2019 has been a rough year for the wallets of most gamers. The onslaught of huge releases has already ravaged our bank accounts and we’re only half-way through the year! As we look ahead to the line-up of releases still to come in 2019, one game stands out in particular – one that, for our money (or at least what’s left of it), looks poised to steal the Game of the Year crown – and that game is Control (2019). Here are five reasons why:
Developer Remedy Entertainment has become synonymous with ambition. Starting from the most humble of beginnings, the team created their first game Death Rally (1996) from the basement of one its members before expanding and gaining acclaim for their work on Max Payne (2001).
From there, the developer took a considerable risk, branching out and carving its own niche with new IP Alan Wake (2010) – a ground-breaking action-thriller that introduced TV series-like story-telling to video games and received rave reviews, becoming one of the most influential and revered titles in the Xbox 360's expansive library. In 2016, Remedy Entertainment built on the success of Alan Wake with the release of Quantum Break, another innovative title praised for its presentation, action and story-telling.
From what we've seen so far, Control contains the best elements from its predecessors – manic gameplay, innovative story-telling and breath-taking presentation – and takes them to the next level, acting as the culmination of all the knowledge and experience that the developers have garnered with each past success. Over the last two decades, brick by brick, Remedy Entertainment has been building an empire and Control looks set to be its greatest conquest to date.
Remedy Entertainment's history of creating strong, layered lead characters means that hopes are high for the journey awaiting Control's protagonist Jesse Faden. The game's story centres around Jesse's arrival at the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) – a government agency tasked with managing supernatural phenomena - to seek answers about the mysterious powers that Jesse has tried to manage for most of her life, and the bureau's ensuing subjugation by otherworldly creatures The Hiss. As the newly 'appointed' Director of the FBC, Jesse must use her own supernatural powers, along with her shape-shifting Service Weapon, to try and combat the hiss and return the bureau to normality.
With so many questions posed about Jesse's past, the fluctuating world she occupies, the timing of the arrival of The Hiss and the reasons that she was chosen to be the FBC's last line of defense, she has already become one of the most intriguing characters in gaming's foreseeable future. Combine this with the studio's story-telling pedigree and you can almost guarantee that Jesse's journey is going to be a can't-miss.
The Oldest House
It's often said that a setting is 'almost a character in itself', and there are few truer examples of this than Control. The FBC's headquarters 'The Oldest House' are contaminated by the unseen presence controlling The Hiss and, due to the warped reality and supernatural presence, The Oldest House has become an ever-alternating spiral of unpredictability.
The convergence of a mundane big-city office building and erratic reality-swapping wonder means the game's setting stand apart as something truly unique that ensures surprise and uncertainty throughout. And that's such an important factor in video games, unpredictability can mean the difference between an event being a nice little part of the game that's soon forgotten or something that catches you so off-guard that it bolsters its impact and sticks with you for long after.
Video games offer a unique brand of escapism, an experience so immersive that it can give players a feeling of power that isn't possible in reality. As such, there is something supremely satisfying about any game that offers a player superhuman, god-like powers and gives licence for their imagination run wild. This is exactly what Control's gameplay boasts, reminiscent of the later stages of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008), players stand in a playground of carnage and are free to wreak havoc.
Jesse Faden's use of telekinesis, levitation, mind control and adaptable weaponry paired with the player's imagination is the stuff of nightmares for The Hiss, but a dream come true for gamers who look for fun, varied gameplay and an invitation to create beautiful, controlled chaos.
Making New From Old
Control utilises the beloved Metroidvania structure for level exploration, but breathes new life into the format, taking something created in less complex, 2D titles and giving it new purpose. The freedom inherent in a non-linear structure can sometimes lead players to unforeseen and undesirable situations that make it difficult to get back on the right track, but Remedy Entertainment has innovated a way to counteract this with the Encounter Director system which tailors enemy encounters in line with factors linked to Jesse's progress to try to ensure that the game doesn't become unfair or overwhelming.
What this means for players is a more balanced, tailored adventure that can provide a variety of different gaming experiences. This is another example of the developer taking something strong and well established and strengthening it with new ideas to create something exciting, original and potentially revolutionary.