Remedy’s Control offers a supernatural take on 1984, with Metroidvania elements and shape-shifting buildings

Jesse levitating in Remedy's Control

For a long time, Remedy’s new game has been known only as P7, but what’s now known as Control is shaping up to be quite the intriguing third-person shooter. It turns out that actually the word shape has quite a lot to do with what makes Control look quite so interesting, especially when it comes to the locale and the weaponry you’ll have at your disposal. 

In Control, you play as Jesse Faden, the newly appointed Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, which is responsible for the mysterious, the supernatural and the downright weird. The world has been invaded by an almost incomprehensible supernatural species known as the Hiss, that we assume have something to do with the remit of the Federal Bureau of Control, and its headquarters, The Oldest House. Now, here’s where it all starts to get a little strange, because The Oldest House is actually a vast, transdimensional, shapeshifter in itself, rearranging itself like the staircases in Hogwarts, hiding away different mysterious spaces, secrets, cryptic ciphers, strange experiments and probably more. It also hides away side-quests galore, that threaten to distract Jesse from her main quest, although at the moment it’s unclear what that exactly is right now. The entire aesthetic though is based on brutalist architecture; all concrete and hard angles. It’s meant to contradict the otherworldly occurrences that go on there, and to Jesse herself. 

To get to her position as Director, Jesse had to go through some kind of ritual, during which her gun - known simply as the Service Weapon - chose her. It acts more as a companion and protector in Control than just part of Jesse’s arsenal... because it is, in fact, the entirety of her arsenal. As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to discover different forms for the Service Weapon that lets it behave quite differently. Like The Oldest House, the Service Weapon morphs and changes, with metal chunks of its body rearranging so you can visually see what form it’s currently taking, like shotgun or something more long-range. 

In my hands-off Control demo at E3, every single element that the development team walk me through is intriguing and I’ve come away with more questions than answers. But that’s usually the way with Remedy titles at this stage. The studio’s last game, the Xbox One exclusive Quantum Break, was an enigma until you had it in your hands, and although thankfully the live action TV episode segments are gone for Control, there are still elements of live action included. So far, it feels like a blend of Quantum Break’s aesthetics with the supernatural elements of Alan Wake. And when you start throwing in the powers that Jesse can wield, there are hints of Max Payne’s bullet time in there too. 

The Oldest House in Remedy's Control, complete with floating bodies

When it comes to powers, don’t expect to be wielding fireballs, as Remedy is wanting to keep things a little more believable for Control. Jesse will be able to utilise more realistic powers like levitation, or creating shields from nearby debris, for example. Okay, okay so they’re not exactly how I’ll be spending my weekend, but they definitely feel more accessible than traditional magic or element manipulation. These abilities will develop over the course of the game though, so I feel like we’re only scratching the surface of Jesse’s capabilities with what we’ve seen so far. 

These powers and the Service Weapon’s various states tie into the fact that The Oldest House is also Metroidvania inspired. You’ll be able to explore areas of the building, knowing that you’ll have to come back to investigate certain corridors and passageways at a later date with new skills at your fingertips. I’m sure that will come with a side-helping of panic when it comes to the side-quests on offer in this labyrinth. At one point in the demo I’m shown a man inside a glass room, who is sat on a wooden stool staring relentlessly at a fridge. Apparently it’s all part of some strange experiment, and if someone isn’t looking at the fridge at all times, it’ll eat them all. Now that’s a serious case of the munchies. He begs Jesse to relieve him but she eventually runs on, and yet I’m still thinking about that carnivorous fridge puzzle even now.

A strange experiment in Remedy's Control

The way Control juxtaposes mundane things with the supernatural is all part of its intrigue, and at the moment Remedy’s new title has that in buckets. There’s a constant unpredictability in what we’ve seen so far, with a couple of pulls of a light switch in The Oldest House revealing a secret passage and hidden meanings, bodies floating everywhere, and a mysterious face hovering in mid-air telling you of strange goings-on. If it’s anything like Alan Wake, which it seems to be, you can sign me up right now. 

Remedy’s Control is arriving sometime in 2019 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.