PS4 version tested
There’s something about Ahti
TL;DR? check my video review:
I’ve always seen myself as the anti-establishment type, a fully-fledged member of the Rebel Alliance sticking it to the man at every available opportunity. As it turns out the most rebellious thing I’ve ever done was scan a chocolate croissant through as a plain croissant at a Tesco checkout. Yeah, power to the people!!!
As Jesse Faden, the internal monologue loving protagonist of supernatural action-adventure Control, you get to infiltrate a super secret U.S. Government Agency headquarters, climb the corporate ladder in record time and do a load of missions for people who are definitely supposed to take orders from you, so again not exactly sticking it to the man. In many ways Control is kind of like an episode of Undercover Boss set in the Twilight Zone as you unclog drains, talk to plants and straight up murder many, many members of your workforce. All while the former director’s brains are still splattered all over your office wall and carpet.
It’s certainly an interesting look at the career ladder. You’re let into the Bureau by Ahti the Janitor who immediately tells you that you’re here to interview for Janitor’s Assistant. Despite being chosen by the mysterious Board as the Bureau’s new Director, you are very much a glorified Janitor as you go around cleaning up the Bureau’s mess, with a gun.
The Bureau’s mess is very much of its own making. While they may specialise in Altered World Events (AWE), Objects of Power (OOPs) and many other paranormal acronyms, they have bitten off more than they can chew and a corrupting force called the Hiss has infiltrated the Bureau and most of its staff.
Control is quite possibly one of the most filmic games I have played. The look, feel and polish on this game is unbelievable and the combination of gameplay and live-action footage only adds to its filmic style. The fact that you start the game with a TV style intro makes you feel like you’re staring in a Netflix box set but you’ve only been given half the script.
It’s a very immersive and addictive game as you uncover more and more about the Bureau, the conspiracies surrounding it along with its own internal mysteries and politics. Even as Director you never feel like you truly uncover everything and that’s a good thing. You finish with questions unanswered and a desire to know more and play more. This for me is one of the hallmarks of great storytelling. Control has narratives and characters that get under your skin and make you come up with theories and explanations in absolute buckets and it’s this mystery that makes me want more.
The biggest mysteries for me include my favourite members of the Bureau, Casper Darling and Ahti the Janitor. Darling’s educational videos dotted around the Oldest House were some of my favourite bits of live-action. His character is one of the most sympathetic with a well thought out arc and purpose and enough left unanswered that I need more of him and his video messages.
Then there’s Ahti. Ahti is the biggest mystery of this entire game. Every interaction with this eccentric, upbeat, Finnish character is an absolute joy. There is something vaguely unsettling and almost sinister about him to begin with, but his collection of Finnish idioms – my favourite so far has been “did you have piss in your sock?” – and manner of speaking is so utterly disarming and compelling. You never find out too much about this guy. He is the first character you meet and you’re never quite certain if he can read your mind, but there’s enough about him to make you suspect that he knows more than he’s letting on and has powers all of his own.
The combat in this game took me a while to get used to. Even though the first weapon you get is a gun, do not assume that this is a cover-based shooter as the cover mechanics are some of the worst I’ve ever experienced. This is because this game actively wants you to move and it feels geared towards you using your powers, dodging out of fire and thinking a bit more tactically than duck and shoot. Once I got my head around this the combat is an absolute blast, and even when you get your full complement of telekinetic powers you never feel ridiculously overpowered as the mobs can still take you down in a one or two hits.
Enemies vary from standard cannon fodder to similarly powered up mobs who can levitate and hurl the scenery back at you with alarming accuracy. There are some enemies that could be referred to as “mini-bosses” but depending on how you play the game you may never come across some of them, and they do feel somewhat optional. For me the worst “mini-boss” experience was the Fridge monster. You don’t necessarily have to do this quest and I expect I missed more than a few others, but it is useful to pit yourself against as many enemies as possible to learn the best ways to take them down. There are also rewards, items and the occasional skills point for completing side quests.
Unfortunately, there are issues with this game that do make me question the £50 price tag. While it’s not game-breaking, one big annoyance is the map. For a building as large and complex as the Oldest House split over several levels and dimensions, the map does little to highlight where key areas are including transition points from one place to another. Trying to figure out which level you need to be on is a massive ball ache and I found myself mainly using the building signage to navigate around.
Another block I stumbled across was with one of the side quests where I got stuck as one of the mobs I needed to kill was not spawning. A quick Google search told me that I had to progress further in the main story to meet a specific type of Hiss which would then cause the side quest mob to spawn. This to me feels like poor plot planning and you should be able to complete side quests irrespective of how far you’ve got in the main storyline. Either that, or don’t make the side quest available until the necessary plot points have been completed.
The biggest issue for me is the frame rate. Control is a stunningly detailed game and when the action kicks off it really kicks off! The problem is when there is a lot of action going on and chunks of the building are flying through the air, the frame rate plummets and it plummets hard.
John Linneman from Digital Foundry recently gave a breakdown of this issue stating “Both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can see prolonged frame-rate drops in sustained combat, dropping all the way down to 10 frames per second at its absolute worst. Surprisingly, it’s the PS4 that drops hardest and longest, making it noticeably the least performant version of the game.”
It’s such a shame because when the game works its bloody amazing, but when you walk into an area and the textures are still loading, the map overlay (if you even bother trying to use it) is still loading and the frame rate turns what should be an awesome fight into a stuttering blurry mess, you kind of feel a bit ripped off.
Remedy have said that they are working on a solution to these issues, including making some improvements to the in-game map, and updates should be out in mid to late September.
I like this game, I like it a lot and given the way that it ends, no spoilers here, I’m hopeful for the DLC that’s coming soon/next year. At the moment we’ve got a “Photo Mode” coming, one of gaming’s most confusing and ultimately pointless additions but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a bolt-on purely about Ahti or at the very least a soundboard with all his amazing phrases on.
TBG Score: 8.5/10
Platform: Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: 27/08/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Adventure
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games
Download link: PSN