Control: Ultimate Edition (PC) Review

By Athanasios 19.10.2020

Review for Control: Ultimate Edition on PC

Remedy Entertainment always had a thing for the weird. Even Max Payne, which was crafted long before the developer dived into fantasy and sci-fi, had its own flavour of strange, despite it being something that took place in the real, "boring" world. Control doesn't just have a little bit of strange within it, however; Control makes the deep psychological horror of Alan Wake and time-bending wackiness of Quantum Break look like everyday stories from the telly. Now that the Finnish company finally ported its latest creation to the PC (with all DLCs included, which add more missions), it's a great opportunity for you to try it out, even though it's somewhat hard to decide whether this is a strong recommendation or not.

Jesse Faden walks into the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control; the monolithic structure that is the Oldest House, where her search for her long lost brother has led her. She soon finds a gun, picks it up (or "It" picks her up), and involuntarily becomes the new Director of an agency that is basically the paranormal version of FBI, tasked with researching (and controlling) the world of logic-defying 'paranatural' phenomena, objects, and realms. Weird stuff, right? No, that would be an oversimplification.

Corridors whose shape constantly shifts, refrigerators that transport you to another dimension if you blink, inverted black pyramids that reside in an otherworldly, Astral plane, and speak in a language that Jesse's brain (subconscious?) struggles to understand, 8" floppy discs that grand super powers, a janitor that, like Half-Life's G-Man seems to be a deity in disguise, and lots of cells that keep dangerous rubber ducks, mirrors, and party balloons in check. Weird? 'Crazy' is more like it.

Screenshot for Control: Ultimate Edition on PC

A mix of Jungian philosophy and SCP Foundation's themes and narrative, Control's unique vide is… hard to describe. While "just another" urban fantasy tale of parallel dimensions, powers beyond comprehension, and so on, it's mind-numbingly unpredictable, especially when compared to most AAA titles. Anything goes within the microcosm that is the Oldest House, keeping you interested at what is hidden around the next corner. No review can help anyone understand it. People need to play to do so.

Add a very strong visual style, metroidvania-style exploration, and battles where the heroine can pull off all sorts of "magic" tricks, and there; an awesome experience. Or that's what this should be. Sadly, it isn't, and the first amongst the many reasons, is that it's hard to care about anything, and especially the characters, which are all acted well, but are unfortunately nothing more than - almost emotionless - quest givers that are annoyingly oblivious to what is going on around them, no matter how bizarre.

It's even harder to feel anything for the antagonist, the possessing force known as 'The Hiss.' If expecting a Lovecraftian monster, whose motives and nature are impossible to grasp… keep searching. This is just a conceptually boring infestation that turns people into Jesse's enemies; enemies that die by simply shooting at them, which is the bulk of the experience, and something that soon becomes way too repetitive - but more on that later. The main problem here is the story, however. Or lack of…

Screenshot for Control: Ultimate Edition on PC

Upon starting the game, hands will start scratching heads. 20 hours later, and those hands will probably keep on doing so. For a title where pieces of lore hide inside every nook and behind every corner (in the form of live-action videos and heavily censored documents), Control tends to be more vague than it needs to. Plus, unlike Silent Hill 2 and Dark Souls, the ambiguity here feels artificial; as if the developer didn't really know what is actually going on, and just relied on people's will to theorize on what's on offer.

Yes, maybe you aren't supposed to understand such deep mysteries. Being cryptic can only get you so far, though. Take one of the Hiss invasion's by-products, for example, the way it has people levitating in a creepy way, chanting their Delphic rhymes. It's great… for an hour or so, but then it becomes just another part of the scenery. In fact, the brutalist design of the Oldest House, and the use of non-smart technology as decoration, tends to be far more memorable than the supernatural elements on offer.

Screenshot for Control: Ultimate Edition on PC

By far the worst thing about Control, however, is the core gameplay, which, like pretty much every single thing created by Remedy, feels like it's the foundation of something much better… which sadly never comes. Long story short, the main thing that can be done here is to shoot at bad things. There's a bit of simplistic exploration and puzzle-solving thrown in, as well, but, as a whole, these are just small snacks, as the main dish remains the gunplay between the player and the Hiss drones.

Sure, combat is actually pretty good, but it just runs out of steam pretty soon. Jesse's gun can morph into various weapons? Yes, but that's just a fancy way of saying that she carries a typical pistol, grenade launcher, shotgun, etc. The heroine can telekinetically grab and throw items, seize the mind of foes, and even levitate? Well, unlike the shooter masterpiece known as DOOM Eternal, you'll never feel the need to be creative with your abilities here, so you'll begin to lose interest long before the 100th or so battle.

It's important to note that this is a relatively long game (at least for a third-person, action-adventure) that clocks at around 15 to 20 hours (10 more for completionists), and that's probably the main issue here, because at around five hours you've probably experienced everything twice, as the fact that you will find even more documents, discover more items, kill more enemies, gain more abilities, and do more quests, doesn't ever provide a feeling of progression, but a "been there, done that" one.

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As mentioned before, while one of the main selling points seems to be exploration, this is very simplistic, with only a tiny amount of times where one needs to think in order to reach a specific hiding place, as most of the time you only need to use the right tool for the task, like for example 'Levitate' to go to a higher floor, or 'Launch' to put a battery core to its socket to unlock a door - for the 20th time! Don't forget to add a pacing that's ruined by lots of back-and-forth running and 30' loading screens.

The real weird thing, and one that's far weirder than the overall concept, to be honest, is how, despite all of Control's problems… it's actually hard not to recommend this! If one takes a look at the whole package, and attempts to judge it on its entirety, it's nothing more than just an ok title - average, even. Somehow, though, it's extremely addicting as well. Most are bound to keep on playing, trying to do and discover everything, even if the payoff isn't usually as good as it could be.

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Yes, combat is insanely repetitive and lacks depth, but it feels so good to fly Jesse around, and have her turn into a human rocket, or telekinetically throw chunks of cement around - not to mention that it's equally exciting to watch all that as well. The Northlight Engine is prone to plenty of frame-rate drops, but it's still hard to deny how stunning everything looks, whether that's the world around her, how she redecorates it while fighting, or how realistic she and others look in the cut-scenes.

One should prepare for tons of filler content, like useless items and documents that add nothing to the story, plus lots of boring missions that tend to drag a lot. One in particular sends you to 'A,' before asking you to get 'B,' so that you can reach 'C,' so you can finally go to 'A' again. Boring… yet the final step, which is the most, out-of-place part here, manages to offer one of Control's best moments, by having Jesse blast Hiss soldiers while Poets… err, Old Gods of Asgard play an awesome, head-banging tune.

In conclusion, this isn't the fantastic action-adventure that it could be, but it somehow manages to grab you and never let go. It makes you endure its many mediocre moments, so that you can get to enjoy its less abundant, but still many, great segments, whether that's a challenging boss battle, a piece of lore that's not a watered down version of SCP foundation like most are, or one more video by Dr. Darling, who is actually the best character in this universe (a human 'Dynamite'), although Jesse will never meet him.

Control sure is weird.

Screenshot for Control: Ultimate Edition on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Control's combat is repetitive, yet very enjoyable; the story is a mess, yet somehow manages to keep you want to learn more; the graphic engine needs plenty of work, yet the visuals are fantastic. Fascinating masterpiece and disappointing mediocrity, and almost at equal measures, Remedy Entertainment's bizarre piece of software isn't a solid recommendation, yet it remains a one of a kind experience.

Developer

Remedy Entertainment

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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