Control Ultimate Edition is a full-package deal version of 2019’s Control, an action-adventure from Remedy Entertainment, including both of its expansions The Foundation and AWE, as well as cross-gen play. But for the most part, the game still remains very much the same. It’s just shiner this time around. It’s available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Story: Bureau of What?
As you may already know, in Control Ultimate Edition, you assume the role of one Jesse Faden, a psychic who’s looking for her brother Dylan. Her search brings her to the Federal Bureau of Control or FBC for short, located in a place simply called “The Oldest House”. The Oldest House is a paranormal place where many strange things occur. What’s more, the FBC seems to be dealing with para-natural people, things, and occurrences in particular, as their mission seems to be the protection of everyday citizens from these para-natural phenomena.
Control’s writing, however, for all its eerie and mysterious bravado, mostly falls flat on its face. The motivations of our heroine, as well as everyone at the Bureau, are inconsistent at best and nonsensical at worst. At first, it seems as though this world has a lot to offer, from the Oldest House to the relationship between the ex-Director of the Bureau and The Board, (an interdimensional?) consciousness seeping into our world. But by the time you’re finished with Control, you get to the bottom of nothing and know very little, so you might walk away with feelings of emptiness and lack of understanding.
This is not because the narrative is too complicated or deep, but because it is simply empty and unfinished. It didn’t help that the game comments on the most blatantly obvious aspects of the story or how the world of Control Ultimate Edition works but does so little or nothing to dive deeper into its presumed backstory, and an even more-so presumed, fantastical world-building. “You can’t just throw a bunch of collectible documents, weird video logs, and incoherent symbolism around and call it a day”, is what my grandma always used to say.
What’s more, there’s a question of a “presence” Jesse calls Polaris. It’s sort of a stand-in metaphor for the player really. Or maybe not? Remedy isn’t really clear on that one either. Anyway, we talk with, or rather, at Polaris throughout the game, but Polaris never talks back, although we see her, as she manifests in the game world as a spiral every time Jesse contacts her or finds something of interest.
While Control Ultimate Edition’s paranoid science-fiction infused flare might be enough to drive you in at first, Control’s concepts remain too unexplored to keep you interested or emotionally involved with Jesse and her world. Even the now included expansions don’t tie up any loose ends. The game simply misses too many amazing opportunities when it comes to writing. Opportunities that, were they taken by Remedy, would even help me look past Control’s often subpar acting.
Gameplay: Mind Over Matter Kind of Thing
This story is coupled with, for the most part, exceptional gameplay. There’s one thing that Remedy Entertainment proves they know time and time again – engaging combat. As Jesse, you have access to “Objects of Power”, weapons that essentially boil down to firearms with infinite bullets. We’ve seen the concept before, but coupled with Jesse’s telekinetic powers, the combat makes for an exhilarating experience.
Throwing stuff around with your mind is far more fun than gunplay of course, and the developers made sure that there’s a good “throw to shoot” ratio as you’re battling through the Bureau’s hallways, rooms, and monolithic spaces. All of this is masterfully animated and you can really feel the weight of things you’re moving and throwing around. From the marble concrete Jesse simply rips right from the floor to the fire hydrants and more massive objects. And just when you thought you couldn’t get more powerful, you’ll learn you can hover, which adds to the combat significantly.
However, you’ll soon notice that your enemies can down you as easy you can down them. Word of advice, just keep moving. Understanding your reach in terms of surroundings is important in Control. Stay in one place for too long and you’re dead. Shoot, dash, throw, dash, hover, shoot, throw. I found that this gameplay formula minimizes the chances of an enemy just abruptly ending the fight by blowing you up and teleporting you to a 10 minute away checkpoint. I also have a feeling that that is how Remedy wanted us to play this game.
While all of this might make some feel as if the combat experience is quite repetitive, using your telekinetic powers is just so fun that, for the most part, you won’t really mind the combat loop all that much. Bosses, on the other hand, are so mundane and feel somewhat forced that I often wondered if they were added to the game after the fact. Some of the environmental puzzles and traversal challenges might be a bore and there certainly is a lot of untapped potential in this regard, but you’ll be too busy x-maning through the game to really notice any of it.
The only issues I take with Control’s gameplay are its weird sandbox structure and weirdly placed checkpoints called “Control Points”. I’m not sure if they were going for the “Souls Effect” or if it had to do with some sort of a technical limitation, but they are just awful. Poorly placed and very confusing.
As for the sandbox aspect, I would expect The Oldest House to transform a lot, but along with this gimmick, I’d also expect an intuitive art direction or at least a comprehensive map. Neither are present. The whole architectural layout is extremely counter-intuitive and I find it hard to believe that that was the point. You also can’t have a multi-lateral game environment and not have a multi-lateral map. Where does this staircase go again? Thankfully, every Control Point also serves as a fast travel point, so you won’t have to deal with much of that except for really early on in the game.
Graphics and Audio: Para-natural Presentation
This is where Control truly shines. I know I said that the combat is amazing. And it is. But more so for its presentation rather than its inventiveness. Control just looks and feels so good. It’s really a last year’s next-gen title by the looks of it. They clearly have some amazing artists back at Remedy, because the game simply looks gorgeous. The way things are illustrated, the way they move, the way light shines or reflects off surfaces. It all really fits the tone they were going for with the story. There’s some overly-dramatic, cinematic lighting at times, but oddly, it works. What was before simply eerie now looks alive and more interesting for it.
The animations are splendid and everything feels fluid. That’s an achievement. Few games feel this buttery to play if they don’t come from an in-house development studio. The sounds are on par too. Every time you fire your gun or pull an object towards or away from you, that added sound helps you feel like things are really happening on-screen. You’ll almost never be passive towards the spectacle in front of you. There’s almost no music in Control, which I found to be an interesting take. But the whole concept got ruined for me whenever there was a boss fight. You encounter a boss and every time an out of place, quasi-heavy-metal music starts playing. Why?
Apart from the weird music, acting can be a bit much, or too little, depending on how you put it. We do see some amazing returning Remedy actors such as Alan Wake’s Matthew Porretta and Max Payne’s James McCaffrey, and although I do find Martti Suosalo’s performance as Ahti, the janitor, enticing, the rest of the cast sounds amateurish.
Unnecessary music and mostly poor delivery apart, nothing in Control’s presentation is short of perfect. Even the mockumentary tone of video logs you find throughout the game are somewhat endearing. Comic relief, if you will, in an otherwise horrifying and paranoid-ridden place. The game possesses a graphical quality I expect from all AAA titles nowadays but rarely have the chance to actually see. All of this carries an even extra punch now on next-gen consoles. The game runs at higher resolutions and frame-rates with ray-tracing as an added bonus. Depending on your console of choice and the graphical mode you opted for of course.
Summary: Remedy / fy
Control Ultimate Edition has to be the most difficult game I had to review yet, Cyberpunk 2077 included. For all its problems, there’s a really enjoyable game in here somewhere, if you know where to look. It falls short of being amazing but I can’t call it disappointing. There are some really interesting concepts that Remedy buried within it, and even though we’ve seen them before, Control is the only game that presented them in such a manner, even if it does fail us in terms of story dragging on too much and remaining underwritten. My overbearing criticism aside, Control feels amazing to play and is even more amazing to gawk at, and if you’ve enjoyed games such as Infamous Second Son or television shows such as The X-Files, there might be a game in here for you.
We reviewed Control back in 2019 when it first came out and gave it a slightly better score. Read what our The Nerd Stash Show host and Kingdom Hearts pundit, Brandon Stephenson, had to say about the game here.
- Masterful presentation
- Engaging combat
- Amazing graphics and audio
- All extra content is included
- Undeveloped plot
- Lack of world-building
- Counter-intuitive sandbox, checkpoint, and map layout
- Subpar acting