‘Control’ Makes Jesse A God, And Shows ‘Hard Games’ The Way Forward
GAMINGbible's number one game of 2019, Remedy's Control, is a tough nut to crack. It's a beautiful, beguiling thing, where striking supernatural horror collides with mind-bending brutalist environments; and it has a story to make the best episodes of The X-Files come begging, cap in hand, for some of its big ideas. But many players fell away from the game due to what its own makers identified as 'pain points' - areas or encounters that presented such a spike in difficulty that, if not beaten fairly swiftly, became the moment where no further progress at all was made.
When we spoke to Remedy in March, Control's first significant chunk of DLC, The Foundation, was about to release. With it, the Finnish studio added a selection of new tactical options for protagonist Jesse Faden to use as she floats and fights her way around the Oldest House. They added the Shield Rush ability, to encourage reckless players to defend themselves a little more (given it was now also an offensive move), and hopefully push past some of those 'pain points'. Also added was the option to redistribute Jesse's ability points, allowing for a complete rebalancing of the character to better tackle an unexpected situation.
But to coincide with the release of the game's second DLC, the Alan Wake-starring AWE, Remedy has gone further still. Perhaps acknowledging that the final few hours of Control are pretty testing - to be honest, the whole run from former Federal Bureau of Control head of security Salvador, the game's second proper boss (and not an optional one), to its finale can be pretty unforgiving - Remedy has added a suite of accessibility options that should help everyone see Jesse's fascinating story to a close.
And really, I am so here for this approach to opening a genuinely (and sometimes kinda unfairly) punishing game up to the widest possible audience. There will be several readers of these words who've put off Control due to its deserved reputation as a knuckles-whitening experience; but having the choice to, basically, turn Jesse into a superhero places the responsibility for that challenge firmly in their hands, and theirs alone.
Control can now be played how you want it to be: as a tense creep 'em up through the haunted corridors of the FBC, where every single shot has to count; as a maximum-firepower special-effects fest where Jesse steamrolls her way through the Hiss ranks like a magical god; or anywhere in between.
This free update for Control came out at the end of August, but it's only in the past few days that I've been playing around with it, alongside AWE's added missions. I can hold my hands up and admit that I struggled at times with Control, last year - but the destination was always worth the rocky journey to get there. If you want it, there's now the option to turn on aim assist and one-hit kills, and sliders available for the damage Jesse takes, the damage she deals, and the regeneration of her ammo supplies. You can also make Jesse's health replenish on its own, whereas before you needed to collect glowing restorative items spilled from fallen enemies.
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You can even activate an 'immortality' mode, which turns Control into a superhero fantasy where Jesse can absolutely decimate her enemies with almost no fear of failure. The accidental evading of enemy attacks into infinity chasms of doom - of which the Oldest House has its share - still means death; but the update has also added gentler checkpointing, around bosses at least, so you're back in the thick of things pretty quickly.
For AWE, I've gleefully dug into these new options, and played around with making Jesse the baddest of all bad-asses who ever sat their bad ass down in the FBC director's chair. They've completely changed the game - and now I'm at a point where I'm playing for fun and I want to see the story side of things to an end with as few headaches as possible, I've turned up the damage to enemies and made things easier for Jesse (and me) in terms of ammo and health. The result: a riot of colour and sparks, a propulsive all-action experience that feels closer to something PlatinumGames might have made than the OG Control experience.
And that's a good thing. Options are a good thing. Being able to finish the games you've spent your money on is a good thing. Having those games respect your time, your experience and your tolerance for replaying the same encounters several times to get an upgrade is a good thing. At no point does Control say: hey you, you're kind of sucking at this, why not try turning invincibility on? It doesn't judge you for turning the power-ups on - they're just there, if you either need the helping hand to get through an especially tough section, or want to play the game like a Service Weapon-wielding Wonder Woman rocking an expensive suit.
Turn them on, turn them off: it's your call. And by sliding these accessibility options into Control, Remedy have shown the way for other so-called hard games and the makers of them - ahem, FromSoftware - to follow. The debate over whether or not every game needs an 'easy' mode will never go away - but Control's array of adjustable options is an elegant solution that should appeal to everyone, from masochists who can't get enough of seeing the same checkpoint a dozen times and more, to those who've only got 40 minutes to make some headway of an evening, and really want to reach the next significant story beat. Or, of course, to anyone who simply wants to be a god for a while. It's all good.
Featured Image Credit: Remedy Entertainment, 505 Games