls and floors barely cracked under my barrage of attacks, I did manage to break pretty much everything in the room. The amount of items you can interact with at once is awe-inspiring.
Other than telekinetic attacks, Jesse can generate a shockwave that sends enemies tumbling back, and can dash to avoid grenades or incoming fire.
The game’s level design is new ground for Remedy – Control is more open and feels like a mini-Metroidvania. There were areas I couldn’t go through, and item boxes I could not quite reach yet. It’s also confusing as all heck, with so many small paths to go through, I kept finding new nooks and crannies to explore, but not the right way to continue the level.
After wandering around for about 20 minutes, getting occasionally lost in the corridors of the Oldest House, I manage to find my way down to what I figured was “where I was supposed to go.” That was when I tried to see what would happen if I jumped down an open elevator shaft. I remember seeing in some gameplay videos Jesse could levitate and even fly. Unfortunately, it appears I didn’t unlock that particular skill at this point in the game…
After Jesse’s sad, untimely death at the bottom of a very long elevator shaft, the demo restarted and my time with Control was over. I could have continued playing for hours, really – the Old Boys’ Club area is just a small piece of the final game, but it already feels so full of gameplay, environmental storytelling, and beautiful visuals.
I can’t wait to get my hands on the final version of Control when it comes out August 27 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC via the Epic Store.