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    dkirschner's Control (PC)

    [May 27, 2021 09:06:11 PM]
    This is a real gem. Having just played Prey (another sci-fi/supernatural action game with psychic powers), I had hoped Control wouldn't feel too similar. Well, Control blows Prey out of the water. Playing them back-to-back, Prey was unnecessary! I won't go on about how practically every aspect of Control is better (sorry Prey), but will detail things I particularly enjoyed.

    First off, the story is bananas, in a good way. There is a federal agency called the Bureau of Control. Their job is to investigate paranatural activities (not ghosts or spirits, but like weird occurrences with everyday objects like your toaster randomly turning on or your TV set sucking you in). Then, they take the object (called an Object of Power, or an Altered Item) back to the Bureau and study it. These things are all linked and it gets complicated about alternate dimensions and entities and whatnot, but it's so cool.

    You play as Jesse Faden, the new Director of the Bureau, as she tries to find answers to where her brother went, to an entity in her head, and to her own past. Along the way, you explore the Bureau, which has been overrun by the Hiss, some sort of hostile alternate dimension thing that produces some cool enemies. Many are just Hiss varieties of armed Bureau personnel, but then there are various flying enemies, one that blinks in and out of visibility, a scary floating orb that heals others.

    The best enemies are the bosses, most of which are optional. In fact, I only completed a few of the optional ones. Most are really hard! And when you die in Control, you lose 10% of your...I forget the word...basically your main "leveling up" resource. So throwing yourself at a boss just screws you over. Best to wait until you are more powerful or until you've just purchased some upgrades and don't have much resources left to lose. Anyway, I beat the game before I came back to them. A lot of the enemies you fight are "altered items," which are everyday objects that have powers, that can alter reality, do things to people. One fight was against an anchor. There are four platforms in a square, and the anchor is this massive ball of energy with a core in the middle. It rotates, turning from platform to platform, and at each stop along its rotation, it belches a bunch of clocks (it's part of the story of the item--all items have backstories about how they came to the Bureau's attention). Before it belches, it exposes its core and you can use telekinesis--one of your abilities--to launch a clock at it. It won't belch and will instead spin to the next platform. I don't know what happens if you get hit with the clocks. My guess is you pretty much die. Anyway, that sounds too easy, right? Yeah, it is. So after you hit the core a couple times, it starts spawning enemies, the flying bomb guys that drift toward you and explode, as well as regular soldier dudes on other platforms who fire at you. This makes it a lot trickier because all of a sudden you are avoiding/killing bomb guys, sniping solders (or you could levitate over and dispose of them more closely), and watching for the anchor's rotation, which speeds up as the fight progresses. Even though I didn't beat many of these, I did see a lot (tried and got scared of losing resources and said I'd come back later!). They are really creative and some are really hard!

    So I mentioned the combat. Combat is fun, varied, never got old. In fact, I didn't even unlock all the main abilities. You have a gun that takes different forms. These are standard shooter fare (pistol, shotgun, minigun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle) that you can usefully upgrade. You switch between two forms at any time (and can change to others from the menu at any time). You also have access to some cool, powerful psychic abilities. You can pick up and launch objects (a go-to attack, very useful for destroying armor and interrupting enemies), you can levitate, you can ground slam from levitating, you can mind control enemies (very useful, especially because when you take control of them, they go to full health), aaaand...oh, and I think the one I missed, which is a shield. With like 4 psychic abilities and two guns (plus many swappable mods), and a variety of enemy types, you always have a lot of combinations to play with and fit any situation. Once you do unlock the levitation ability, the levels become noticeably more vertical (or sometimes they always were and you just never noticed because you couldn't float!), which provides even more tactical opportunities.

    I know I said I wouldn't compare to Prey anymore, but I have to just this once! In Prey, Talos 1 felt nice and lived in, in part because of all the audiologs, notes, and emails. But as neat as some of that stuff is, do you know how many games I can count where you listen to audiologs and read emails to learn more about the world? Like, hundreds. I remember it was novel when Doom 3 did it in like 2004. "I'm sure we can be more creative!" said Control. Yes, there are tons of documents laying around that you can pick up and read. They generally interesting and often relate to things you see in the world. For example, one of my favorite parts of the game was going to the Containment sector where the Bureau keeps all the altered items. Throughout the game, I had been picking up reports and reading about all these altered items (a refrigerator that kills everyone if no one is looking, a rubber duck that follows people, an oscillating fan that sucks oxygen from rooms and suffocates people, etc.). In the Containment sector, there they all were, each in their own room! The refrigerator was the most surprising because there was a Bureau agent sitting in there freaking out because he'd been staring at it for like 24 hours. Someone forgot to relieve him of his shift when the Hiss infiltrated the building, haha.

    In addition to all the optional reading, there are radio broadcasts of a Twilight Zone sort of show, internal videos produced by the head researcher (humorously low budget), a kids' puppet show series for children growing up in the Bureau (terrifying), and more. It's not just that there was more media to examine, but it was all so interesting and tied together with all the stories of the altered items, with stories of what happened to specific people in the Bureau, with stories of specific AWEs (altered world events).

    Anyway, I'm about out of steam with writing. The last thing--Control ties in with Alan Wake. I did not know that. I went back and read some about that game since it's been a while since I played it. Very, very cool. Control gets an A+ from me. Definitely recommended.

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    dkirschner's Control (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 24 May, 2021

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 27 May, 2021

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Super stylish. Neat story. Alan Wake vibes. -------- Fantastic. Gameplay is fun and varied throughout.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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