First look at Control from E3 2018

What was Remedy's mysterious P7 project? Introducing Control, a game first shown off at E3 2018 to great delight and confusion. The trailer for Control showed a woman exploring a mysterious, twisting bureau full of floating people and supernatural monsters. She fought them with a single gun and her own set of powers, she performed some weird ritual thing, and she got sucked into a big spiraling room. Cool, right? But what's going on?

I was fortunate enough to watch a demo of Control at E3 2018 and get a glimpse of exactly what was going on in the Oldest House. The demo may have provoked more questions than answers lore-wise, but I can at least speak a bit to how the game works!

What is Control?

In Control, you control (heh) Jesse Faden. Through a series of strange circumstances, Jesse has stumbled into a place called the Oldest House, the New York home of the Federal Bureau of Control. After a strange ritual, Jesse inadvertently becomes the Director of the Bureau at the same time that an otherworldly enemy descends upon the bureau and tries to wrestle control of it from her.

As Director, Jesse is equipped with a special pistol that can change its shape to fire different types of shots. She also gains special, supernatural abilities that aid her in fighting off the strange threat and traversing the bizarre Bureau.

How do you play?

In the hands-off demo that I watched, trouble had begun in the Bureau. Many of the department's workers have suddenly become hostile, and others were left floating, prone and lifeless, on the ceiling. Jesse, guided by a companion speaking to her over the radio, started her stroll through what at first looked like a mostly-normal government office building to find out what was going on but quickly ran into problems. An employee slowly moved toward her then, without warning, began to attack.

Jesse is able to fight both by firing her transforming gun at foes and by using special powers. I witnessed two powers in particular during the session: Jesse can block attacks by drawing floating debris in front of her to serve as a shield, and she can fling nearby objects through the air at enemies. During this initial attack, multiple corrupted workers appeared from behind partitions and desks and began to fight, but Jesse removed them deftly and continued to walk.

The Bureau itself

Quickly it became apparent that this was not a normal office building at all. Though the demo was limited, I was able to glimpse strange things in the passageways off to the sides that we didn't walk down, and as she explored, a strange older man would seem to appear transposed over the surroundings, moving and speaking in shadow. It's a difficult effect to put into words, but I was told that this is where Remedy's penchant for live-action elements in its games comes into play.

Control functions in many ways like a 3D Metroidvania. Everything is connected, and you may often have to backtrack and revisit things as you gain new abilities. One of Jesse's traversal abilities, Levitate, can be used to cross small gaps. The demonstrator used it to progress but noted that Jesse would not have it at the start of the game and would need to unlock it to access this segment of content.

After another fight, Jesse arrived at a strange pattern of lines on the ground and did something that looked like she was performing a ritual. As she did, the room around her began to break down and reshape itself, eventually changing into a completely different area of the Bureau. Her path took her out of what appeared to be a warehouse or loading/unloading area and into a cell block, where everyday objects were being held in captivity. In one, an uncorrupted guard begged Jesse to relieve him of his post. This, the demonstrator said, was a sidequest. The game includes many throughout the Bureau that will affect how things play out, but we weren't going to see this one now and left the guard to his fate.

The finale of the demo began as Jesse approached a TV in a cell. A fight ensued in which the TV appeared to reshape the Bureau around it, twisting the walls and making it difficult for Jesse to approach, as well as summoning enemies for her to deal with. When she finished the encounter and approached, she was engulfed by a white light in which the dark, black pyramid from the end of the trailer descended upon her.

Overall impressions of Control at E3

Control is a trip. A fascinating trip. What appealed to me most from watching it was the Metroidvania stylings and the winding, bizarre nature of the Bureau. The world of control looks like it will be a terrifying delight to explore, and fortunately Jesse Faden is a pleasantly curious protagonist to explore it with. The small slice that I saw was polished specifically for the E3 demo, and looks the part. The shadow and light effects are particularly impressive in making the Bureau at times innocuous, and at times frightening or mysterious or just plain weird.

Control is planned for a 2019 launch on Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4. Pricing and availability details are unknown.

Confused too?

Control is a bizarre-looking game, and we don't know much about the Bureau, but ask any questions in the comments and I'll do my best to help!

Reb Valentine