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Control Hands-On Preview: Remedys Supernatural Superhero Simulator Is A Surreal Delight

Control Hands-On Preview: Remedys Supernatural Superhero Simulator Is A Surreal Delight (Pic: REMEDY)

Rocking up to the Barbican estate, I instantly understood why this particular press event had an unusual setting. Brutalist architecture assaulted my senses from every angle. I knew I was still in London, but the consistency in design started to give me the feeling that I was actually somewhere else… somewhere far more sinister, a grittier reality caked in raw concrete and gabions.

A similar milieu arose when I finally got my mitts on Control, Remedy Games latest single-player title. Faced with the exposed architecture of the Central Research lobby, I made careful strides out into the unknown, as hiss-corrupted foes hung in the sky, drawn towards the light like zealots.

The lobby is one arch of The Oldest House, the home of the Federal Bureau of Control, which Remedy comms director Thomas Puha describes as the “Occult CIA.” Apparently, its a seemingly normal building from the outside which belies all kinds of eldritch experiments and surreal horrors.

Protagonist Jesse Faden is the new director of this bureau, initiated via ritual and imbued with supernatural powers. Stepping into her shoes, Im told to wipe out the Hiss, a mysterious infestation which has wreaked havoc throughout the building.

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I start out by getting to grips with the levitation. Jesse can hover around to get the drop on enemies, angling herself to be in sight of key bits of architecture so she can turn them into projectiles. I summon my shield and the remains of a wall turn into a rubble asteroid field that deflects enemy attacks. I drop it to get a flank on one floating being, trapped in an armchair, and notice a rocket flying towards me.

I hold R1 to flip the switch and send it hurtling back towards the group of enemies in front of me, resulting in a gigantic explosion of debris. The physics in Control are an absolute spectacle, from bumping into filing cabinets to shooting through computer monitors with Jesses service weapon, assets burst into life and fill the screen with visual chaos.

Easily the most stunning visual effect is the gasoline-slick essence that bursts from enemies when you defeat them. Puha tells me this is actually a resource to collect and not just a fancy bit of flair. Whatever it is, its beautiful, and turns every combat frame into a vibrant painting.

FMV videos play in wall cutouts embedded in the architecture, and a scientist known as Casper Darling taunts Jesse with discussion of the Astral Plane, an unknowable iconic object and perhaps, a gateway to another world that appears in most of Controls marketing.

Puha leads me through a section of the game where Jesse picks up an Object of Power, a hidden skill held inside a contained dimension, where the protagonist has to “prove herself” and bind with it to unlock it. The Hiss-corrupted workers at the FBC are stood eerily ogling it in reality. It turns out to be Seize, an ability that can turn enemies into friends.

This is especially useful when health-bolstering reflective orbs start appearing in combat and buffing my enemies. All I have to do is seize them and theyll start bolstering my health instead. Some of these abilities are wrapped up in optional parts of the map that youre going to have to seek out if you want to get the best experience out of Control. Its not going to hold your hand.

Puha compares Controls environment and map design to Dark Souls, and naturally, when the hands-off demo wraps up were right back where we started. During my playthrough, I stumbled into plenty of optional areas including a dank underground area overgrown with flora and plant monsters, a mirror maze and a desolate recording studio.

The mirror maze was particularly creepy, with shrill yelps of anguish taunting me as I tried to figure out a route through the puzzle.

(Pic: REMEDY)

At certain intervals, the screen will be masked by a visual effect comparable to a close-up view of a bloodstream or on some occasions, a shadowy figure will dominate your eyeline, superimposed on the camera like the famous scene from the end of Twin Peaks: The Return. The difference is that in Control, you dont live inside a dream, you live inside a nightmare.

Im also introduced to a weapon and character mod system that can bolster Jesses suite of abilities and service weapon. The mods have rankings like Exquisite or Legendary which suggests that you can loot or craft them at some point in the game. Im told about an executive hub that I was not shown during the demo where Jesse can craft and talk to people.

There are also Control Points (get it?) around the map which you can use to fast travel or upgrade abilities. Control is a linear story, but its exploration is strictly non-linear, and you can miss items, audio logs and documents if youre not careful.

Later in the hands-off demo Im shown a mini-boss section where Jesse has to contain a constantly morphing ferrofluid monster that is rattling around a small room, collecting debris. I found it endearing that the answer wasnt just to fill it full of holes! In Control, there are monsters that are better off contained, like a vicious SCP.

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