Control

Control is (unfortunately) a pretty basic shooter gameplay-wise. It tries to give you special powers but they’re less interesting than Bioshock’s. It tries to incentivize you to run towards enemies to gain health, but isn’t nearly as effective as DOOM (the 2016 one, and to be fair, few shooters handle “don’t cower behind cover” as well). Most of the combat can be gotten through more easily by picking off enemies one by one, and constantly hiding behind cover, which makes gameplay more boring than it otherwise might have been.

However, it shines because it’s just so weird and cool and different in its atmosphere. The paranormal presences, when they’re not just more enemies to be shot down, are pretty intriguing. Places like the panopticon and the ashtray maze are just weird enough to be interesting without being overwhelmingly strange.

This is also one of the first games I’ve seen that has pretty extensive ray tracing effects. It was unusual to see mirrors, glass, and shiny floors that look so impressively good. After years of seing blocky, pixelated reflections (or just rendering the exact same thing twice, but flipped) it was fun to catch a glimpse of my reflection in a window while running past. The game looks pretty good for the most part but relies maybe a bit too much on the grayscale plus red that makes things look creepy, or something.

The story is tolerable, but doesn’t manage to do much beyond a typical video game story. The powers you gain are cool, but not unheard of in games. Basically you get a throw, a dash, and a hoverjump. The office building setting wasn’t as limiting as I thought it might be (due to some strangeness) but a few of the environments felt unwarranted or out of nowhere.

The game has you backtrack through a few places you’ve seen before, which was a nice way to take advantage of player familiarity without making things too stale. “Control points” are a way to fast travel and set up checkpoints, which both come in handy. Upgrades are usually something like “add 20% to your health”, which just doesn’t really make me that excited. There’s a reason I don’t play too many shooters nowadays, but overall Control was pretty good, mostly during the parts that didn’t involve shooting.

Play it if

You like strange paranormal stories, overpowered janitors, or you want to see some cool reflection effects