Control: The Foundation Review — Tensions Rising
Control: The Foundation is an easy recommendation for anyone who loved what Remedy introduced in the original game.
Control’s first major expansion, The Foundation, is pretty much everything you would want out of an expansion to the game. There’s a large new area to explore full of new enemies, documents to find and read, altered items to contain, a new ability to help with exploration and combat, easter eggs and secrets to find, an expanded skill tree to fill in, expanded lore for the Foundation, the Board, the Former, and earlier employees of the Bureau, and a rift beginning to form between Jesse and the Board’s intentions on how the Bureau should operate/work towards.
Completing and finding everything in The Foundation should take about six or seven hours, and since it requires you to have finished the base game before starting, meaning you’ll be certain on whether or not another six or seven hours is worth it. To me, the answer is a resounding yes, as Control is one of my favorite games of last year (and a lot of other people’s too based on Game of the Year awards/nominations it netted) and this expansion continues everything that made Control great.
The Foundation opens with a new Hotline call from the Board, expressing a new crisis is approaching that requires Jesse’s expertise as the Director to solve. Making your way down to the Foundation you’ll find a brand new area with various different sections, each that will be required to reach in order to fix the Nail, an obelisk at the Crossroads (the central hub section of the new area) that is no longer keeping the Astral Plane from invading your dimension. Along the way, you’ll find new Hiss enemy types, as well as enemies adapted from the drones in the Astral Plane that served as test dummies whenever you obtained a new power.
This new area has new environmental details, mostly caverns full of red sand and crystalline structures that become part of the new ability you acquire during your playthrough: to control or destroy them. Controlling lets you create platforms to reach new areas and create cover during combat as well as activate deadly traps when enemies are in the right area, whereas destroying also lets you explore by eliminating blocked off entrances or lower tied up platforms and wiping out the floor underneath enemies, dropping them into the abyss below. This ability is what will get you to the four different ritual sites required in order to repair the Nail and restore balance between your dimension and the Astral Plane, which, in certain locations, has replaced your reality entirely.
As you progressively restore the Nail and learn about the previous occupants of the Foundation, namely the first Director, Northmoor, and his head of research, Dr. Ash, a clear divergence between Jesse and the Board begins to form, where each entities’ intentions for the Bureau are becoming less shared and their relationship more strained. This is aided by the introduction of the Former, a boss you cleansed of Hiss corruption in the base game, who delivers aid and garbled messages as you gradually repair the Nail and stop the Astral Plane’s invasion. Jesse also gets some aid from Emily Pope, who provides some friendly conversation among the unfamiliar territory of the Foundation. Marshall reappears, though this time through the Hotline.
As aforementioned, most everything that made Control great reappears here, save for Dr. Casper Darling due to his ascension from the base game. As part of a free update, separate but coinciding with the release of the expansion, is a new ability, the shield bash, that adds some new utility to the shield ability. Honestly, I never used the shield ability outside of its requirement for a specific Hiss enemy type, so this change was welcome even if I still consistently forget about it.
The skill tree itself has also been expanded, and finding secret areas will be a requirement if you want to once again have 100% completion within Control as well as the expansion itself. Backtracking after you obtain the new ability’s full potential is just as satisfying as it was in the base game, as is finding those secret areas that are often much more obscure than before. Separate from the designated secret areas are additional secrets related to a familiar cat object that leads to a fun cosmetic option. New documents expand on the lore of the Foundation, mainly with details about the early history of the Federal Bureau of Control. Dr. Ash is the central character of this plot throughline, with audio logs chronicling his beginning and end within the Foundation, and how it changed his perspective on the Bureau and the Director/Board relationship. It sits alongside the advancement of Jesse’s relationship with the Board, hinting towards a potential confrontation in the future. New side missions are also to be found within the Foundation, two of which deal with altered items and another that requires a sharp eye and the solution to a simple puzzle that leads to another mystery.
Though The Foundation may end with several teases for content yet to come, it’s clear that Remedy has had a clear vision for Control for a very long time, as any casual look through some of the posts within Control’s subreddit will hint at details from Alan Wake and even Quantum Break that show Control has been gestating in Remedy’s creative mind for years. It is refreshing that this isn’t a game whose plot is concerned more with outsmarting its players than it is delivering a narrative you can invest in. It’s also clearly a narrative that’s being made up as it progresses with no satisfying end in sight. That is why I don’t find its ending tease of what’s to come disheartening, as Remedy has been laying the foundation (get it?) for a very long time, and everything within the Foundation itself is satisfying as an extension of why I loved Control and is an easy recommendation for anyone else who did as well.