It’s rare that a game grabs you from the very first moment, but Control does it. As soon as Jesse Faden steps into the impossible Federal Bureau of Control’s headquarters, it hooks you. There’s nothing about this weird, empty, yet completely full lobby that you don’t want to know more about. It demands that you know more.
As fun as it is throwing entire walls at mobs of enemies, the world Remedy builds in this game is incomprehensibly good. Every piece of new information is enthralling on its own, but it also works within a grander mythos that, even as more and more answers are given, manages to only ever be more fascinating rather than disappointing. (Imagine, if you will, that the monster reveal in Cloverfield was actually worthwhile.)
The worldbuilding is both over-the-top and fully committed, a necessity to make any of this work. The idea that the FBC remains hidden because it’s located in a building that only can be found if you are looking for it is fairly rote paranormal nonsense, but the way it is presented is perfect. It feels like the best kind of obvious, like of course this is true. This is the only way this could exist, and it definitely exists.
It even manages to make redactions fascinating. (Like if JJ Abrams learned what mysteries are worth holding onto and which ones to let go.) There’s one called “Pinstripe World” in the Correspondence section that just repeats the phrase “I’m in a plaid suit in a pinstripe world” over and over again. But right smack dab in the middle, there’s a sentence blacked out. What could it possibly say. What could it possibly reference that makes it dangerous to know. What is it?! JUST TELL ME IF IT SAYS I’M A PLAID SUIT IN A PINSTRIPE WORLD ALREADY.
The game does this incredible trick, too, with its trickle of information. So many times do you read about an Object of Power like a mailbox or bleeding safe, building this irrational sense of fear and intrigue for this bauble that you’ve never seen. But then all of a sudden, just sitting in front of you as if it were any other thing, is that exact OOP. And it never fails to land with the full weight of a naval battleship right on your chest. How fucked are you if this thing has fucked everything else it has ever encountered.
Captivating doesn’t even begin to describe it, not least of all because of the slowly simmering but undeniable, capital-S Styyyyyyyle. There’s not a single shot of this game that isn’t worth saving. Even the simple font treatment you get when you enter a new area is unbelievably invigorating. It is peak aesthetic and just might be the best looking game of the year or any recent year.
While the gameplay may fall into the tedious territory toward the back half, the completely insane world is worth holding onto. The bonkers musical moment in the Ashtray Maze is a sequence for the ages. Just the simple phrase “The Oldest House” is worth dissecting for its efficiency in creating an atmosphere. And then, of course, there’s Dr. Casper Darling, the only character to truly matter in any media of this entire year. Baby Yoda can get fucked.
I have not stopped thinking about Control since I started it and I hope I never do. It does something primal to you, and you should want that.