For years, Remedy Entertainment has focused on narrative first and gameplay second. From the long monologues of Max Payne to the inner-workings of a writer in Alan Wake, and the episodic television experiment found in Quantum Break, it has been easy to see this emphasis on storytelling in almost every one of the studio’s titles. This focus on story over gameplay isn’t necessarily a negative but is just a design philosophy that one Remedy developer told me they’ve always kind of had at their studio.
So what would happen if Remedy instead decided to switch things up and focused on gameplay first and foremost instead of story? Well, that’s precisely what they seem to be trying to do with their latest project, Control.
A few weeks ago at E3 2018 in Los Angeles, I was able to see a behind-closed-doors demo of Control and was more than impressed by what Remedy showed me. As a longtime fan of the developer’s past projects, Control seems to be Remedy’s most significant departure from what they’ve done over the last decade while remaining true to the identity that they’ve built as a studio that focuses on narrative-drive experiences. That focus on story won’t be diminished in Control, either, it just won’t be told as linearly.
And therein lies the most exciting facet of Control right off of the bat — the game is structured similarly to Metroidvania. Yes, long gone will be the closed environments that allow for little exploration and instead, players will be dropped into a world that gives them more freedom to wander about than anything else Remedy has ever done. It’s a significant departure compared to their past games, but it’s a challenge they seem more-than-eager to take on.
When thinking of Metroidvania’s though, there’s a natural inclination that you’ll be gaining new abilities over the course of the experience and, boy, does Control have some cool powers to play with. As you may have seen in the reveal trailer for Control, the game’s protagonist Jesse Faden will have a slew of superhuman feats at her disposal. Of the few that I saw in during my time watching Control, Jesse could utilize a shield of nearby debris to protect herself from oncoming fire while also having the ability to levitate. She could also hurl nearby objects at enemies to hurt them and could also utilize a dashing power that allowed her to evade attacks.
These powers on their own are relatively simple, but when used in tandem with one another I started to see a surprising amount of depth that Control might offer in combat. Other than these fighting scenarios, Jesse was also able to use these powers to access new areas. One specific instance of this that I saw involved levitation, which allowed her to cross a large gap and find a new section of the map. Despite only seeing a handful of abilities so far, they all seemed unique and visually looked
Jesse’s abilities aren’t the only thing she’ll be able to use in combat though, as Remedy has equipped her with one of the most versatile weapons I’ve seen in a game in quite some time. This item, called the Service Weapon, takes the basic shape of a pistol but can shapeshift to take on the shooting characteristics of other weapons. For example, one fight had the Service Weapon transform into a gun that had a wider spread which essentially allowed it to act like a shotgun. This form and the base version that serves primarily as a pistol were the only two that I saw in my demo of Control, but the developers at Remedy promised me that the Service Weapon will be able to take many more forms in the final version of Control.
When not blasting away enemies or toying around with Jesse’s powers, the one moment from my time seeing Control that stood out to me the most took place in a quiet corridor where we happened upon another character. This man that we found was trapped in a large room and was staring at a refrigerator. Yeah, I don’t know either. Outside of the strange position in which we found this man, he asked Jesse to complete a task for him. At first, I thought that this man might have been part of the mainline story path that we were following for this showing, but one of Remedy’s developers informed us that this task that the man requests of Jesse is instead a side quest.
The advent of side objectives in a Remedy game is so strange, but it was with this realization that I began to understand just how much of a departure Control really is compared to past titles. Side quests in and of themselves aren’t anything groundbreaking or novel, but I’m more than interested in seeing how Remedy utilizes them within Control since they haven’t done anything in this manner before.
All of these things that I saw make Control alluring enough on their own but the one thing that interested me more than anything else was just how freaking weird it is. My demo ended with Jesse levitating towards a TV, touching it, and then floating in a giant room where a giant upside-down black pyramid sits in the distance. I don’t understand what any of this means, but it was visually remarkable. The amount of bizarreness that seeps out of past Remedy titles like Alan Wake and Max Payne is one of the biggest reasons for why I love this studio. That same level of oddity seems to be ever present in Control, and it’s for this reason alone that I’m in.
Everything that I saw in my showing of Control still seemed relatively early, but I came away with positive impressions on all fronts. Remedy has drastically changed its ideas when it comes to game design with Control but has found a way to still inherently feel like a Remedy game at the same time — and that’s the best praise I can give it. With a new publisher in 505 Games and a multiplatform presence on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, I’m hoping that Control can break through and be one of Remedy’s biggest hits so far. I’ll have to show some control of my own as I wait patiently for it to release in 2019.