Remedy Entertainment – makers of Max Payne, Alan Wake, and Quantum Break – has never made a bad game, and if my first hands-on with their latest, Control, is any indication, they’re not in jeopardy of breaking that streak. In the same way that Max Payne basically forced you to always keep moving, Control does the same – but adds in a bunch of superpowers, a bizarre and compelling setting, and gleefully rips the environment to shreds in the process. My first hands-on with it was everything I hoped for.
As Jesse Faden, the newly appointed head of the mysterious Federal Bureau of Control, you’re handed a unique Service Weapon that can transform and upgrade in different, player-controlled ways, and asked to keep the strange forces threatening our world at bay. My demo took place in the Central Research section of The Oldest House – the nickname for the Brutalist-architecture, space-bending building that the Bureau calls home. In it, a hostile force known as The Hiss has begun attacking, meaning you’ll see suspended, floating bodies, people frozen in time and space, and aggressive bad guys who seemingly teleport in – some of which have powers like yours.
Control has more Max Payne DNA in it than Alan Wake or Quantum Break, and you certainly won’t hear me complain about that. This is no cover shooter.
Yes, Jesse has learned plenty of new tricks in her new role, including levitation, a devastating ground-pound, telekinesis, and that super cool transforming Service Weapon I mentioned. My demo didn’t include a lot of story – a strength of all of Remedy’s previous games – at least not main path stuff. A few optional side missions did pop up, though, highlighting Remedy’s stated intention to have Control be a bit more sandbox-y and open-ended than their previous games.
But make no mistake: this first hands-on demo was all about combat. It has more Max Payne DNA in it than Alan Wake or Quantum Break, and you certainly won’t hear me complain about that. This is no cover shooter; I died when I tried to hang back and wait for things to calm down. Your health won’t recharge here. Instead, killing enemies and soaking up the white bits of life force they drop is how you stay alive and keep moving. Levitation is critical for both combat and traversal. You can hover in the air or hold the button down longer to hover higher. A really neat little touch is seeing Jesse, when she’s near a low ledge and you press levitate, step onto that ledge to launch herself into the air. She’ll eventually float back to the ground, but usually you’ll have taken action before then, either by telekinetically picking up nearby objects like chairs, tables, or chunks of the nearest concrete wall and flinging them at your targets. Or by ground pounding them, which you can do from pretty far away. It’s awesome to see parts of walkways explode in a puff of concrete confetti if you either power-slam into the right spot, or that walkway happens to be in the path of where you’re ultimately zooming towards. You also have other powers, like possessing weakened enemies to temporarily fight alongside you.
Plenty of bizarre objects got in my way even in my short demo, which I’m eager to see and learn more about. The Astral Spike escaped the Astral Plane – and Bureau confinement – and will relentlessly hunt you. The Astral Plane itself promises to be home to the occasional boss fight. The Mirror Maze puzzled me at the end of my demo; I’m eager to see it again and figure out how to get through it. A nondescript clear orb warped in and buffed the health of my foes, making it an obvious first target in battle.
Framerate slowdown bogged my PS4 Pro demo, but as Control won’t be released until August 27, Remedy earns the benefit of the doubt for now. Ultimately, if Control’s main storyline can deliver – a solid bet, given Remedy’s track record – on top of the optional side missions and world-building content the developer is promising, then Control could end up being one of the most memorable action games of the year.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Executive Editor of Previews. Follow him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan, catch him on Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.
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