My time with Control was an enjoyable one. Remedy’s latest title nailed it on the presentation aspect. Cinematic shots that capture the ever-cryptic and tense atmosphere at every frame; a building that’s literally evolving in real time; Jesse Faden’s ability to turn practically anything into a weapon to impale or crush Hiss-controlled beings in style; Control is a visual spectacle. This presentation of the base game extended to The Foundation expansion which expanded on the lore of the Federal Bureau of Control. Having recently played through the latest DLC, AWE, I was pleased to experience similar feelings again but with a new tone.
Indeed, with AWE, Remedy accentuated the thriller and horror elements in the Oldest House. Poorly-lit areas; a new mechanic requiring a flashlight to progress; chilling boss fights in pitch-black spaces forcing Jesse to run for her life to the next beacon of light; AWE feels different without feeling alien altogether. But this change was somewhat expected as with AWE, Remedy introduces its very own multiverse, with Alan Wake making a cameo in this DLC. While he was referenced in the base game, he makes a full appearance in the latest expansion; and is actually the one sending Jesse on this new Altered World Events (AWE) mission. Via an apparition, he hints at the Director that something is, as expected, off in the Bureau; more specifically, in the Department of Investigation. That's where we come across another character from Remedy’s previous game: Dr. Hartman.
As the main antagonist in AWE, Dr. Hartman, or more what he became, is actually the element that pushes the game most towards the survival horror genre. Impervious to regular attacks, Dr. Hartman dwells in darkness, can teleport in such environments and gains his strength from it. The only way to defeat him is with light, lots of light. As such, when confronting Dr. Hartman, Jesse will have to dash across dark areas to wherever there’s light where Dr. Hartman can’t reach her and try to find the switches/power cores needed to light up the area.
Despite the Director possessing otherworldly powers and having defeated countless of otherworldly apparitions, this was the first time I felt that she was powerless. Jesse's only option against Dr. Hartman is to flood the room she's stuck in with light. Her powers surely help in that but in the dark, where Dr. Hartman can appear at any time, if she isn’t quickly rushing for a lighted spot, it’s quickly game over. Dr. Hartman is not quite Nemesis as you’ll only encounter him in specific areas and not as often, but the threat is there and the practical lack of any defense against him is felt whenever you do face him.
During its roughly 4 hours of play time, you will come across familiar aspects of Control in AWE like the Oceanview Motel and side quests from Ahti. However, don’t come across any new Object of Power to unlock new psychic abilities. Rather, the new gameplay feature is the flashlight mentioned before that’s introduced early on and needed to clear off some goo-like substance impeding your progress. Additionally, if you were thinking of playing as Alan Wake, I’ll have to disappoint as you don’t get this possibility. He makes cameos through visions and that’s about it.
Just like the base game and the first DLC, the plot of AWE felt cryptic and vague for the most part; and I often felt disoriented especially when coming back from the Motel. Despite the perpetual original and stellar presentation, I fault Control’s base game and two expansions with this general vagueness in its plot progression that feels lacking even after the credits roll. While AWE is the last expansion for Control, it does conclude with a warning from Alan Wake, hinting that there’s more to come in the Remedy-verse. Maybe what’s next in this multiverse will be less vague, but I’m already looking forward to it.