Game Review: Control: Ultimate Edition

[Please note: there are some incidental spoilers here, but nothing that will ruin the game.]

Release date: 2019 (originally), 2020 (Ultimate Edition)
Version played: PlayStation 4 in 2021

Developed by Remedy Entertainment, with the base game released in 2019, the Control: Ultimate Edition was released in late 2020 for all modern consoles. A third person shooter, players take control of Jesse Faden (voiced by and modelled by Courtney Hope) as she infiltrates The Oldest House, the mysterious headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control (the FBC) to search for her missing brother. However, the Oldest House is in the middle of a hostile takeover from a paranormal force, so Jesse finds herself involved well beyond her skill level and must contend with all manner of supernatural objects and creatures. The Ultimate Edition features both released downloadable content packs, The Foundation, and AWE.

+ the Metroid-vania level design really grew on me, especially as the dash and flight abilities were unlocked. Similarly, returning to previous areas with a new keycard showed just how much you may have missed the first time through, and respawning enemies meant there was always something to do in those areas. These enemies also acted as fun little targets to practice your new powers on
+ the combat is full of fun abilities. It was easy to rely too heavily on throwing objects at enemies, so I forced myself to use the ‘seize’ skill to take control of enemies instead. Enemies dropping health made me approach the game like Bloodborne, always on the offensive, especially when other enemies could throw things of their own at you. I used the shield very sparingly, especially since it was on the L1 button and aiming was on L2; it was just clunky to try and reliably do both
+ I loved the various ‘altered objects’, as they scratched that SCP Foundation itch that the early game gave me. Coming across one was always a genuine thrill, and I almost wish the whole game was tracking these things down across various locales
+ a few good spooks, like the mold creatures, various expertly placed mannequins and the general Hiss chanting (not to mention the Threshold Kids, whatever that was meant to be). The potentially always changing layout of the Oldest House meant that you could never know for certain what was around any given corner. Not to mention the horror-themed story of the AWE expansion
+ both the DLC packs are fun additions in their own way. The Foundation introduced some new enemies and I liked the maze of the undergrounds; while AWE was straight up horror, and the gameplay addition of using light as a weapon was something Remedy has done before and done well
+ the game has a dedicated photo mode. Though I wish it had a character poser or facial expression option, it still has enough to tickle that wannabe photographer itch I get

– I just never cared for the story. The idea of finding my brother, the incursion from the Hiss and the inter-departmental feuding apparent through world collectables just never made me feel anything. Basically I played this as a bunch of boring stuff between combat encounters, and very easy combat encounters at that. Nothing gave me more than a single death, and most of those were from blowing myself up
– I said it in My Early Thoughts, but this just plays really poorly on a base PS4, especially when attempting to use multiple abilities in a single encounter. By the time you can glide around, yeeting chairs at exploding enemies, the game turns into a blurry slideshow
– I found the HUD and UI to be really frustrating. Only having access to a 2D map, which was unable to be zoomed in on at all, meant it was often very difficult to find where the throughways to each area were, especially when staircases, elevators or secret areas were involved. I also did not like that you could only track one mission objective at a time

Should you play this game: Upon its release, I couldn’t quite comprehend why this was given to many GOTY awards, but having played it, it’s now very clear. This isn’t just a third person shooter, or a Metroid-vania, or a sci-fi setting; it’s a combination of all three that works so much better than you’ll expect. If you can play this on a Series X, PS5 or suitably powerful PC, it is well worth your time.

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