Have a Nice Trip
Control is one of those games that I saw revealed at E3 and though “Wow, that looks awesome!” but then never saw anything from again.
I saw it start cropping up on r/trophies shortly after it’s release and many people’s impressions of the game were a little dry, leading me to believe the game was just… okay.
I picked it up second-hand one day and brought it home to play. I played it for around 2 hours, moved some stuff with my mind, blew up some desks, sat in awe at the physics and destructibles, got lost in the labyrinthine hospital-like environment of the Executive Sector and then just… stopped playing.
I picked it up a couple of times after that, each time being wowed by the phenomenal art direction in the game, the use of contrast and lighting and the unexpected, but then I’d just stop playing and go play something else. It was hard to stay invested and it just kept getting harder because everytime I came back to the game I’d forgotten where I was, what I needed to do, how to upgrade, what control points do, etc.
So, last weekend, I gave myself a good shake and sat down to play it properly, to get into it, to enjoy it, to – ultimately – plat it.
I cannot stress just how much I loved every damn second of it. It even got a spot in my Top 10 games. The last 5 hours of the game in particular were spectacular, being thrown into wildly varying environments, getting deeply enraptured by the complex story, going through some of the trippiest and exciting sequences I’ve ever experienced in gaming, and putting myself through some very tough and satisfying boss fights.
The “Ashtray Maze” in particular is one of the coolest 5-minute stints of gaming I’ve ever enjoyed, and it was incredible – look out for it!
My only regret is not realising there was a photo mode until right near the end of the game, because I lost so many great opportunities for phenomenal photos. The first time I entered “Central Executive” in the Executive Sector, for example.
So, enough dry-humping this game, let me tell you about it.
The World of Control
You play as a character known as… hang on… uhh… I’ve genuinely forgotten. That’s not a good sign right? I mean I spent like 15 hours on the game in one weekend how could I ha— JESSE! Jesse Faden.
I don’t want to give away too much story, so in the interest of keeping it vague; Jesse was involved in an incident with her brother Dylan when she was a kid. This incident involves the Federal Bureau of Control, the FBC. So, she goes there for some answers and just happens to turn up and find the Director of the FBC dead.
She takes his service weapon which somehow means she’s now the Director of the FBC and everybody she meets just kind of accepts that, even if she refuses to.
You come to find out that the FBC has been overrun by an extra-dimensional force which Jesse calls “The Hiss”. Something to do with the sound of gas escaping?
The Hiss can take over the minds of others unless they’re wearing a HRA. I forget what that stands for but basically it negates the frequency which the Hiss uses to take over someone’s mind.
Let me stop myself here for a second for a little disclaimer. The game’s story is very confusing, intentionally constructed to mess with your head, there are a lot of concepts in the story which make no sense but the idea is to let go of your perception of reality, because reality doesn’t mean a whole lot in the FBC and all the people you meet and speak to have accepted this, which makes it harder to understand what’s going on.
Due to this, and me taking long extended hiatuses from playing the game, I’m not a huge expert on the story and a lot of what I’m saying about the story could be wrong. But I think it’s important to give you my impressions of the story, rather than reeling off whatever I’ve gone and read from fandom wiki.
Carrying on; The FBC seems to explore matters of extra-dimensional or conceptual nature, so you’ll often find yourself in a situation where anyone would lose their mind and start shouting about how crazy the thing in-front of them is… But everyone is so used to seeing this crazy effed-up nonsense that they just nonchalantly accept it, and honestly, it’s part of the endearing charm the game has.
There are a few major “factions” (for lack of a better word) in the game. The Federal Bureau of Control are managed by their “Director” but seem to just go about their own business as part of their assigned team.
There’s Executive – in charge of… Running the place, I guess? They’re just suits at desks scanning copies from what I can tell.
Research – scientists and leading minds in charge of understanding the complex web of senselessness in the world.
Maintenance – They keep the place running, keep the lights on as it were.
Containment – This is what it sounds like, they contain things… The containment sector is like a prison, but not for people… But it’s not like a warehouse, either, it’s genuinely a prison for things.
The Board – The Bureau’s director is given orders from the “Board”. Who as far as anyone can seem to tell are just a large, black, upside-down pyramid. They exist in a metaphysical realm which can only be accessed inside one’s own mind, a realm consisting of thoughts.
I don’t get it, honestly, but the way they talk is cool. They don’t use words, apparently, they just make noise and Jesse can somehow understand it. The way they show this is by having some words have multiple meanings. Like if you were to translate “Une Feuille” from french, it could either mean “A Sheet of Paper” or “A Leaf”, depending on the context. So, when the Board’s instructions are being translated to you, each word’s possible meanings are displayed too. So, with that same example, the board might say “< I/We picked up the leaf/sheet of paper>.”
It’s just a small touch but I love it so much, it’s a very clever way of showing that you’re communicating with something inhuman with a language so dramatically different from your own that it’s impossible to translate directly. It sure as heck beats the old “Universal Translator” trope.
Moving on, there is also, obviously, the Hiss. Their presence is indicated by harsh red light – nothing says evil like lots of red, after all. Their intentions seem pretty unclear, but like any villain they appear to just want to dominate. To integrate themselves into the physical world by taking over the minds of the general population and take over the world. It’s like a disease that affects the mind.
Affected individuals will begin floating in the air and chanting the same few lines of dialogue over and over. Something about an orange peel and being a clone… Very eerie stuff though, when you enter an atrium and the room is peppered with floating people talking in their sleep.
The Hiss seems to be pretty selective, however, for if the affected individual has any combat training or weaponry they’re used as foot soldiers instead of human PA systems spreading the hiss Mantra. Some of these enemies are enhanced with the Hiss’ metaphysical abilities, allowing them to float, shield themselves or use telekinesis and more.
The Jedi to this Sith is Polaris, a metaphysical being of good who lives in Jesse’s mind. Or at least she talks to them in her mind? Polaris is one of the biggest mysteries of the game so if I did understand them well enough to explain then I probably wouldn’t tell you here! The main thing to know is that Polaris’ presence is what protects Jesse from the influence of the Hiss, so she doesn’t need a HRA and has a few nifty powers.
Now, the FBC is a complex place which has been investigating strange things in “The Oldest House” for a very long time, so the Hiss aren’t the only problem, they’re a byproduct of what the FBC already does.
In the simplest way I could possibly explain it, they just investigate unnatural occurrences, often manifested in “Objects of Power”. The service weapon, for one, is an object of power, but the whole building is full of these OoPs and some of them are really, really cool. My favourites, which lead to some very cool sequences, are the Mirror and the TV.
They’re just ordinary objects which have a mind of their own, so to speak, and Jesse needs to cleanse them to prevent them wreaking havoc and mischief throughout the FBC, this will typically lead to a new power too!
Objects of Power are just “Altered Items”, which you’ll see a lot in the game, but the difference here is that an Object of power can bestow power upon Jesse if she cleanses it by binding herself with it. Altered items cannot bestow power but are mischievous
I briefly skim-read something in-game that said Altered Items are more likely to occur in instances of conspiracy or paranormal suspicion. For example, if enough people become afraid of an object or place in suspicion of it being haunted, then that belief manifests itself . It’s all about the astral plane being connected to the real world through the minds of people and so I hypothesise that believing in something strongly enough can open a metaphysical gateway through which the astral plane can actually imbue powers upon ordinary objects… Again, I’m just interpolating and the game’s lore is purposefully hard to understand.
Most of the fun there is to be had in the game comes from Altered items. That prison I mentioned earlier which isn’t for humans? Yeah, it’s for altered items. They all have their own quirks and abilities and it’s really just interesting when you find a collectible with a bit of info about one and you can read about the problems it’s caused and what it can do (although some of it is redacted in true governmental fashion).
There’s even a great side-quest line for returning some to their cells, definitely worth playing through for some really fun (and some really frustrating) sequences!
Lastly, there’s also the matter of the mold. Occasionally you’ll find some rooms full of mold and fungi, and maybe even some extremely -the-last-of-us-cordyceps-looking enemies. These have nothing to do with the main story. It’s just one of the many things the bureau is dealing with, and you can find out all about it in a fairly well-fleshed-out sidequest line for a very dismissive Mary Poppins in a lab coat.
Control is, at its core, a Metroidvania game. You have a large free-roam building with various areas locked off from you, so a lot of backtracking and collecting items/power ups is necessary to proceed. Other similarities include solely collecting health pickups from enemies and saving only at certain “Control Points”.
Enemy encounters are somewhat random. Where its not part of the story to fight a group of enemies, there’s a chance that most open mediums-to-large areas will suddenly become filled with red light and enemies will drop down into the room, guns-a-blazing.
There are many ways to dispatch enemies, the Service weapon being the main one. The Service weapon has a few different forms which change its functionality, such as “Shatter” which makes the pistol behave like a Shotgun, or my personal favourite “Pierce” which makes it act like a Sniper Rifle and does a lot of damage following a small charging period.
You also have access to Jesse’s telekinetic abilities, most of which you need to unlock from an Object of Power. The first of these is a melee attack which I guarantee you will spend a lot of time using on Desks just to see all the destructibles and particle effects flying up into the air. Another one you will use a whole lot is “Launch” allowing you to telekinetically pick up and throw loose items in the area. If there are no items to pick up, Jesse will rip out part of the floor or a nearby wall which is an excellent little touch, and leaves you unreliant on your environment in most cases.
All of the abilities are upgradeable. By the end of the game I almost exclusively used launch as I could pick up huge objects and do massive damage by throwing them at a crowd, but some enemies can dodge launch attacks and in those cases I used Pierce to pick them off.
Navigating in the game is a little frustrating. You have a top-down map which shows you the floor plan but connecting rooms are hard to find and there’s no sense of depth so you have no idea if the room you are looking for is above or below you. To help get around this, the game has green hospital-like signage around the building which uses totally unhelpful arrows in an attempt to point you in the right direction. Just for you to find out that the signage is pointing toward a blocked-off area which you can’t access yet and you need to find another way through.
I’m not going to lie, my first 8-10 hours of Control were spent being totally and utterly lost. I had an awful lot of collectibles quite early in the game because I just kept stumbling across them while trying to navigate the Oldest House’s labyrinthine interior. Your quest marker doesn’t even point you to the quest, just to the sector that it’s in, so once you finally find the sector you still spend plenty of time looking around trying to find the task.
In all honesty though it’s kind of a good thing. By the end of the game, when I was required to go to quite a few far-between locations and had a decent enough knowledge of my surroundings to make really quick progress.
Upgrade points are unlocked by completing story missions and side-quests, so the more you explore and complete side-quests, the stronger you can become for the main story – which is good, because some of the bosses are really tough and you’ll need all the help you can get.
Side-quests are typically based around the tasks of each sector’s leader – such as maintenance jobs for the finnish Janitor who has you unclogging pipes and cleaning up mold – which as you can imagine turn into trippy and bizarre experiences.
Levelling up can improve your health, telekinetic energy and ability effectiveness and is well worth doing. You can also use items collected from enemies to upgrade the Service weapon, adding new forms, improving forms and adding mod slots. Each gun form has up to 3 mod slots, and so does Jesse. You can use mods such as “Health Boost” to increase your health bar, or “Ammo Efficiency” to make the Service Weapon use less ammo per shot.
All of these things combined give you a high level of customizability to really fine-tune Jesse to suit your play style. For example, I’m an all-offense, no-defense kind of impatient gamer, so I loaded Jesse up with health boosts, upgraded pierce to max and then slapped it full of damage upgrades so I could just tear through enemies without a care in the world.
My Control Platinum Experience
Getting the game’s platinum is really quite simple. There are a few optional and very tricky boss fights, but with a decent amount of upgrades and some perseverance I saw my way through fairly easy.
As I said before, my biggest problem with progressing through the game was trying to find my way through the enormous map. Like, seriously, just as soon as you think you’ve found your way around the damn place it gets bigger and more confusing.
It was kind of cool being lost though, it added to the feeling of being disconnected from reality, and the norm, instead you’re trying to find your way around corridors that twist and warp right in-front of you or figure out if you can reach the hidden area you can see across a gap. There’s certainly plenty to discover, and there are collectibles dotted around everywhere, everything from creepy af vhs tapes of a puppet show to files about quirky Altered items causing mischief within the bureau and they’re all interesting and world-building in their own way.
Getting the game’s platinum requires nothing much more than completing all main and side missions and then maxing out your character and getting a few collectibles. The collectible trophies are extremely, beautifully lenient in that the number of collectibles you need are just a small fraction of what’s actually available, and if you get lost as much as I did then you’d have a harder time not finding collectibles.
Completing side-quests is just a matter of ensuring you get all of the quests from NPCs and then complete them, none of them are really all that tricky except for a couple of tough boss fights, and if you upgrade yourself enough in preparation you shouldn’t have too much trouble. I highly recommend you upgrade Jesse as much as physically possible ahead of attempting the “Old Growth” questline, because the boss is extremely difficult but laughably easy once you’re sufficiently levelled. I had around 4 upgrades left to purchase when I finally took it on and it was a breeze.
The only really tough trophy in the game is this one:
Unlock 100% of the Ability Upgrades
It’s tricky because after you’ve completed all Missions and Side-Quests you will not have enough Ability points to buy the rest of the upgrades. You need to get a few bonus Ability points from finding hidden areas. You get one for each hidden area you discover.
You’ll probably find most of them throughout natural gameplay, getting lost and trying to find your way around, but it can be quite time-consuming to find more. I think I needed about 5 more once I was done, but there’s a certain ability which makes exploration much easier so finding hidden areas mostly just means going to a big area and using said ability to see what you can find. That ability is:
Levitation! It’s so effing dope, you guys! Just find a nice big hub area and like Central Research and then see what you can reach using your levitation abilities.
Other trophies include beating side-quest bosses, using certain abilities a certain number of times and completing “Board countermeasures”.
Board countermeasures are small tasks, such as “Kill 25 enemies in the Research Sector”, which will reward you with items useful for upgrading your weapons and buying mods. There’s a trophy to complete 25 of these:
Complete 25 Board Countermeasures
They can be quite tricky, some requiring you to use a weapon you wouldn’t always use or killing a certain enemy type a few times in a specific area of the map, but the harder the countermeasure the better your reward.
I, unfortunately, totally forgot about these until I was only a couple of trophies away from the platinum, and I had to spend a good hour or so farming them. At that point I obviously wasn’t bothered about the rewards they would give me, so I would just look for the easiest ones (you can hold 3 at once) and then go complete them.
Something like “Kill 25 enemies in maintenance”, “Kill 5 enemies with melee” and “Kill 5 enemies with Shatter”. Then I could just go to maintenance and do those all in one run and then come back for 3 more.
If there are no easy countermeasures you can actually sort of refresh the list by accepting a mission and then abandoning it, you’ll obviously miss out on the potential reward, but the abandoned countermeasure will be replaced with a new one. Repeat this until you have 3 easy countermeasures and then head out to get them!
This shouldn’t really be necessary though so long as you complete them as you play through the game, rather than all at the end like I did.
The only other trophy which was really a nuisance is this one:
Complete 5 Bureau Alerts
These missions pop up totally at random, and they have a timer. So you could be progressing with the story in the research sector when suddenly you’re called down to maintenance to aid a group of allies in pushing back the hiss, and you have 20 minutes to get there and finish the mission.
They’re not hard, it’s just a bit annoying that you’ll be asked to go somewhere totally out of the way while you’re in the middle of something.
I recommend you do all 5 of these as soon as you can so that you can proceed to ignore them once you have the trophy, and play through the game at your own pace.
That about sums up my experience in the game and hopefully gives you a good heads up for your platinum. The game really is an easy one to platinum and it’s such a great game that it’s totally worth putting in the hours for it too.
I have a few more random images I just want to share so check those out below: