|release date||August 2019|
Any game from the studio Remedy Entertainment is of interest due to the warm memories left by Max Payne, Alan Wake and Quantum Break. But their last project looked ambiguous. Control commercials were intriguing, but gave away secondary because of the visual similarity with Quantum Break. The publisher was not the largest campaign 505 Games, which hinted at a more modest budget compared to past games. And the exclusive release in the Epic Games Store also did not add positive. But the fears were in vain. The game came out interesting, bright and beautiful.
All events of Control take place inside the building, where a mysterious organization called the Federal Bureau of Control is located. This structure monitors paranormal manifestations, conducts strange experiments and guards special objects with unnatural properties. And even the building itself is a kind of urban phenomenon, because it stands in a large metropolis, without attracting the attention of passers-by. But such tricks do not work on the heroine of our story. One day, Jessie Faden infiltrates the Bureau and gets involved in a maelstrom of strange events, where she has a key role to play.
The bureau meets the heroine with empty rooms. The only living person is a strange janitor, the rest of the employees prefer to float in the air in the form of limp bodies. It does not do without some obsessed people who actively use firearms and paranormal abilities against the intruder. Survivors of the mystical cataclysm take refuge in rooms of refuge or in remote compartments of the building. We have to neutralize the possessed and normalize the work of the main divisions of the Bureau in order to gradually reach the source of the spread of the threat.
Initially, Jesse looks like an intruder, but quickly comes to the fore in this strange story. The heroine will inherit the status of the Director from the old leader, which is reinforced by certain paranormal powers. At the same time, she also has personal motivation with her secrets. And the further the story goes, the more important the role of Jesse in the events taking place. As a result, it turns out that all events are predetermined in the past, and all accidents are not accidental.
The main concept of Control is based on the theme of a store of paranormal items that change the surrounding reality. All artifacts are tied to the astral world, from which uninvited guests come, infecting local inhabitants. Not too original, but served in an interesting and intriguing way thanks to a well-thought-out script that gradually reveals the features of the local world, introducing new elements into the story. The intricate architecture of different departments suggests many blocked places, which at certain stages cannot be penetrated. By mastering new skills and completing story missions, we get access to new rooms, where new secrets and new information await, complementing the overall picture of the world.
If we talk about the presentation of the story, then Control loses a little to Quantum Break. The last game looked like a well-directed blockbuster with a number of wow moments and a fast-paced story. Control has less of that. But there are a lot of text notes, some of which better reveal the nuances. Leading us to some new artifact, the game first feeds such records, and only then comes a full-fledged story presentation. There are dialogues with key characters that also reveal some facets of internal relationships in the Bureau. There are many nuances that can be ignored, but they provide a more complete immersion in the game world.
The abundance of secrets and side quests is a serious incentive to carefully study the game locations. But all this is connected with the need to return to old places, which can become boring over time. The game is built in such a way that having received the main task, we penetrate some new floor of the Bureau and get involved in side adventures. And often such tasks require certain powers or a key card, which are not yet available. That is, you need to pump, open the corresponding skill and go back. And these are regular runs in familiar locations. The game has fast travel points, which simplifies life, but does not save enemies from respawning in previously cleared locations.
Cleaning up new areas is accompanied by games with space, and after capturing control points, the surrounding world can be beautifully rebuilt and transformed. Visual metamorphoses are accompanied by unusual jumps to different points of the Bureau. The local «transport system» is tied to a strange hotel. At one point in the Bureau, you flip a switch, teleport to a hotel, perform a certain action, and get access to a new area of the Bureau.
Absurd things in Control look quite organic. And the world itself in some places resembles strange fantasies in the spirit of «Alice in Wonderland», but with a touch of modern aesthetics and mythology. The mystical background opens up many possibilities for the authors, pushing the boundaries of the possible. At the same time, they try to fit everything that happens into some framework of a single system with a layering of urban legends and the collective unconscious, where society and paranormal manifestations mutually influence each other.
Enemies have strict level segregation. And if you managed to look where the opponents are higher than you in rank, then you are at great risk. At the same time, the save system is based strictly on moving points. If you’ve cleared several hallways full of enemies and died during the boss fight, you’ll have to start all over again from the nearest respawn point. At some points, the game tries to be friendly and places such points before difficult battles, but all side tasks must be completed in one go or replayed from the very beginning.
Like all Remedy games, here we are offered shootouts with a third-person view. The entire arsenal of the heroine comes down to one pistol, which is also a mystical object, therefore it is subject to transformation and has different characteristics. In fact, we have several modes available with different combat parameters, and each provides its own unique upgrades when pumping. In one of its forms, the pistol can be more accurate and deals maximum damage to armor, in another mode it turns into a rapid-fire machine gun. And right in the battle, you switch between two forms of weapons, adapting to the corresponding type of enemy. This is an original and elegant solution that gives a different shooting experience.
We also have paranormal powers. At first, the heroine has a push that throws a nearby enemy away. And this does not greatly change the general tactics of action, since it only helps in close combat. But after mastering telekinesis, the real drive begins. A bench, a trash can, a chair and any object of the environment instantly turn into projectiles. Throwing objects at the enemy, along the way, you break the lining of the walls, the fallen pieces themselves turn into an object for throwing. And all this is accompanied by an abundance of small fragments, sparks and various tinsel. This is an incredible level of destructibility that is really impressive.
The next important step can be considered levitation. It opens the way to many previously inaccessible areas and allows you to fight in three-dimensional space. It is worth noting that flying enemies are initially quite difficult, as they quickly change direction and can strike from any position. Soaring Jessie herself turns into a murder hammer, throwing everything that comes to hand at the victims, but it is also more difficult to control the situation in this mode.
As you move deeper into the nooks and crannies of the Bureau, the battles become more difficult, and some game stages can really fray your nerves. Additional complexity is added by platforming elements when you need to fly from one platform to another. Controls in the game are convenient and responsive, but any mistake in flight is fatal and the need to start from a checkpoint.
In difficult battles, a lot depends on luck, as opponents deal significant damage. Quick dodge and a magic shield save in critical situations, but it is quite difficult to control the entire area around the heroine. Fancy visuals can complicate life. Bright flashes, deformation of the space around the enemy and flickering fragments with an active shield complicate orientation in battle. But the first failures stimulate a change of tactics, and the game provides opportunities for this. You try a new approach to difficult enemies, focus on other skills and try to move even faster.
In Control, even such a controversial skill as subduing enemies can come in handy. If in other games this skill rarely plays an important role, then capturing the consciousness of a powerful opponent can seriously help. At one point, after experiencing hardship and several deaths, I invested my remaining experience points into the subjugation skill and suddenly defeated everyone on the first try, scattering the attention of the crowd to the converted soldiers.
Enemies are represented by various forms of people possessed by astral entities. They easily materialize out of thin air and actively use small arms with grenade launchers. More powerful opponents resort to telekinesis and can fly, some use shields. It does not do without thick-skinned bosses, many of these opponents are taken out of the main narrative in side quests. For example, there is a dangerous mystical refrigerator that draws you into the astral world and forces you to fight a huge octopus. In another mission, you need to stop the anchor, which spews out an old clock, littering the nearest premises with it.
The pumping system allows you to improve the heroine’s paranormal skills, use personal mods and weapon upgrades. Initially, we have one cell for modifications and upgrades, by the end of the game there are already three of them. For basic skills, key parameters are increased (duration, damage) or side properties are opened — for example, the ability to pick up projectiles flying in the air and send them back.
Mods and resources drop from enemies, and points to increase basic skills are earned in missions. Therefore, all side tasks bring tangible benefits. But there are also pointless mini-clearing tasks that are simply focused on knocking out resources. At a random point in time, the game will generate a batch of enemies somewhere and offer to quickly go there and kill everyone before the allotted time runs out. There are also tests in the spirit of «kill 50 enemies of a certain type» and a bunch of other small jobs. Many elements have been added to the game to stretch our stay in Control. But it’s even good. If you like the combat system, then at the end of the main story, you will be able to do such small missions and finish off side tasks.
The abundance of employment and different conditions also hints at the abundance of achievements that are not here, because this function is not provided in the Epic Games Store.
Control offers a certain amount of visual variety. Office premises can be replaced by technical compartments, there is a full-fledged mine and a quarry under the building, and sometimes we are brought into an astral dimension with shiny floating platforms. But all this is often repeated, it is felt that the game is cramped within the framework of these scenery.
Control is based on the Northlight engine, familiar from Quantum Break. It looks like it still uses checkered rendering and scaling, so immediately set the settings to the full resolution of your monitor and turn off the effects of blur and grain for a clearer picture.
The engine demonstrates excellent work with light and a lot of reflections on the surrounding objects, plus excellent destructibility. Ray tracing further enhances image quality by rendering more realistic reflections and shading based on directional and reflected light.
The game has five settings for ray tracing and two quality modes. Medium trace quality activates only two of the five settings, high quality activates everything. The first option provides the most obvious change, as it adds reflections where there were none and improves where they were. Some changes in shading are also noticeable, which become more significant as the quality of the trace increases. To avoid a serious drop in fps, choose an average tracing level.
You can also safely activate DLSS on GeForce RTX video cards. This mode provides a significant performance boost by compensating for frame rate drops when tracing is active. And in this game, the picture quality with DLSS practically does not suffer.
A detailed analysis of the nuances of tracing and a comparison of graphics in different modes will be in a separate review. In the meantime, we will present high-resolution performance data for the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. For testing, a location on the floor of the Research Zone was chosen, since it had the lowest performance. A run from the elevator to the stairs was performed with a shootout and throwing objects at enemies.
The maximum graphics quality (High) is selected. Next, we experimented with the available anti-aliasing modes and tracing effects.
The big difference between the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti immediately catches your eye — the new flagship is 57-60% faster. That being said, the old video adapter handles 1440p well with any anti-aliasing, but the best solution would be to choose DirectX 11 and lower the MSAA anti-aliasing to 2x.
In a heavy test scene, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti falls a bit short of 50 fps at 4K resolution. Tracing leads to a sharp drop in fps, which can be compensated by turning on DLSS.
Summing up, it should be noted that Remedy did not drop the quality bar, and Control is worthy of comparison with past games. This is an atmospheric mystical story with great action, a beautiful picture and memorable bosses. Perhaps the presentation of the plot and the overall direction is a little worse than in Quantum Break, but in terms of game mechanics, Control is deeper. The action is based on a system of development and pumping, there are elements of metroidvania, and the overall exploration of the world is built in a very interesting way. Battles are bright and spectacular thanks to impressive destructibility and beautiful effects. However, frequent runs through old locations can be a little annoying. Implemented an inconvenient save system. Randomly generated mini-quests obviously drag out the game, but they can be ignored. There is something to complain about, but in this case, you can forgive all the minor flaws. If you like bright story-driven action games, do not miss Control — the game will definitely please you.