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This title was provided to Gaming Instincts for review by 505 Games.
This highly-anticipated title from the creators of Quantum Break, Max Payne, and Alan Wake is here for both consoles and PC and it’s got tons of mysteries to solve, powers to use, and enemies to shoot. Whether it’s enjoying the spooky atmosphere of the secured Federal Bureau building or using the many different powers gained to explore the deeper parts of the Bureau, the game can definitely be a blast to play.
After an incident many years ago, Jesse Faden finally finds the Federal Bureau of Control building, a.k.a The Oldest House, where her brother has been held since the incident in the town of Ordinary. After discovering the director of the Bureau killed himself and picking up his gun, things go awry when she realizes the building has been taken over by an entity called the Hiss. Now she must take up the mantle of becoming the Director of the FBC to save the building while trying to locate her brother.
The story, for the most part, acts as a sci-fi thriller that beats players over the head with information while they're trying to figure out what’s going on and how the world works. The Bureau itself is probably one of the biggest mysteries gamers have to figure out: how it works, what types of secrets it holds, and knowing exactly what the organization is trying to contain to protect humanity.
Throughout the story, Jesse refers to “you” as Polaris, the entity inside her head that was able to lead Jesse to the building where her brother was taken. It's basically the player themselves being Polaris leading Jesse. Jesse and Polaris have great chemistry together, even if players never hear or understand what Polaris is saying or doing, they can tell Jesse really cares for her. It’s almost meta.
Other than talking to Polaris, players can meet several members of the Bureau, such as Pope, the eccentric researcher who is willing to help Jesse, and a mysterious Janitor named Ahti who guides players using cleaning supplies to show the way and offers plenty of side missions. While these characters mostly just stay in their safe areas and provide information about something that happened in the Bureau, the interactions are great.
As for the enemies, they’re simply a mysterious force that has somehow gotten into the Bureau and is turning it into a world-bending, corrupted mess. The Hiss was able to corrupt many of the bureau members within the building and while it’s pretty hard to purify them, players will have to fight them off with their service weapon.
The game looks amazing and feels dreary. As players walk through the almost-abandoned halls and offices of the FBC, players will come across areas that look eerily like an actual office building, such as long winding hallways, abandoned science research rooms, and tons of unexplained supernatural entities called the Hiss that have distorted the building into a strange labyrinth.
With the added supernatural bonus the Hiss brings with them, the building becomes a beacon for all sorts of graphical effects. While some rooms seem normal at first, it can only take a few steps for things to look strange, such as the presence of the Hiss within the floating bureau members and the seemingly random distortions in the air that indicates the Hiss are still in the building.
Of course, not everything visually is caused by the Hiss. The building’s architecture itself and the odd eccentricities it has is impressive on its own. For example, the Ashtray Maze constantly changes itself based on the person using it. Players' head will constantly turn to figure out where to move next, and the transitions as walls appear and disappear look fantastic. Also, the effects and spookiness the Motel and Casino have will always be unsettling when trying to solve a puzzle there.
The gameplay is fast and fluid. When players first start, the game is more of a standard third-person shooter where they're exploring a large Office Tower. This is most of the game, as gamers will explore and pick up collectables and talk to people to learn more about the Bureau, the Objects of Power, and how these things get contained. It's like a large Metroidvania with plenty of rooms to look through, many collectibles to find and many secrets waiting to come out of hiding.
While players can just shoot things with their Service Weapon as they go through the game and get more powers, the combat can become more hectic, allowing fans to go all out with the powers and upgrades they gain. When fully upgraded, Jesse will be able to float, take over enemies, and transform her Service Weapon at will, usually using all of her abilities to not only survive many of the game’s situations, but explore as well.
The Service Weapon starts off as a normal pistol called Grip. It shoots fine, handles well, and has rechargeable ammo with no need to reload. As players level up and gather strange materials throughout the Oldest House, their gun can morph into several variations, including a shotgun called “Shatter” and a machine pistol called “Spin.” While it’s one gun, there are several variations from which players can choose, but they can only equip two variations at a time.
Later, in many situations, the game can become way too hectic. It requires a lot of dodging and using cover. The game brings big enemies that can flank players for tons of damage, and gamers must launch something heavy to throw at them to get a good shot. If there are too many enemies on the floor, players can levitate and shoot them from above.
These fights can lead to some bad checkpoints, setting fans back at the last control point, which is not outside of the room in which they died. This can lead to some unwanted backtracking, forcing players to sprint past enemies they’ve fought and redoing a big battle all over again. This also applies to a few boss fights which force gamers to run through a gauntlet of enemies if they die, which is not fun.
Control - Hard to Handle
Unfortunately, with all of the cool abilities and big battles, the game has a caveat. While the game runs at 30 FPS for the normal PS4 under normal and stable situations, when there are several enemies with many effects or if players are launching furniture at the Hiss, the game’s frame rate drops almost halfway. This can get distracting, as launching in this game is one of the main means of attack when out of ammo, and this happens a lot. It’s not like the game freezes or anything, but the lowered frame rate when fighting tons of enemies is off-putting.
Control - Conclusion
Control is a strange and mysterious game that lets players experience what it’s like to explore the SCP Foundation or the Men in Black building. It’s full of surprises and fights that will make gamers ask more questions the more they try to make sense of it. Even fighting the many Hiss at times can be fun and players will feel they gain a lot through fighting them. Unfortunately, with the game’s mysterious story and creepy atmosphere, the frame rate on the base PS4 can take a deep dive under stressful situations and can be distracting for the most part.