Control

When a game reaches multiple top 10 lists, my eyes tend to shift over.  When said game blends X-files, Lost, Fringe, Twilight Zone, Metroid, and Zombies… I’m doubly in.

Built in a New Weird setting, you play as Jesse who’s trying to find her brother within a secret government organization.  As you finally get through the front doors, you realize everything is going sideways, with a small war underway.

Cue the various exploration bits, and additional powers.  You have a weapon that can transform to other styles (full auto, sniper, shotgun, grenade launcher, handgun).  Powers are relatively simple.  Dodge and shield for defense.  Seize to convert low-health enemies.  Levitation to explore a pile of areas and make combat go full 3D.  And Launch – which is the bread and butter skill that picks up almost anything to throw it at targets.    The variety of items that can be thrown, and the distance… it makes for some extremely satisfying combat.

Enemies generally look the same, humanoids.  They are quite a bit different though.  Some are basic grunts, others launch grenades, some fly, some explode on death, some stealth and then shoot you at close range.  Then you have various elite enemies, and some exceptional boss fights.

Which does bring me to likely the largest hurdle for many gamers… this thing is hard.  Not to the level of Dark Souls… but enough that I died a solid 50 times before the end.  Sometimes it’s just bad luck and you end up between two grenades.  Sometimes you miss an important jump.  Most of them were the boss fights, in particular the last one and the few optional fights.  Levitation, dodging, launching, shooting.  It feels like pure chaos, but then you look back and go “holy shit”.

In fact, there’s one sequence near the tail end where Jesse says “that was awesome” and I cannot recall any game sequence that actually felt that awesome to get through.

There’s some RPG-ish elements here.  You get skill points to increase various powers/health/energy.  You get mod to modify yourself (better throws, less energy per use, more health, etc..) and your weapons (accuracy, rate of fire, ammo return, etc..)  There’s a huge amount of RNG here, and a massive difference between rank 1 and 5 items.  If you like min-maxing, there are some options here.

All of that stuff works, and generally works well.  But you’ve seen that before.  The extra bits here are the lore/setting.  There are dozens of lore items to pick up and read, listen to, or watch.  Some of it is absurd, like a rubber duck that teleports on it’s own, or a traffic light that teleports users when it’s red.  Some is freaky, like mold that takes like candy and transforms people.  There are various hidden puzzles too, like one where you cheat on a roulette table.  Piles of side quests that add extra flavor and bring you to the weirdest of places.  An extra dimension phone line.  The amount of effort and quality world building here is stunning.  You want to explore every nook and cranny.

And I want more Ahti.

Long story short, yeah, Control is one of the best games I’ve played this year.  That was awesome.

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