I had just finished Evil Within, when Control was released back in 2019. It seemed like an interesting game but I was not ready to play a game that was dark and had horror elements. I felt a bit burned out. I pushed the game to 2020. Somehow in the start of 2020, I got into the zone of playing this and I looked at options to access it.
I did end up getting it on PC but I was not so happy about it though coz I really wanted to play this game on the console. However, left with no choice, I began my journey into the world of Control.
I fell in love with the game. Here was Jesse, who gained access into the headquarters of a secret agency called FBC. These headquarters were hidden in plain sight, and it was only with the help of an entity in Jesse's head that she was able to find the place. We learn that this entity had helped Jesse avert a certain disaster and escape from the clutches of FBC in her childhood. As soon as Jesse enters the FBC, she finds the place on a lockdown. It seems the Bureau was under attack by some unknown force.
I loved the part where Jesse spoke to the entity when she needed help. It was kinda like speaking to a voice in your head. And the way the game showed the response was in the form of this spiral overlay that acknowledged Jesse's queries. This spiral overlay features at multiple points in the game not only in response to Jesse but as a way to point us in the right direction. An intermediator between us, the player and Jess, a semi-break of the fourth wall, which kind of added to the overall narrative as we were dealing with multi-dimension beings after all.
As we make our way through the FBC, we are guided by the janitor Ahti, who seems to be way more knowledgeable and insightful. It feels like he is a wizard in disguise, very reminiscent of Gandalf. He takes you on as his assistant and guides you to the Director's office.
After finding the Director dead, Jesse gets the Service Weapon, which makes her the owner the Director of the FBC, as The Board ordains through the gun the Bureau's leadership. Such an exciting start!
This game reminded me a lot of the series Fringe. In fact, I am sure this story would fit right as one of the mysteries in Fringe. Ah, I have such fond memories of the series and how much I used to read up on Fringe science theories from it's episodes. In fact, it also had the multi-dimension plotline in it.
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I could not play any game last April. So my progress was put on hold soon after I had started. It was only a few months later in August that I got back into the game.
I made steady progress through the story taking it one chapter at a time. I learned of the Director's inner circle:
- Casper Darling, Head of Research,
- Lin Salvador, Head of Security,
- Alberto Tommasi, Head of Communications, and
- Helen Marshall, Head of Operations
Soon after, I encountered Tommasi, who had been taken over by the Hiss, one of the first bosses in the game. I wondered if the other members of the inner circle had turned into the Hiss too.
Helping me in my journey was Emily Pope, who did her best to guide me through the FBC, first helping me lift the lockdown and later guiding through the various sectors of the Bureau. She explained how certain members of the FBC were able to escape the Hiss with the use of Hedron Resonance Amplifiers (HRAs), mysterious devices given by Dr. Darling.
I even celebrated the anniversary of the game and was hyped for the DLC. Though I was still conflicted on making progress in the game on PC.
But soon I just gave in to the game's story and started enjoying uncovering the secrets of the Bureau. It was through this I discovered the Ashtray Maze and I found it so intriguing. Here was this self closing evolving maze, that defined logic and kept leading me back to where I started. I even tried to use my powers of dashing forward to try and get through but nothing seemed to work. Turns out I was a few chapters too early to solve the maze.
Then there was the Oceanview Motel, this strange place which the FBC had not been able to find a location of. It was surreal traversing through the place and quite interesting on how Remedy Games, the developer, had designed the puzzles in the place.
I took it one chapter at a time and made my way to Marshall as well to get more information on Dylan. She promised to help if I was able to get Black Rock Prisms to get the HRA production going.
After succeeding in my journey, I finally found out the location of where they had kept Dylan, the Panopticon. This was right around the time of the release of Cyberpunk 2077, a game I had long been waiting for, so much so, I even got Jesse all dressed up for the occasion.
Once I started Cyberpunk 2077, I never went back to playing Control and the game went back into my backlog. Even after finishing Cyberpunk 2077, I was never able to get back into the game. They even gave the Ultimate Edition on PS Plus back in February of this year. Finally, I could play it on the console I wanted, but I was not ready to start again until a few weeks back.
Finding my way back into the world
A couple of weeks back, I had the feeling to play this game and this time I thought I will take it slow with the PS4. Already aware of the mechanics of the game, I made short work of the opening chapters. It was then that I realized that I had missed so much because of the way I had played the game. The disconnected playthrough made me forget a lot of the details, including the fact that the entity in Jesse's head was called Polaris.
An annoying part about playing the game on the PS4 was the lag when entering the pause screen or the documents section. This made me read documents in a bunch instead of one at a time. But I did make sure to read the documents as there was a deeper story in them.
I discovered a lot of backstory and lore. One which stood out to me was research on synchronicity.
"Synchronicity is how we rationalize events connected by no identifiable causality". I have found this phenomenon a lot with books. I always ending reading a book that pertains to the need of the hour. I have seen it happen many times and I believe it is through some form of fate or appropriately, synchronicity in action. I have elaborated my thoughts on unseen connections in the article on Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. It seems I had found a new term for it.
I continued my research into this concept. The phenomenon was dubbed by many names from confirmation bias to the working of our collective unconscious. Here are a couple of articles I found that are quite interesting:
- Synchronicity: 7 Ways to Interpret and Manifest It
- Synchronicities: A Sure Sign You're on the Right Path
I believe it is when we resonate in the same frequency as our destiny, a little nod in the right direction, help from the universe.
I progressed well past the story in my last playthrough and finally got to the Panopticon. I learned that Dylan was being prepped to take over as Director. He was Prime Candidate 6 (P6) until he lost control of his powers. It also turns out that Jesse was also being considered for the post and her movements were monitored (P7). Very frightening!
We then have a showdown with Salvatore, who also has been taken over by the Hiss. I found his fight challenging, making me go more on the offensive than defensive, but it was made worth by being rewarded with the Levitate ability on his defeat.
Turns out Dylan had turned himself in at Central Executive and as I made my way back I wondered how our reunion was going to be.
Meeting Dylan was not what I or Jesse had expected. He had given himself to the Hiss and yet seemed to retain some portion of his control. I was too late to save him and now I was left with what seemed like an insane brother, who spouted cryptic dreams very time I spoke to him. I had to find a way to get the Hiss out. He puts us onto the Slide Projector, the very device that Polaris had helped us shut down in our childhood, and the fact that it was now in the possession of the FBC. There seemed to be something very important about this OoP.
Side missions & Abilities
This time around I also learnt well to use my abilities and because of my consistent playthrough, I was able to make better use of them. I also discovered the abilities of Seize and Shield, which I had missed in my previous playthrough because I had put off the side missions. This made the game a whole lot more fun in the variety of the abilities I could now use.
Remedy Games had designed an elaborate world with missions that existed outside the main story that contributed to the lore and rewarded players for going out of their way to do it. In fact, I found myself facing bigger challenges in the side missions, which were designed to test the best of your abilities.
Some of the side missions involved dealing with Altered Items, which had their own story to them in how they were discovered in the real world. The Hiss had affected their behavior and agitated them in some way. Cleansing some of the items seemed a bit straightforward, but for others it involved battling an entity in another dimension.
There was this refrigerator that caused you damage every time you looked away and needed a person watching it 24/7. It took a challenging boss fight to bring it under control. It is quite interesting to learn that this fridge had survived a building collapse and now the drawings on it seem to be unremovable.
One of the Altered Items is a Mirror that transports you to a mirror dimension. This world seems to be a mirror reflection of our own and yet something feels off. It is here you meet esseJ, an reflection of you and one of the most challenging bosses in the game.
I had learnt of esseJ from the PlayStation trophy list "Defeat esseJ" and believed it would be one of the main missions. esseJ proved too much of a challenge for me and remains undefeated in the mirror world. Someday I may return to take her on again.
Dark Disquiet - Poets of the Fall
Why does a Poets of the Fall song feature so prominently in this article? It is because of the room where it is played on for some mysterious experiment. When I heard the song, it was hauntingly beautiful and so in line with the theme of the game.
I found myself listening to the song on repeat. There was some emotion of nostalgia that this song triggered. I found out when looking for the song on Spotify that this band was behind Carnival of Rust, a song which took me back to my school days. My friend recommending it to me and me watching the strangely disturbing and yet mesmerizing video on YouTube.
I did find a document with a survey of questions of the "Auditory Experience" to be answered after listening to the song. A curious set of questions.. I have no image of a weapon appearing in my mind and have not heard any murmur of voices so far.
Of the other questions, I have answered a few above and for the last one:
- Fade Away
An interesting experiment and another reasons why I love this game when it breaks the fourth wall.
Ashtray maze - Take Control
Finally, when I got to the chapter where I had to make my way through the Ashtray Maze, it was awesome. Using a song to solve the maze is something I did not expect and yet, it is so inline to the theme of the game and the way our mind works. I have found that some songs tend to focus our mind and I believe that they had made use of this fact to solve the maze.
I don't like rock songs much but this seemed like a soundtrack that fit perfectly. Thanks to Ahti for providing his help and his music player.
Polaris, Hedron and the Hiss Resonance
I thought Polaris would be malicious with a secret agenda to help the Hiss take over. But it was a truly helpful entity split away from its source. It was actually called Hedron, the source of the HRAs. It was ultimately the one reason why all the people had not succumbed to the Hiss. It seemed Dr. Darling was able to create the HRAs with Hedron's help and dispense them in time.
The Slide Projector
The Slide Projector was the nexus point, the start of Jesse's journey and the source of the Hiss. It seems, in the urge to explore new domains, a team from FBC, that included the old Director himself and Dr. Darling led an expedition into one of the slides. This is where they found Hedron and where an unknown resonance had hitched a ride back with the Director. To find that after all this time, it was the Director, who was irresponsible enough to let the Hiss through. The worst thing was that the Hiss fed on his fears of the people around him coveting his power and position and drove him to his own death.
Jesse's childhood. The story of her friends and her town.
Ahti seems to be still in control (pun intended).
What surprised me was that it was Director Trench, who was responsible for the Hiss.
Bright Falls and the Alan Wake connection
Control is an amazing game. I enjoyed playing every moment of it. It's use of paranatural and supernatural in the game is so well done and explained that I can't wait to play more of it in the DLCs. The lore and the world are so elaborate andI never found myself bored by the story. I wanted to learn more of what I discovered and loved the use of redacted documents to explain the past events.
Even now I am debating whether to wait for the next generation or continue my story (I am pretty sure it will be in the PS5 unless I finish Alan Wake first and jump back in for AWE).