All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Down the Road - Control

So I've been working from home for 2 and 1/2 weeks now and I've started to get into a routine. I get up at 8, work from 8:30 until 16:30, then I go for a long walk around the block and spend the rest of the evening playing games, watching shows or generally chilling out.
I basically live in a single bedroom so it gets a little stir crazy if I'm not doing something at any time.

Most recently I've been playing the game Control by Remedy games on the PS4.
Control on Steam
Control is... well it's weird.
I honestly don't know what is going on. I'm a few hours in and so far what I can tell you is that I've walked into a building of a government agency for the first time and they've made me the boss. I think it's a government agency... it had Federal in the title, but they don't seem to talk about the government ever.
Now that I'm in charge I have to run errands for everyone. there's a bunch of magic items that when I touch them, they disappear and just give me magic powers.
I think I'm basically an inter-dimensional Jedi with an inter-dimensional magic gun... but honestly if you demanded I explain in full I can't promise I'd be able to.

Okay, that's not exactly true. I know whats going on, I just don't know what's going on, and if that statement makes sense to you then you'd probably get this game.
So the game just starts, you're walking into the Federal Bureau of Control and it's all messed up and you got to fix it. It feels like I've stepped into a movie halfway because there's a lot of stuff that's already going on with my character that she already knows but that I'm learning... I'm still not sure what any of it is.
What I think that they were going for was less 'this is chaos' and more 'this is mystery' and maybe as I continue that will become clearer.
So what do I know?
Control is a game about Jesse Faden. A woman who is searching for her brother, who she believes was taken by the Bureau when they were children. At the same time that he went missing she met an inter-dimensional being that she calls Polaris who has been with her as part of her consciousness since. What all that means I'm not sure yet.
When we enter the game Jesse has just found the Bureau and it is in absolute chaos. She is made the director and - at the point I have reached in the game - spends the game trying to put the Bureau who she has hated and searched for back together so that she can find her brother, and stop the hiss - another inter-dimensional entity - from destroying them.
Like I said, it's kind of chaos and I don't know 'why' anything.

Over all it's an interesting game.
I like the feel of it, I like how powerful the character can feel with all her telekinetic abilities but there are a few things that bugged me at the beginning, and one or two that haven't gone away.

First of all is Dodging. In the beginning you can't dodge but they have all of the sorts of gameplay around the dodge button. short fuse explosives, explosive enemies, snipers that give you time to dodge and telekinetic enemis that you need to be out in the open to hit, but almost kill you if they hit you. It feels from very early on that it's a game built around being able to dodge, and the fact that you don't get the ability to dodge until a solid chunk into the game, and it comes up as a side mission. You can completely ignore and miss it if you are just aiming for the main missions.
My advice? Every mission you get check to see if it talks about an object of power go do it as soon as possible because it's going to give you a useful new power.

Second is the reload button, or lack thereof. I think that the developers were trying to be nice, trying to remove the need to worry about ammo and reloading, but it just feels weird. In Control you don't have ammo in the traditional way. It says ammo, but it's more like energy in your gun. when you fire it uses up the energy and after you stop firing it automatically recharges, so all you have to do to reload is not to fire, but this feels very strange for anyone who has played a traditional shooter, and especially for someone who plays shooters a lot and uses reloads a lot to keep their ammo clips full.
For me, every time I fire I will reload so I never find myself prematurely empty, I even do it in Control, despite there being no reload button. What I find myself doing is tapping the natural reload button and then realising that all I've done is swap weapons. It can be very frustrating when you go into the next firefight and you're using the shotgun at long range instead of the sniper you were just using.
Honestly I think this is a design problem, not taking into account consistency across the market. It feels, to me like the equivalent of making triangle on the PS4 controls a back button instead of the circle. People are just so used to the circle back button your one game making it different is going to be very confusing to them.

The last point I have feels a little petty, but it's also about UX and design. The map. Control's map is turned on by pressing up on the D-pad. It comes up over the entire screen blocking the entire screen. It feels like a menu that you press circle to leave, however it doesn't block any controls input and it is just a pop-over. It wants you to press up to toggle it on and off again, but it feels like a new screen I'm supposed to exit.
This is made worse when you get the aforementioned dodge ability as this is assigned to circle. More than once I have flung myself off cliffs to my character's death because I was trying to close the menu.

The game overall feels fun and polished. I think I enjoyed the story but it felt pretty weak and lacklustre.
Honestly by the end I understood everything and it was all pretty clear, however the problem I have with it was that it felt like a big mystery but the mystery payoff felt weak, and I think that it felt weak because there was no setup.
Thinking back on it the mystery was something I was unaware was a mystery. The payoff was something that wasn't alluded to or questioned in any way throughout. and the things that were didn't get paid off. at least not well.
I don't want to spoil anything in case you go and read it so I wont say more specifics, however I will say that any question you have when playing this game, probably not the thing that they felt was important to tell you.
It could all have been solved very easily by having a flashback sequence at the beginning to show the things that caused Jesse to search for the Bureau. This would give us attachment to her and her brother (especially if he saves her or something) and they could have made it clear to the audience what the bad guy was and maybe caused us to ask those questions that they seemed to want us to ask.

Control has a current metacritic score of 82/100 (7.3/10 for user score). I'd say that's marginally too high simply for dropping the ball on the story. User score about covers it. I would give this game a 7.5.
Otherwise; yeah half a year down the road Control still feels pretty good, it's great fun to play, I just wish they'd had a bit more cohesion on the narative.


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