Finished Control

Welp I finished up Control on the PS5 this morning. I know this is a game a lot of people enjoyed, and that it received positive reviews, but honestly I didn’t like it all that much. That’s not to say it was a bad game; it was just not the right game for me. Generally speaking I found it more frustrating than enjoyable and when I got to the post-credits, “Guess what there’s still more to do!” bit I was like “Nope, not even a little bit” and I quit and uninstalled.

I think there were a few reasons why it frustrated me.

1) The Map. While I enjoy exploring in games, I don’t really enjoy being lost. I know that sounds odd. Control gives you a map. It shows where you are. Your quest journal tells you where you have to go, and you can see the destination on the map. And yet for me there were a lot of times where I still couldn’t easily figure out the path from Point A to Point B. This is the exact same issue I had with Jedi Fallen Order. I just don’t enjoy confusing maps in games, but at the same time I acknowledge that this was a deliberate mechanic in Control and that some people really enjoy figuring out pathways between points.

2) Combat rewards aggressiveness. I tend to be the kind of gamer that advances slowly and methodically through combat situations. I tend to hang back, take out enemies from afar when possible and advance slowly. Control punishes this style of play. Damage in control is restored by picking up ‘crystals’ that fall off enemies when they are damaged or die. As long as you keep moving forward you’ll vacuum up these crystals and restore your health. If you hang back, no health restoration. The ideal way to fight in Control seems to be pushing forward aggressively and using Dash and Shield abilities to avoid/mitigate damage. Again, this is not a BAD combat system, it just doesn’t suit me. See also Outriders, another game that rewarded an aggressive combat style that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as my friends did.

3) HDR, maybe? On the PS5 (at least) Control really leans into HDR effects. There are a lot of places where the screen gets so bright you can’t really see well, like stepping out of dark building into bright sunshine. It’s a realistic effect that looks really cool but so often I was attacked by enemies I couldn’t even see. Later in the game as things got weirder this impact ramped to 11 as I fought orange colored enemies in a room saturated with red light to the point where I could only see enemies from their shooting. I *think* a non-HDR version wouldn’t have this issue but I’m not sure. (The image at the top of the post shows the lighting I’m talking about, though no enemies in it and of course with HDR off so the effects aren’t quite as extreme.) There were times while playing that my eyes literally started watering from the lighting effects and I’d have to take a break.

OK so those are things I didn’t like. Sure there was something I did like, right?

Well the setting and the lore was really good. The premise of the game is that there’s a Federal Bureau of Control that is tasked with collecting Objects of Power that have paranormal uses/effects. As a kid, protagonist Jesse and her friends found one of these: a slide project that opens portals to other dimensions. The object, as well as she and her brother, were rounded up by the Bureau but she escaped. Now as an adult she’s trying to rescue her brother who has been kept captive all these years.

It was huge fun exploring the levels to find and read about these various objects, often via heavily redacted documents. Sometimes the items end up giving Jesse powers. If I remember correctly, the Merry Go Round horse gave her a Dash ability.

I also enjoyed the combat when it felt fair. You have a single gun that can morph into different configurations: shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher, etc. Ammo is unlimited but takes some time to recharge. Meanwhile you can pick up and hurl objects psychically. The amount of destruction that results is quite cathartic and oddly seems very pretty. The enemies you fight are in the shape of people (more or less) but don’t bleed, instead they kind of burst in a puff of smoke and light when they die. I wish I’d taken more screenshots in the middle of combat but I was always too focused on staying alive.

The strange thing is, when I first started playing Control I didn’t find it very hard. Then I took a break for a month or two and when I came back it was kicking my ass. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I forgot a mechanic, or maybe I stopped playing when I started getting frustrated and just don’t remember?

Anyway I died a LOT in the later stages and Control has one of those (in my opinion) backwards systems where you lose progress when you die. Let me explain. As you play you gather resources that you use to improve your weapons and ‘mods’ that you apply to yourself. There’s a currency cost to do these upgrades. Every time you die you lose 10% of your currency, making it harder for the player who is struggling to upgrade their weapons. This seems backwards to me. The player who is having an easy time killing baddies also has an easier time upgrading their gear to make it even easier yet to kill baddies.

Anyway, if there is a Control 2 I’d probably give it a pass. On the other hand if someone makes a Control movie or TV series, I’d be all over that. Great worldbuilding and lore. The actual plot was pretty straight-forward but all the backstory was quite compelling. And it was such a pretty game; maybe too pretty at times when all the smoke, colors and lights made it hard to see the enemies coming at you. Again, while Control wasn’t a great game for me personally, a lot of people enjoyed it quite a bit. Hopefully this post can give you some guidance on whether you’d be in the majority would really enjoy it, or if some of the issues I had would impact you as well.

Playing Next: Control and Final Fantasy XIII?

Whenever I finish a game I feel a bit adrift for a while as I attempt to latch onto something new to occupy my time. Sometimes I can do that almost immediately and sometimes it can take weeks.

With Final Fantasy XV completed and off the Xbox external drive, I started looking for the next thing to ‘clean off’ the Xbox. (What brought me to FFXV initially was that it was a large game and I was trying to free up space on an external drive.) I was thinking Red Dead Redemption 2 has to be pretty big and I never finished that so I went to check and…it wasn’t even downloaded. I guess it was on the Internal drive of the old Xbox so didn’t make the generational hop. So of course I installed it and it is even bigger than FFXV.

So I’ve accomplished having even less free space.

I was all set to start playing RDR2 but…it felt intimidating. It was another long game; I’ve started it twice but never come close to finishing it, and I figured I’d want to start fresh this time, too. Plus I keep thinking Rockstar will release a native Xbox Series X|S/Playstation 5 version.

Then I thought “Hey I have a Playstation 5, maybe I should play something over there!” My PS5 has a 4 GB external drive for old gen games, and of course the internal space for new gen games. Unlike the drive on the Xbox, the PS5 external is quiet so I’m not really driven to get rid of it. In the PS5 ecosystem it’s the internal storage that is really limiting; there’s less than 700 GB of usable space on the PS5. You can now add a second internal SSD but sadly I don’t have a couple hundred bucks laying around to devote to gaming right now. Anyway, it seemed to make the most sense to complete and remove a native PS5 game.

A while back the ‘next gen’ version of Control was a Playstation Plus freebie. I’d played through a part of it before drifting away. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t like games with confusing maps, and Control has a pretty confusing map. (Poster child for this dislike of mine: Star Wars Fallen Order…I bounced off that game mostly because the map was so infuriating.) But I also know Control isn’t a super long game, so I decided to re-learn how to play it. I didn’t even start over! *pats himself on the back*

It is going slowly as I re-learn all the skills my character has and, yes, refamiliarize myself with the layout of game’s world. I’ve been spending lots of time reading the collectibles and stuff, which have a wonderful vibe and are really entertaining. I’m also only playing it late at night after @partpurple goes upstairs so I can put on the headphones because there’re so many creepy whispers and sounds in this game; headphones really improve the experience. (Rule of thumb around our house: the chance of her needing to tell me something spikes the moment I put on headphones! 🙂 )

But wait, that’s not a character from Control at the top of this post? Who is she?

Honestly I don’t remember her name, but she’s from Final Fantasy XIII, one of the more maligned FF games. Turns out I still have Final Fantasy stuck in my craw. FF XIII came out on the Xbox 360 but is covered in Microsoft’s backwards compatibility program. AND it just got the new “FPS boost” treatment where old games get their framerates improved on the Xbox Series consoles. Plus auto-HDR. In all, some Xbox 360 games look really good on the Xbox Series X. I booted up FF XIII and turns out it is definitely one of those games. The next thing I knew, I was playing it.

I have an old save with 30 hours of playtime on it, and one of the things no one likes about FFXIII is how linear it is for the first big chunk of the game (kind of the inverse of FFXV’s problems). Because of this I didn’t want to cast those 30 hours aside. Instead I started a new game with the intent of playing until I’m reacquainted with the characters and the systems, then I’ll jump to my 30 hour save and the open world portion of the game. I’m thinking 5-10 hours on the new save, then we jump ahead to the 30 hour mark.

I wasn’t really planning any of this so I have no screenshots other than…that girl, who I snagged a screenie of just because I couldn’t believe how good an Xbox 360 game was looking. I know my brain knows her name; she’s one of the main characters. I just can’t surface it. All I can remember is Lightning (that’s not Lightning) and Snow.

Anyway so that’s the plan. Double dipping, playing FF XIII in the early evenings, and Control later at night. I’m sure eventually one or the other will grab my complete attention but at least for now I’m keeping myself entertained.

(I also bought the Final Fantasy I Pixel-Remaster on Steam and have been dabbling with that, but so far not playing it very seriously. For me it is old-school enough that it is best enjoyed 15 minutes at a time.)

In other news: I’m taking a break from social media for a while (it gets really depressing seeing how wonderful everyone else’s life seems to be while you’re struggling) and because of that I need an outlet for random yammering; you may see more frequent blog posts that have absolutely no point to them. As someone who works from home full time and rarely leaves the house, I need to talk to SOMEONE even if it is the faceless Internet!