We are talking about Control, the dreamlike and mysterious video game by Remedy Entertainment which, however, fails to overcome the myth of Alan Wake.

Control is a signed video game Remedy Entertainment, released in mid-2019. Like its predecessors, it can be categorized as an action-adventure, third-person shooter. Remedy also continues to spend resources in the technology sector, proposing one of the first videogame products to exploit the Ray Tracing, strongly promoted by the giant Nvidia.

After the disappointment of the mediocre Quantum Break, I was undecided whether or not to get my hands on a new product by Sam Lake. But the news of the AWE DLC that would see my (fictional) favorite horror writer named, if not appear, I couldn't resist. So let's see what it's about Control and what are its main features.

Some of Control's disturbing scenarios
Some of Control's disturbing scenarios

What is it about? Control?

Let's start by talking about the history of this video game.

Il Federal Bureau of Control is a mysterious and unknown agency hidden in the streets of New York City, the perfect place to hide an immense brutalist-style building without being too conspicuous. Jesse Faden, the protagonist, is introduced with a dialogue as she takes us inside the building.

The mystery of the game

Is Jesse talking to us or someone else? It does not matter. The dialogues are deliberately ambiguous, they immediately provide a dreamlike and mysterious imprint, familiar to Alan Wake fans. But the sense of confusion is stronger than of intrigue.

Much of this borderline characterization is due to strong inspirations from the universe of SCP Foundation: also in Controlharmless everyday objects can hide their own will and supernatural abilities. A rubber duck may have the power to teleport to play hide and seek, or an ashtray can modify a building into a maze, while an eight-inch floppy disk can confer telekinetic abilities.

What brings us to the Federal Bureau of Control

Our goal is to get inside Oldest House, the headquarters of the FBC, and understand its secrets, until the mysteries of the Agency match those of Jesse, and we finally begin to fit the pieces and find some vague logical sense.

The building is not just the setting where the clashes, objectives and secondary characters are contained. Indeed, the House is aliveanimated, will respond to Jesse's actions and remind us, with its neat cubicles, motivational posters and 60s technology, how little reasoning has to do with the ability to deliver easily executable orders.

Jesse in the past has "Looked behind the poster", that is, she was able to peek beyond the reality we all know, and for this she was taken into custody by the FBC. After a short time she managed to escape, but seventeen years later her brother is probably still there. Jesse was sent to the FBC headquarters by someone, or rather something that can communicate in her head. This something is Polaris, an extradimensional entity, an indispensable ally to fight enemies and gain powers. This little trick of an invisible entity in the protagonist's head allows you to create internal dialogues that seem to refer directly to the player.

I monologues by Jesse they never fail. In fact, numerous times, when the protagonist converses with the employees of the FBC, the scene is interrupted briefly to put the shot on the detail of Jesse's eyes and let us listen to inner sentences that add little or nothing to the narrative. Need to remind us what Jesse's character is, or a business need to show the detail capabilities of the graphics engine?

The mechanisms of Control

For half of the game all the dialogues, the absurd situations, the stories hidden among the collectible letters and audio messages, had intrigued and intrigued me. But what do the hours spent accumulating objects and information lead to? Maintaining the aura of mystery is probably essential for a work dealing with conspiracy and pseudoscience issues. But especially when we reach the last chapters of the story, the imperative and the concept of control that permeate the whole story in the first acts vanish more for a sense of disorientation on the part of the authors, than as the main element of the story.

Il gameplay follows the standards of triple A action games currently on the market: animated and frenetic clashes, a vast set of weapons available, a varied number of powers and a decent level of customization and boost. There isn't a huge innovation in any of this, and the difficulty is often lazily set, by level design, with too many enemies attacking you at the same time. The resolution of the clashes thus have the defect of appearing more and more often as attempts to luck that of true strategic commitment.

Control's dream scenarios
Control's dream scenarios

The comparison

After the failure of Quantum Break, and after the effort of overcoming the disappointment of a hasty ending of Control, I'm more and more sure that Sam Lake struggles to overcome the myth of Alan Wake.

While the AWE DLC appears to provide some explanation for the FBC universe, the fact that it was made available a year after the release of Control leads to think only that what gave strength to Alan Wake's (almost) inexplicable universe was used as a lever to justify the Dadaist nonsense of Control and cast the hype for a likely sequel to AW. Furthermore, a second title of Alan Wake he may have to undertake the thankless task of making sense of the incomprehensible skein of Jesse's adventures.

In Control there is the will to assemble a world of mysteries that clash with the reasoning of our universe, but it lacks the ability to control (forgive me the joke) narrative mechanisms to keep us glued to the screen up to the credits cleverly exploited in AW.

The protagonist does not exist if not to get to free the brother. Probing the mysteries of the FBC is just an extra. The enemy is a huge cosmic entity managed by the pneumatic vacuum charged by the sole will to invade the Earth. The elements that initially could recall some feeble sense of logic, become so numerous as to lose the thread.

Even the theme of control seems to vanish completely towards the end of the game, as if it had been abandoned, perhaps for the fear of taking apart a universe based on the inexplicable.

What's behind the poster?

Jesse warned us right away. "Everything will seem stranger than usual."

To appreciate Control there is no need to ask so much. It is a game that is refined enough to spend pleasant hours between paranormal mysteries and chaotic battles. Perhaps the need to compete in a market that demands longer games than we were used to ten years ago has forced choices that are quick to implement, and repetitive to play. 

Perhaps we are too used to finding logic in what we observe.

Or maybe the real reason for its existence is to be able to appreciate visually eccentric style exercises to surprise us a little.