Control Part 1: A Nice Surprise

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 10, 2019

Filed under: Retrospectives 110 comments

I should make it clear up front that this isn’t one of my long-form reviews that analyzes the entire plot of a game. This is just a short (by the standards of this site) and spoiler-free review. It’s just three entries long, and you can read all of them without worrying that I’m going to reveal any of the game’s big mysteries or plot-points. These articles will actually reveal less about the story than the trailer.

Over the years I’ve found quite a few games where I was into the gameplay but didn’t like the story. So it’s really surprising when I run into a game that reverses this. Control’s world constantly fascinated me and the story had me hooked from the first few minutes. That’s good, because if I didn’t love the world so much then I never would have put up with this combat.

Let’s start with the good stuff.

The Premise, and Why I Love it

The FBC building doesn't always look like it was run through a Minecraft filter. The building has just been... acting up lately.
The FBC building doesn't always look like it was run through a Minecraft filter. The building has just been... acting up lately.

Previously I said I loved the “story” of Control, but I think it would be more correct to say that I love the worldbuilding and the overall mood and style of the game. The stuff that hooked me wasn’t so much the central plot itself, but the gradual reveal of this strange world and all its eccentricities.

The characters and their stories are fine, but this isn’t really about them. You’re not going to have any intense melodrama or gut-punch character moments like Life is Strange, Walking Dead Season 1 or Last of Us. The story is mostly a framework to keep you moving forward in anticipation of the next reveal. It works, but the world is the real star of this show.

Take the premise and vibe of your typical Cthulhu story where Old Gods and Unknowable Powers are always trying to creep into our reality and wipe us out / devour us / drive us mad / annihilate our plane of existence. Humanity is hilariously outmatched, always confronting powers and forces beyond their comprehension, and always just barely hanging on. Now take that familiar setting, rip it out of its Victorian framing, and place it in the modern day. There’s a  government agency in charge of keeping a lid on this sort of thing. It’s part Men in Black, part X-Files, with maybe a dash of the BPRD from HellboyI’ve also been told it borrows heavily from SCP Foundation, but I wasn’t familiar with that work until after I’d played the game.. The Federal Bureau of Control is an ultra-clandestine organization that operates out of a supernaturally obscured building that you can only find if you’re already looking for it.

You play as Jesse Faden, a civilian who visits the FBC for reasons of her own, but finds herself roped into solving a large-scale breach. Agents have been possessed by some mysterious force called the Hiss, and Jesse’s (initially unexplained) super powers grant her some kind of immunity.

The world is packed with details. The bureau has a history that goes back decades, which makes the world feel genuine and lived-in. A great deal of thought was put into how the world works, how the various supernatural events manifest, how society deals with them, and how the people within the bureau react to their outlandish jobs. One of my favorite bits was finding and reading the many case reports scattered around the gameworld that hint at all these other cool adventures and interesting agents of the past. You get the sense that Jesse’s story, while larger scale than many, isn’t the first adventure to happen inside this building and this is just one of many stories you could tell in this world.

One of my favorite details is that modern computers and smart devices act as magnets for paranormal forces, which means nothing modern is allowed inside the building. So this modern-day government building has this strange timeless quality to it due to the mismash of technologies it employs from different eras.

NERD!
NERD!

Above I downplayed the importance of the characters, but I want to stop and draw attention to the one standout in the cast. Dr. Casper Darling is the head researcher at the FBC. His scenes take the form of live-action videos you find scattered around the gameworld. Watching the videos, I couldn’t escape the notion that Dr. Darling was having almost as much fun as the actor who portrayed him. Darling is made of pure charisma and all of his scenes are charming. Most of the laughs in the game are thanks to his antics.

Also by the Author

Reminder: I did not care for this game.
Reminder: I did not care for this game.

Control was written by Sam Lake. His style is incredibly distinct. He likes worldbuilding, he likes dark moody stories, and he loves creating fictional media to go in his world. He doesn’t just imagine TV shows and radio programs that exist within his world, he likes to actually produce example episodes for the player to encounter. All of his games mix in some form of live-action images or footage.

Lake wrote the first two Max Payne games. The first is a classic. I know I liked the second entry in the series, but I don’t remember it vividly as the first. Next Lake wrote the Stephen King / Twin Peaks mixtape Alan Wake, and that’s where I kind of turned on him. Alan Wake drove me absolutely crazy. I went in expecting the game to live up to the spooky subject matter suggested by its premise and world, but instead I found it plodding, self-indulgent, tonally confused, and way too proud of its many references and influences.

Lake’s next project was Quantum Break, which I skipped. It was a cross-media project and the gameplay stopped at points to switch to live-action television episodes. That’s an interesting experiment, but it really didn’t sound like something I’d dig.

So I was curious going into Control if we were going to get something brilliant like Max Payne, or something off-kilter like Alan Wake. As it turns out, we got a little of both and it seems to be a pretty good mix. This isn’t a return to the overblown action Noir of Max Payne, but the supernatural stuff allows for some pretty wild visuals and ideas. Control feels like another swing at some of the spooky ideas Lake was messing with in Alan Wake. Except this time he nailed the tone and created a world I really wanted to explore. You can see the similarities between the two worksThe events of Alan Wake are even explicitly referenced in Control, with a single found-item bureau report briefly discussing his adventure., with their references to spooky stories, paranormal shenanigans, and overnight talk radio. But when compared to Alan Wake, the world of Control seems like a much better canvas for the types of games developer Remedy likes to make.

These two aren't the most vibrant characters I've ever met in a video game, but at least they're likable.
These two aren't the most vibrant characters I've ever met in a video game, but at least they're likable.

I can get behind a paranormal agent running around a haunted building and getting into gunfights with possessed security guards, but the idea of Joe Novelist running around the woods gunning down haunted rednecks was just too goofy for me. It’s like watching author Stephen King get in a movie shootout. The inherent absurdity overpowers any intended spookiness on the part of the author. I thought Alan Wake (the character) was a dick. I’m pretty sure that was intentional – which means that part of the story was working as intended – but it means I never really cared about his absurd redneck hunting expeditions. For contrast, I think Control‘s protagonist Jesse Faden is a lot more relatable. She’s not as instantly lovable as undercover narcotics officer Max Payne the self-narrating murder mope, but I cared enough about her to see the story through.

Still, playing Control sort of gave me a glimpse of what Lake was probably trying to do with Alan Wake. It doesn’t make me want to play Alan Wake again, but I do retroactively have more respect for the game.

The Oldest House

Damn it, when are those slackers in custodial services going to fix this?
Damn it, when are those slackers in custodial services going to fix this?

The world of Control is wonderfully realized. Offices are brimming with detail and authenticity. It doesn’t pester me with the constant fake and video gamey feel I get from shooters set in modern settings. You don’t walk into a room and see a bunch of overturned vending machines and nondescript boxes arranged for a standard cover-shooter encounter.

I’m a sucker for games that make allowances for the needs of gameplay in their story, and Control does a lot of that sort of thing. It explains why the FBC building – called The Oldest House – is sometimes complicated to navigate and why the floor plan doesn’t follow traditional institutional templatesThe Oldest House is  a strange thing with a life of its own, and walls shift according to designs that are mysterious even to the people who work there. This also explains how all the lovely environmental damage gets fixed / cleaned up. The building evidently heals itself over time.. There’s an explanation for why loot is stored in boxes for you around the levelsThese boxes are actually containment devices for holding artifacts that are dangerous to normal people. Stuff has a way of going missing in the FBC building, and if someone finds a dangerous object they drop it in one of these boxes. It’s like a sharps container for paranormal objects.. There’s an explanation for why we can’t just call in the army to deal with this massive threatLike, why would the army even DO, aside from get possesed? These special agents are just barely holding on. and why you can’t just solve this problem with a bazookaYou ALREADY have the best weapon in the building, in the form of a supernatural meta-gun with infinite ammo that only you can wield. A bazooka would be a huge downgrade.. There’s an explanation for how the place is funded, why the public never finds out about it, how the bureau is run, and dozens of other amusing little details. A story doesn’t need to do this sort of thing, but I enjoy the attention to detail and the work that goes into making a world that can stand up to a little scrutiny.

Every room looks plausibly like a real space, and when the fights break out they take their toll on the place. Furniture shatters, paper scatters, glass breaks, pillars crumble, and office supplies are knocked far and wide. It feels like fights take their toll on The Oldest House, and as the gameplay ramps up the destruction continues to escalateAlthough areas “heal” when you leave. Again, easily explained by this living building..

The soundscape is captivating, from the mournful atonal background noise, to the eerie chanting of the possessed, to the threatening drone of Hiss-infected areas, The Oldest House evokes a wonderful sense of place and mystery.

Altered Items

Also, you can't take it because that's MY stapler / altered item.
Also, you can't take it because that's MY stapler / altered item.

Here is an example of the fun ideas this game is toying with: At one point you encounter one of the many videos that FBC research scientist Dr. Darling has recorded. It’s not really related to the plot, he’s just explaining how things work for new recruits. I don’t want to transcribe his scatter-brained dialog, so here’s my synopsis:

An altered item is any object that’s begun to exhibit paranormalCalled paranatural in the game. Potato, potahto. properties. These properties can range from a nuisance (a noise or disruptive movement) to dangerous (it might blind you, confuse you, injure you, kill you, or drive you insane) and it’s not always obvious what the properties are at first glance, which means altered objects are treated the way we would treat nuclear or biological waste: Very, very carefully.

This typically happens to archetypal objects. That is, it happens to objects that humans think about and attach meaning to. A door jamb, a hinge, or a latch are unlikely altered objects. But a door, or the door knob are likely, because they’re more familiar or iconic. A clock would work, but probably not gears. Ductwork no, but possibly a window air conditioner. Ice cubes might work, but probably not a random hunk of ice. A briefcase is likely, but a plain wooden box of the same size is not. The game doesn’t mention it, but I notice all altered objects were man-made. No flowers or tree stumps or beehives. I don’t know if this is important, but I thought it was interesting.

Look at all this detail. Nothing looks like copy/paste. Different desks with different clutter and different KINDS of clutter make the space feel so real. Also, all of this stuff can blasted around the room during combat, which is wonderful fun.
Look at all this detail. Nothing looks like copy/paste. Different desks with different clutter and different KINDS of clutter make the space feel so real. Also, all of this stuff can blasted around the room during combat, which is wonderful fun.

This means that humans have an effect on what objects can become altered objects. Supernatural items are somehow shaped by human language and culture. A clothes wringer would be incredibly archetypical to someone from the first half of the 20th century, but it would be almost unrecognizable to people today. It certainly wouldn’t be “iconic” in the way a drip coffee maker or a stapler are.

That’s a fascinating idea to play with. Of course, this has always been true in fiction. In movies we have haunted houses, baby dolls, weapons, paintings, and lots of other stuff, but you don’t typically have a haunted throw rugs. Writers do this because it makes the haunted item more interesting. Sam Lake took these rules of paranormal fiction and made it an explicit system within the world. People in the FBC are aware of these rules and they use them to guide their procedures and investigations, even if they don’t know why the rules are true.

This is such a fun idea, and it’s one of countless such ideas scattered through Control’s sprawling haunted government building.

In the next entry I’ll get into my problems with the game.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I’ve also been told it borrows heavily from SCP Foundation, but I wasn’t familiar with that work until after I’d played the game.

[2] The events of Alan Wake are even explicitly referenced in Control, with a single found-item bureau report briefly discussing his adventure.

[3] The Oldest House is  a strange thing with a life of its own, and walls shift according to designs that are mysterious even to the people who work there. This also explains how all the lovely environmental damage gets fixed / cleaned up. The building evidently heals itself over time.

[4] These boxes are actually containment devices for holding artifacts that are dangerous to normal people. Stuff has a way of going missing in the FBC building, and if someone finds a dangerous object they drop it in one of these boxes. It’s like a sharps container for paranormal objects.

[5] Like, why would the army even DO, aside from get possesed? These special agents are just barely holding on.

[6] You ALREADY have the best weapon in the building, in the form of a supernatural meta-gun with infinite ammo that only you can wield. A bazooka would be a huge downgrade.

[7] Although areas “heal” when you leave. Again, easily explained by this living building.

[8] Called paranatural in the game. Potato, potahto.



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110 thoughts on “Control Part 1: A Nice Surprise

  1. Mattias42 says:

    I adore Alan Wake myself… but I do find it fascinating how viscerally people either connect with it, or are utterly repulsed by it. Seems to be very few people out there that have mixed feelings on that game.

    Even so, glad to hear Control is getting some more generally positive reactions so far. It isn’t perfect either, by any means, but the world it creates is fascinating in its own right.

    Also, that brutalism! Using that type of architectural style for a horror game was just downright brilliant. It’s a style I find striking and pretty in its own way myself, but considering it’s been used by actual real-life dictator to make people feel small & weak, it just makes so~ much sense in a ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ type way for a horror setting with heavy bureaucratic themes.

    1. Redrock says:

      I adore Alan Wake myself… but I do find it fascinating how viscerally people either connect with it, or are utterly repulsed by it. Seems to be very few people out there that have mixed feelings on that game.

      Same. I love Alan Wake, to the point that one of my main gripes with Quantum Break was that that game existed instead of Alan Wake 3. That said, you need to be both a Remedy fan and a Stephen King fan to enjoy it, I think. You need to have a tolerance for narration, self-absorbed meta-commentary and the sometimes icky self-aggrandizing praise of writers and the mere act of writing. I can see how a lot of people can get turned off.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        Think the mete-horror slash meta-story-manipulation thing is the main one, honestly.

        If you like that sort of stuff, it’s tense as hell. You’re constantly looking for those pages, and dreading every word coming true. Wondering just how Alan is going to walk the tightrope of writing a good ending, and one just bleak enough the ‘story’ will actually accept it happening.

        Like that one with: ‘And that’s when I heard the chainsaw.’ That one made me outright paranoid for nearly an entire chapter.

        If you DON’T like that sort of stuff… well, the game keeps spoiling itself, in a way. Ruining its own surprises. There’s no tension left because you know, even if only in part, what is about to happen.

        Don’t think that sort of view of it is wrong, by any means, but it does mean that this type of writing by its very nature becomes ‘love it or hate it,’ simply by how the gamer/reader/whatever feels about that sort of style of story.

        1. Hector says:

          I’m another Alan Wake fan, both the gameplay and story/characters. The key is that both aspects of the game develop as it goes on. Too many games end up doing the same thing all the way through. AW really changed things up as you go. And I found the characters realistically flawed and human, but not just bad. Plus the fact that the entire plot us kind if a mind-screw appeals to me.

          FWIW, I’ve never read Steven King, except for the Running Man.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            My favourite bit is when it gets really weird with cause and effect, you know, who wrote who and caused what, you can take that to some interesting places if you go down that rabbit hole. I also generally like the characters. But gameplaywise I think there were a bit too many forests and the gameplay would have benefitted from having a few enemies that keep stalking you that you’d deal with or escape from at the end of a given level rather than the crowds that constantly keep rushing you, maybe make one level with mass posession once the dark presence is strong enough.

            1. Hector says:

              I will agree that the enemy design (in the technical, not artistic sense) was a little lacking. Good but unecessarily limited gameplay is something of a recurring theme with Sam Lake’s work. I do note many professional reviewers got tired of Control just on that aspect.

        2. Modran says:

          Oooh, I remember that chainsaw one !

          And then there was the one about the Anderson brothers in the hospital: “Tor grinned madly and shouted: “My hammer’s up! Here’s a friendly poke from Mjöllnir, wench!”

          He brought the hammer down with all the might on Sinclair’s head. “We’re on a comeback tour, baby!”

          Then you meet Tor, and his hammer is a squeaky toy. I laughed, imagining the above line with the squeaky Mjöllnir.

          And then later, they escape and he finds his real hammer…

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I might repost it in the next post cause I don’t know how many people in the thread will still check here but apparently it is likely one of the Control expansions may be focused on Alan Wake post the Alan Wake game. Not as good as an actual sequel but always something, eh?

    2. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Yeah I bounced hard off Alan Wake. I was extremely disappointed, having been a big Max Payne fan.

    3. Matt says:

      I enjoyed Alan Wake, but I didn’t feel especially attached to the characters or story. I just loved Bright Falls! It was isolated and very comfy, but also quite creepy at the same time. Someday, I’d love to use it as the setting for a proper horror RPG.

  2. tmtvl says:

    Cthulhu isn’t really Victorian, though, it’s based in the interbellum during the ’20s – ’30s.

    1. Kincajou says:

      I think it’s worth noting that it’s the “American interbellum” for Cthulhu.
      I hit this realisation lately as i have been working on a character for a de profundis game set in Europe and… well, to put it mildly society was a mess!

      Between the rise of fascism & Nazism, the massive amount of WW1 veterans (and how the vestiges of WW1 affected the european society) , impending economic collapse…. there isn’t that much space to play around in where you can just say “oh we’ll have a weird adventure”. Any sort of possible “carelessness” (that is to say, being able to play without having to reference the major societal uphevals) needs to happen in the small decade 20’s -30’s (ideally 22-28, give time for society to have integrated the war veterans in some way and skirt short of the rise of Adolf Hitler) . knowing that any character you play would have been affected by the war (if you play an european, more leway can be given for people coming from outside the continent) ….

      In the end i was surprised by how narrow a timeframe is available to have a set up and adventure if i wanted to stick to the interwar period. I suspect the US would have a bit more leway but i cannot say as i am not american and know the continent’s history only at a skim.

      1. Kylroy says:

        Technically, in the US we had Prohibition in the 20s and the Great Depression in the 30s, so there wasn’t a time free of upheaval over here either. Mostly, it’s just that Prohibition pales next to the rise of fascism, world economic collapse, and planet-spanning war.

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          I think you’ll find that the entire notion of a time in US history without some sort of upheaval is a misnomer. Once the War for Independence happened we immediately had a constitutional crisis with the Articles of Confederation. Once the new US constitution was signed we had to figure out how to turn it into a government. While we were still trying to figure that out, the French revolution happened, and brought with it a series of diplomatic crises as the US tried to maintain its neutrality while Europe mired itself in war, lasting until 1815 and the end of the Napoleonic wars. As soon as that was over the battle over slavery in newly admitted states kicked off in earnest, and would last until the Civil War. In the meantime there were economic crises, the Mexican war, massive westward expansion, the nullification crisis, Indian wars, and more.

          After we had the Civil war we had reconstruction, then the Spanish American war, WWI, the Great Depression, WW2, the Korean war, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, etc.

          Read about any period in US history and it’s always something. Almost every presidential election is the most important one ever. There’s always either a war or the threat of one. There’s always something to fist fight about.

          1. John says:

            In President Grant’s memoirs, written in the late 19th century, he tells the story of two of his elderly relatives, one of whom was absolutely convinced that the election of a Democrat to the presidency would be the doom of the country. The other was absolutely convinced that the election of a Whig would be the doom of the country. Grant does not record how his relations got along at Thanksgiving dinner, possibly because Thanksgiving was not a national holiday until well after the collapse of the Whig party.

            1. Bloodsquirrel says:

              Well, his family and his wife’s family hated each other, to the point where his mother never visited the White House because his father in law was staying in Washington.

              1. John says:

                That’s nothing. Grant’s parents didn’t even attend his wedding.

                For anyone keeping score, the two elderly relatives I mentioned were both on Grant’s side of the family. Their political differences were purely partisan in nature. The differences between the Whigs and the Democrats weren’t all that large. The problems between Grant’s parents and his in-laws were more serious, as his parents were abolitionists and Mrs. Grant’s parents were slave-owners.

          2. Decius says:

            The US has a major war about every 20 years, and fills in the gaps with minor wars.

        2. Kincajou says:

          Thank you (both) for an interesting read!

          Societally, what effects do you reckon prohibition had?
          Is it really the romanticised version that everyone is fed across the pond (at a cursory glance, of course) with the roaring 20s, underground jazz and bars? Or were things a bit more grey?

          One of the things that struck me as i did my research for my game was that in my (superficial) understanding it felt like there are two very distinct societies happening at the same time.
          -On one side the romanticised “années folles”/”golden 20s”/etc. are sold as this time of massive societal upheval, economic boom and the right point in time where science and superstition mixed seamlessly.
          -On the other side, there is a society which has lost most of its capable work force, where it is common for disabled war veterans to come back to a society they no longer understand, where the -isms are quickly on the rise and economic collapse is about to come (and would most certainly have been visible).

          Whilst the first makes for a solid setting for a supernatural romp without having to consider the human condition, the second is a good setting for a very different type of story. Now of course one can focus on the first, but to create a valid story in an european setting, i feel like there is no escape from the second. At the very least there would be certain elements of it in the background.

          Do you feel that such a dichotomy would exist also in a US setting in the same timeframe? Maybe (as you said) the societal uphevals weren’t quite as destructive/incisive as those in europe until the great depression, so there is a bit more leway to sideline the less “romantic” elements of the decade.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        It’s easy to look at the big events of history and assume they permeated all aspects of life, and to an extent they did. But then as now, the majority of people lived their day-to-day lives, had relationships, raised children, read books, listened to (or before recorded music was commonplace, played) music and radio programs, went to plays or films, went to work, paid their taxes, etc. If you look at the way the late 1960s is portrayed in American popular culture, you’d think every American under 24 was either a hippie or served in the Vietnam War, when the majority of young Americans did neither. Did those both have a profound effect on American society and culture? Absolutely. Did they affect most people’s day-to-day lives? Not so much. Pride and Prejudice was written and takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, and the novel makes references to soldiers camped in the English countryside. The war is having an effect on English life, but P&P still tells an engaging story that has little to do with it.

        It’s commonplace for us to look back at 1920s and 30s Europe knowing that the spectre of fascism and Stalinism and World War II is waiting at the end, but people living at that time couldn’t predict the future. And even those with an inkling of what was coming didn’t know the when or the how or the extent. Right now, Hong Kong is gripped by some of the largest and most contentious public protests in recent history. Yet former Escapist contributor Robert Rath who lives there says for the most part life continues as normal. I’ve heard similar talk from comics writer Garth Ennis, who grew up in Belfast during The Troubles, but who’s clear that he grew up in a quiet neighbourhood where the conflict was something you saw regularly on the news but was otherwise always a dozen blocks away.

        This is a long way of saying at any time and place, the big events and upheavals aren’t directly affecting most people. There are still plenty of personal stories to be told while the upheavals are in the background. Most of Lovecraft’s protagonists aren’t heavily involved in public life–they’re mostly bookish scholarly or science types too engrossed in their studies to care much about the larger human world (much like Lovecraft himself) before being drawn into supernatural activity happening just out of sight or on the margins of society.

        1. kincajou says:

          That’s a good way of putting it, thank you.
          On further thought a good example of this would probably be Elsa Morante’s “History” which tells the tale of a relatively mundane family with the backdrop of WW2 in italy and how this family live through it all without engaging particularily with it (for some characters, it’s an exceptionally good and deep book…) and just letting “life happen to them” as they focus on their own little world.

          On the other hand, there are specific things that i think would inevitably have some sort of impact on a 1920’s story in europe, I agree with you that the -isms and the economic strife would have hit disproportianately the society and it wouldn’t have been until the latter half of the decade that it would have been a bugbear lying at the back of most eu societies (with the hyperinflation in germany, i’ m thinking even the rich would have had their life affected by it…).
          However, what i suspect would come up is the inevitable impact of WW1, when you think that most men around 20 in France would have been conscripted into the war in 1914, that France lost up to 5% of its population (most of it young people) … I imaginge that even in the more isolated parts people would know of someone who never came back.

          As a final point, fascism in italy started very early and it would have also been an active subject of discussion amongst academics due to the intense propaganda it waged and how it gradually imposed itself into academic environments (a lot of academics would eventually have to “chose sides” and swear fealty to the fascist regime if they wanted to continue with their job)

          All this to say that, on some matters i agree that in some aspects life could “continue as normal” (with whatever “normal” means for a specific society) but in the 20s in mainland Europe (I wouldn’t know enough about the US or even the UK to make the statement with confidence on either of these two countries) the consequences of WW1 would have been seen everywhere, even if only in the background.

      3. Mousazz says:

        It’s not just about the period of 1918 – 1922 that the WW1 veterans were coming home to ruined countries, but that quite a few veterans were not returning home – because most of Eastern Europe was still fighting until 1922. The German Freikorps (Free Corps, post-war militia volunteer paramilitaries) butchered the Spartacist uprising in January 1919, sacked Riga in 1919 after liberating it from the bolsheviks, tried to coup the German government in 1920, which led to a socialist uprising in the Ruhr which they also cracked down on. Later on, the hyperinflation in Germany, and the country’s inability to pay it’s Versailles debts, led the French military to occupy the Ruhr in 1923. That same year, the Nazis attempted a putsch in Munich. And I may still be forgetting something.

        In Russia, the civil war between bolsheviks and anti-communists raged until 1923 – this spilled over into other countries, such as the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine (the latter of which fell to the communists and finally joined the USSR).

        Yugoslavia, after 6 devastating years of war, formed as a Serbian-centric multi-cultural kingdom, similar to the recently broken-up Austrian-Hungarian empire, and with similar problems as well.

        The Ottoman empire, having lost, first to the Italians , then to the Balkans, and finally in WW1, got embroiled in a 4 year civil war during which nationalist generals overthrew the Sultan and drove out the British and French occupiers, defeated a Greek invasion and destroyed the nascent nation of Armenia.

        So, yeah… Not a lot of time to worry about other-worldly abominations from the deep. :P

    2. Gethsemani says:

      Lovecraft wrote his Cthulhu mythos stories around that time and, for the most part, made them contemporary, sure. However, Lovecraft’s writing style, attitudes, recurring motifs and themes are much closer to Victorian than Interwar. His repeated use of miscegenation, old family dynasties, the progress of science, threats to Western civilization and of non-European peoples as sources of horror are distinctly Victorian themes and he self-professed that he styled himself on and emulated writers like Poe, Machen and Chambers who had all been popular around the turn of the century. That along with his intentional archaism means he was distinctly and intentionally regressive in his literary style.

      With all that being said, the Victorian era is generally considered to last into the first years of the 20th century, so it is not really like Lovecraft was extremely behind his times (at most 3 decades). Rather, he could be considered the last Hurrah (or the epitome) of the Victorian era of horror literature, since that was what he was trying to write instead of more contemporary horror literature.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        I would actually argue the Lovecraft was on the forefront of modern horror, with the theme being that of an existential threat to the foundations of the traditional Christian worldview.

        By contrast, actual Victorian horror (like Dracula) existed within the framework of a Christian world. Dracula was an unholy being that had to be defeated, but his existence wasn’t a rejection of the supremacy of God himself, and he didn’t challenge humanity’s position in the cosmic order.

      2. Agammamon says:

        Lovecraft’s work shows a nihilistic world that, IMO, does not fit in with the Victorian writers. That stuff all seems to be written with an assumption that mankind matters, that what mankind does matters, and positive human attributes can overcome.

        Lovecraft basically embraces the idea, already evident in science, that we’re not the center of the universe. That we’re totally insignificant and nothing we do matters because beings of such power that we can’t even comprehend them move across the universe and we won’t survive to become that powerful and, even if we did, it would require us to jettison everything ‘human’ about us.

        1. Joshua says:

          Even though gothic horror is supposedly associated with the architecture, one common element I associate with it (and associated Victorian Era) is linking the horror to some human hubris or moral failing. You see this in Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde. The monsters are manifestations or reflections of human evil.

          Conversely, as you noted, Cthulhu mythos and it’s evil makes human morality irrelevant to the story.

      3. Daniil says:

        “His repeated use of miscegenation, old family dynasties, the progress of science, threats to Western civilization and of non-European peoples as sources of horror are distinctly Victorian themes”

        They are, but if anything all of those themes took on a more intense and morbid strength after the Great War. At least, that was the case in Britain, but I somehow doubt Lovecraft was a lone outlier in America.

  3. Redrock says:

    I expected to absolutely devour Control, but I kinda got tired of it after maybe 7 hours and couldn’t muster the energy to dive back in, and I’m not even sure why. I love everything about it, I love SCP Foundation stuff and I generally like Remedy. One of the things that annoy me are the Bureau Alerts, the randomly generated missions. I mean, the shooting isn’t that fun already, and neither are the rewards, but leaving those missions on hold and seeing the MISSION FAILED message in that big bold font just rubs me the wrong way. Somehow, for some reason, I just tire of Control very quickly. Which sucks, because I really, really want to like it.

    Maybe another problem is that I started reading the SCP Foundation wiki right before the game released, and compared to SCP Control is a bit stale? I dunno.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    That shot of Dr. Darling definitely makes it look like he’s having fun.

    (Possible) typo patrol: I’m assuming the protagonist’s name is Jessie, but you also spelled it Jesse under the picture of what I assume is her and another character.

    “threatening done of Hiss-infected areas”
    Also is this supposed to be “drone”?

    “but you don’t typically have a haunted throw rugs.”
    I kinda wanna see someone do this now. Probably in a parody, I doubt you could get away with doing it straight.

    1. Redrock says:

      It actually is Jesse. I know, I know, millenials and their weird spins on common names, amirite? EDIT: Apparently, Jesse is a biblical name, and specifically the name of the father of David, the one with a penchant for murdering big burly men named Goliath with an accurate shot from his sling. Dunno if it’s intentional or not.

      “but you don’t typically have a haunted throw rugs.”
      I kinda wanna see someone do this now. Probably in a parody, I doubt you could get away with doing it straight..

      Will this do? Like I said above, if Control doesn’t have it, SCP Foundation probably does.

      1. Hector says:

        Right – Jesse is a real name, but its normally a masculine one.

        1. Eric says:

          Sounds like Jesse/Jessie is the perfect name for a video game protagonist to have when you’re allowed to choose your character’s gender. All voiced lines can actually reference you by your first name instead of needing to work around it.

          I guess Prey also worked with using Morgan as your character, but Jesse/Jessie have the benefit of both being common names.

          1. Hector says:

            I like that idea.

          2. Bubble181 says:

            I know several male Morgans and female Morganes, but I only know one Jesse (male). Commonality is regional ;)

            That said, there are plenty of such names – especially if you allow abbreviations. Sam, Robin/Robbyn, Kid/Kitt, DJ, Jules, Frans,…

          3. drmickhead says:

            This is actually addressed in the plot.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          There are several names in English, like Carol, Evelyn, Vivian, or Meredith, that until the early 20th century were mostly considered masculine. They started applying them to girls in the 19th century, and by the mid-20th century these names were seen almost universally as feminine. “Jesse” might be in the middle of such a transition.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Hadn’t seen that one before, thanks.

        Yeah, I knew a guy named Jesse growing up, and hadn’t previously been aware of it being used as a unisex name, that’s all.

    2. Agammamon says:

      It could be Jesse – the name is unisex and spelt the same way for both.

      Jessie would be a diminutive for Jessica.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Ah, I’ve only ever seen the spelling “Jesse” applied to men (I actually know a guy named that), while it’s “Jessie” (as a diminutive) for women. I’m not denying it can be used as a unisex name, that just wasn’t my experience with it.

  5. Asdasd says:

    SCP, but written by a seasoned professional and not a collection of well-meaning but, ahem, let’s be polite and say unrefined amateurs is an angle I can definitely get behind.

    Sounds like there’s a dash of the Unseen University in there too. Thumbs up for that.

    1. Tablis says:

      Well, I know both and I found the writing of Control to be vastly inferior. SCP Foundation is sometimes unrefined, true, but it is much more creative as they were not afraid to go wild with their concepts. At each corner there is something wild and unexpected there. In Control the paranormal objects are so mundane that in SCP they would be completely ignored. Some telekinesis, some teleporting, some doubling, some obvious plagiarism of SCP but made less strange. They had too few ideas, which they then repeated.

      This is not to say that the lore in Control is bad. It is still entertaining and surely they manged to be more coherent than SCP. Still, it is a great pity they did not use their imagination more, the amount of the lost potential was just painful.

      1. Redrock says:

        Totally agree. Control just seems so sterile compared to SCP.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        It’s not just that Control is less strange than SCP, it is constrained by how short its entries are. Every supernatural object has to fit in a hundred-word codex entry which means you don’t have time to get into any of the really interesting complex behaviour seen in SCP. This is a duck that teleports, that’s a floppy disk that launches things around the room, you can’t fit much more in the tiny descriptions Control has to work with.

        1. Tablis says:

          I disagree. They were few entries which took multiple documents. For example one was the short item description for the archive, the second one the report from the event, reports from the experiments, etc. With a good writer you can deal with such a constraint. Comics have even less text and they manage.

          What hurts me even more, they could show in the gameplay how these items work! The most creative one was… a traffic light which teleports you back!? Really? I know it is costly to make new forms of gameplay, but I’ve seen many indie games which manage to do incredible stuff in Unity. This is Remedy, they should do better. Also, I would be happy even if this kind of stuff was less interactive (more like adventure game style).

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      You might also enjoy the SCP Antimemetics series; it has great ambiance, and much better writing than the average SCP entry. And it really nails that “giant organization staffed with bureaucrats and elite soldiers facing things that humans can barely comprehend” feeling that SCP is all about.

      1. Redrock says:

        Ah, Antimemetics. Haven’t read much of it, but the few antimemetic SCPs I did stumble upon were so deliciously mind-bending. And, if you really think about it, more Lovecraftian than most things, seeing as how antimemetic objects and entities are all about breaking the human mind. Great stuff.

      2. Mark says:

        http://www.scp-wiki.net/antimemetics-division-hub

        qntm is the author I’d specifically recommend: comes up with these great over-the-top ideas. He’s written a bunch of other stuff as well: https://qntm.org/fiction

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Well, given my first name, that last line of dialog was a bit unnerving.

        2. Fizban says:

          Like any community driven writing (such as fanfics), I find SCP stuff is best when sourced from other people by recommendation- that’s how you find the good stuff without digging. And this is some good shit right here. There goes the rest of my night.

          1. Fizban says:

            As in, I legitimately stayed up four extra hours to finish what was available and went to work on half a sleep (not that this is uncommon for me of course). If the antimemetics division sounds interesting to anyone else here, note that there’s still 2-3 entries to go on the main story, so take that into consideration before binging.

    3. Marc Forrester says:

      “It’s part Men in Black, part X-Files, with maybe a dash of the BPRD from Hellboy”

      And all SCP Foundation. It’s kind of bizarre reading/listening to Shamus & Co. dive into Control without referencing that even slightly. Every other outlet immediately pegged it as “Alan Wake guy does an SCP game”.

      1. Shamus says:

        It was in the footnote at the end of that very sentence.

  6. Joshua says:

    I actually prefer a lot more of these kinds of analysis. 3-4 entries seems just right, as opposed to the ME and Spiderman reviews which seemed to go on forever. Maybe it’s because I’ve played almost none of the games (NWN 2 and LOTRO are probably the few I’ve played), but the kind of detail in the Black Desert review seems appropriate for people who have played the game or not.

    1. Mistwraithe says:

      Ditto – this was a fun read and I’m really looking forward to the next articles.

    2. Drathnoxis says:

      I like this too.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    Half-echoing Shamus’ praise, the game’s office spaces are indeed very well-designed: they feel like real offices, and not at all copy-pasted. However, there are so many of them that it starts to ruin the effect. I swear, you will walk past hundreds, maybe a thousand generic office cubicles in the course of a playthrough. The perfectly realistic offices started to feel videogamey not through copy-paste or implausible layouts but the sheer volume of them: how much paperwork do these people do?

    1. Bubble181 says:

      ….You don’t work in a large bureaucracy, do you? I can literally point out of my office towards several buildings, each of which I know for a fact have more than 1,000 people working there, mostly at separate desks/offices in cubicles or open spaces. I used to work for an even bigger company than I do now, and the main office (where, luckily, I didn’t work) had over 10,000 people in desk jobs during an average day.
      If FBC is a government agency, thousands of offices are…not anywhere near abnormal. I might get bored, though :P

    2. Agammamon says:

      Its a *government* agency. 90% of the people in any government agency are there to process the paperwork – or supervise those processing the paperwork. Or to create the policies that guide the work of those processing the paperwork. And then there are the people who’s job it is to *count* the paperwork and then create more paperwork telling the PTB what they can do to reduce the paperwork. Which then requires more paperwork while the Committee to Study The Paperwork researches the evidence and then writes up their conclusions.

      1. Nick Powell says:

        And they can’t use modern computers so the paperwork is all physical

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    Alan Wake drove me absolutely crazy. I went in expecting the game to live up to the spooky subject matter suggested by its premise and world, but instead I found it plodding, self-indulgent, tonally confused, and way too proud of its many references and influences.

    Oh, my God, finally someone who feels the same about that game! It drives me insane the amount of praise it gets when I despise it with every fiber of my being. With other games that I don’t like I at least understand why they’re popular. Not this one. To this day I’m convinced that everyone who says they like this game are playing a prank on me on instructions given by an evil time-traveler or something like that.

    Anyway, Control looks interesting from what I’ve seen of it, but it’s also an Epic exclusive, so not an option. Also, I should stop buying new games anyway instead of playing one from my library of literally thousands.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Ah, I call this the Metal Gear Solid phenomenon.

      I don’t have it as bad – I get why people like the Metal Gear games, but they’re still bafflingly popular to me. Like they all played a different game than I did, one without the obvious, glaring flaws I saw.

      1. Redrock says:

        Well, I think it’s like the fluid in some cryosleep tanks – you have to go against every instinct in your body and let that stuff flood your lungs. Just drink the nanomachine-laced Kool-Aid, hell, inhale it. Then you’ll learn to love it. Then you’ll be like us.

        1. ANGRYHorus says:

          Well, I hear that’s easier to do if you have no lungs and, in fact, breathe through your skin. Or if you’re being mind controlled by the arm someone grafted onto you after yours was cut off. Or if you’re actually a giant submarine that is pretending to be the main character’s support NPC. Or if you think you’re a famous warlord but are actually just some guy who’s been brainwashed and altered by surgery to THINK he’s said famous warlor – GODDAMN IT WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE AND WHY DOES IT ALL TAKE SO LONG TO SAY WHEN NONE IF IT HAS ANY WEIGHT AND IT ALL CHANGES IN THE NEXT CUTSCENE ANYWAY ARGHGHGRRRAAAHGHGBHBFFUEHFFF

          …Ahem.

          Not My Kind Of Thing.

      2. Joshua says:

        I only played the first one, and that was on PC. The exploration/stealth parts were fun enough (if I can recall correctly from probably 15-20 years later), but the melodrama was certainly eye-rolling. For some reason, my biggest negative memory of the game is going up those damn stairs with the guards chasing you. Maybe it was easier on the Playstation than on the PC.

      3. Mattias42 says:

        That’s an interesting view-point to me, because I’m basically the opposite: I love the Metal Gear series despite its many, many, many flaws.

        The cut-scenes go on for f*cking hours. The characters have entire novels worth of lines that has about zero impact on the plot. The characters are either idiots, manipulative, macho to the point of testosterone poisoning, or all at the same time…

        But gosh darn it, then I notice that cup-noodles fill Snake up more or less depending on how cold the map is. That the half-plant grand-pa-man sniper from World War ONE can be killed by waiting a week for old age to kick in. Or I’m fighting a bee man, that shoots bees, and I can keep most of them off by smoking my cigar…

        And, well, suddenly I have this big, goofy grin on, and I just can’t help but love the games, you know?

        1. Adrian Burt says:

          In Death Stranding you have to pee after taking a nap and if you pee in a spot long enough it grows a mushroom.

          This is the only organic unscripted gameplay we’ve seen.

  9. BlueHorus says:

    case reports scattered around the gameworld that hint at all these other cool adventures and interesting agents of the past. You get the sense that Jesse’s story, while larger scale than many, isn’t the first adventure to happen inside this building and this is just one of many stories you could tell in this world.

    I wish more games did this. I am heartily sick of being the Chosen One in games. The idea that all this crazy shit is just a normal day here is great.

    1. Tablis says:

      The unfortunate fact is that Jesse IS the Chosen One in this game. This is the main plot: the corruption is spreading and Jesse was made super-special by not one but two higher beings independently, only she can make it right again. It does not fit the themes of this game in the slightest.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        That’s true. Still, the game at least gives you some actual clout from being ‘The Director/Chosen One.’

        Was quite pleasantly surprised with how little drama there is on that subject, honestly. She picked up the badge of office, it didn’t eat her entire face off, so now she’s The Director. QED.

        Most people you meet barely blink about it, let alone complain, and it really helps sell what a weird place you’ve walked into.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Still, the game at least gives you some actual clout from being ‘The Director’

          Does it though? You spend most of the game running errands for other people, including the head of security who makes an explicit “Do this for me and I’ll give you what you want” deal when you should notionally be able to order her to do what you want. You start the game with no security clearance and have to gradually gain more by other characters giving it to you even though, again, you should be able to order this random spec-ops goon to hand over his level 9 clearance card.

          I don’t think there’s a single moment in the plot where Jesse tells another human to do something.

          1. Tablis says:

            Good points, this stuff was irritating me during the game too and I don’t think it would be very hard to find better solutions. Need to force the player to do silly stuff? Procedures, you fool, procedures. Maybe there is some emergency protocol that you are obliged to fulfil. Need to cut out parts of the gameworld? Make this access cards local and say people who usely provide clearence are dead (procedures again). These are rather simple ideas. The problem of the creators was they took the most generic way possible (questgivers) and did not take effort to think about something which would enforce the feel of the world more.

  10. Darren says:

    Regarding your second footnote: there are a number of explicit references to Alan Wake, not just one. I would go so far as to say they represent something of an epilogue to that game.

    I’m looking forward to your critiques of this game. I beat it, but didn’t finish all the sidequests because by the end I just couldn’t be bothered to push through the tedious checkpointing and BS difficulty spikes of the two quests that have boss fights.

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    As a huge fan of Alan Wake, I hated the tie-in. In the world of Control, paranormal objects are everywhere and not hugely important. Alan Wake is made less special by taking place in a universe where the paranormal is normal. I can just imagine a Bureau agent meeting Alan and telling him “Mysteriously magical lake, warping of reality, hordes of dudes possessed by darkness? Yep, that’ll happen now and then. Thanks for dealing with it for us, we’re a bit understaffed right now.”

    1. Alberek says:

      Well… what “happens” in Alan Wake is in the same scale of the Hiss or Polaris… an intelligent entity with gods know what kind of powers. I don’t think that kind of threats are regular in the bureau.
      At least in Alan Wake they acknowledge that something of that magnitude is not going to be stopped by guns or flashlights… you kind of have to fight it in the Astral Plane with pure Willpower.

  12. GargamelLenoir says:

    We’ve already established that Control is reminiscent of SCP, like H20 is reminiscent of water, but the “random objects with weird properties” reminded me of The Room this time.
    It was a pretty awesome and underrated mini series about a hotel room that got lost in time and space, and could only be accessed by using its hotel key in any keyhole. Any object removed from the Room got strange properties. The nail filer would knock someone out if they saw light reflected on it, the bus ticket would teleport anyone who directly touched it to a very specific spot in New Mexico, the pen would strike whoever it touched while being clicked with lightning…
    Unlike the SCP I don’t think it inspired Sam Lake, but I recommend the series to anyone who loves that kind of things.

    1. Hector says:

      I was think about the same show! If anyone is interested, SFDebris reviewed/analyzed the whole miniseries.

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        Oh nice, I’m on an SFDebris binge these days and I didn’t even notice that!

    2. BlueHorus says:

      I liked the episode of The Room where someone took a DVD from under the TV, and it turned out to be on of the weirdest, baffling films ever made.
      Like it had been made made by – and starred – an alien…yet somehow, the fim became world-famous and very popular.

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        Ok, I meant The Lost Room. You’re killing me Blue Horus!

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Wrong…I’m TEARING YOU APART!

          1. GargamelLenoir says:

            Wow, I was NOT having a good Nerd day yesterday!

          2. Kestrellius says:

            “My attacks will tear you apart, Johnny.”

    3. Ramsus says:

      Oh wow, another person who has seen/remembers the Lost Room! Man that was a great little series. The way items often had supernatural properties that weren’t “oh right, that fits the theme of this object” really made me happy. Because “works like you’d expect it to work once you understand the rules” is a lot less magical/mysterious than “here’s the rules we know, that won’t help you figure out what things do though”.

      The way items combine to have different effects in that and reading Locke & Key were the inspiration of a set of magical keys in a D&D game I’ve been running for a while now. And are probably the items that have gathered the most interest from my players.

  13. Karma The Alligator says:

    Well, now you got me interested in the game. I’d barely heard about it before, but it sounds pretty nice.

  14. Simplex says:

    Hi Shamus,

    I hope you are going to discuss raytracing effects in the game. They are supposedly a gamechanger and a taste of the next generation future.
    https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2019-control-pc-a-vision-for-next-gen-rendering

    1. Shamus says:

      I have a video on that next week, so I’m not going to cover it in this series.

    2. kdansky says:

      I highly doubt it will be a gamechanger. It’s just a slightly prettier way of rendering the same things. Just look at current implementations in Battlefield 5 or Tomb Raider: You can barely tell it’s doing anything.

      In fact I’d argue ray tracing will be bad for games, because hardware can barely keep up with how powerhungry it is, and it will wreck havoc on anyone wanting to do large scale stuff, which is quite literally the only positive thing we got out of better hardware in the last two decades: The Witcher 3 had a seamless, gigantic world, and that is great for immersion. Whether the water looks a bit more or a bit less reflectiony does not really matter.

      I really don’t want to return to the world of tiny corridors in tiny corridors, just so my gun barrel’s colour reflects the environment 5% better.

      1. Simplex says:

        ” It’s just a slightly prettier way of rendering the same things. ”
        This is an incredible oversimplification, especially in relation to raytracing in implementation in Control.
        Did you read the linked article or watched the video?
        The shadows may be a gimmick, but accurate reflection of all environment including the character can be called “game changing”.
        I also thought that this whole RTX hullabaloo is overhyped – until I saw how it looks in Control.
        And also of how it looks in Minecraft, where even the effect of camera obscura is present.
        https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2019-hands-on-with-minecraft-rtx-path-tracing

        Quake II also looks nice:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9vXz9-C-AY

        1. Hector says:

          But I will probably neither notice, nor care. I prefer my graphics stylized and actively avoid too-realistic designs. Raytracing is supposed to be the Next Big Thing, but I know of no one personally who cares. And we’ll all turn it off anyway in pursuit of superior performance.

          Its fine that you do. But it changes literally nothing about games in way that offers real improvement except maybe if get T5ief (sic). No better gameplay, no graphics that allow for newer, better, bigger or more realized worlds.

    3. Ben Matthews says:

      Yet more graphical upgrades that don’t matter because the stories are shit and the gameplay is garbage. It’s the same problem it’s always been. At least for the last couple of decades, anyway.

  15. Alberek says:

    Alan Wake had interesting things but it would have worked MUCH better as something like Heavy Rain/Fahrenheit (heck, nowadays you could have something with the graphics of a monkey island and it would still be golden).
    Maybe Resident Evil ruined some things for us… Alone in the Dark had the same fate (although it had some interesting things with the dynamic lightning and fire effects), and Alan Wake never really changed it’s formula, even after many DLCs.

    One note on the OoPs, It’s heavily implied that the can change their outward form to match your understanding of what it does… for example, the titular GUN is also called a SWORD (which is kinda weird… was the Old House discovered in USA?… swords were kinda extinct by then); another example would be the PHONE that was also called the SEASHELL.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      for example, the titular GUN is also called a SWORD… the PHONE that was also called the SEASHELL

      That’s just the Board’s weird way of talking. Given that it’s used to break the fourth wall a couple times (even going so far as to talk about DLC), I wouldn’t read too much into it.

      Alan Wake had interesting things but it would have worked MUCH better as something like Heavy Rain/Fahrenheit

      Disagree. A big part of why it worked for me was the vaguely survival-horror tone of things, and it’s almost impossible to sell the horror tone without gameplay. The player knows that they won’t die in a cutscene (the last games to try that were oldschool adventure games, and they’re still reviled for it), and that makes cutscene monsters far less frightening.

      1. Darren says:

        No, there are documents alluding to the fact that the Service Weapon has previously been Mjolnir and Excalibur. The carving in the Foundation it fairly clear that the Old House is a modern interpretation of the World Tree.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          It’s possible that some are, but the idea of OoPs in general being shapeshifters really doesn’t fit with items like the floppy, fridge, or anchor, where the capture reports describe something manmade with a traceable history that appears to have suddenly acquired powers while in service as an ordinary object.

          Plus, most of the OoPs don’t have appearances that match our understandings of them. An anchor that clones things, a teleporting rubber duck, a flamingo that sometimes resists being walked towards? For every slide projector or traffic light with obvious symbolism, there are two that seem so random as to feel procedurally generated.

        2. Mattias42 says:

          There’s also a line where The Board apologizes for their ‘translations errors,’ because they cannot quite get across ‘hyper-real concepts’ to Jesse.

          I mean, think about that word-choice for a second. ‘Hyper real.’ As in, beyond or above real concepts.

          Reminded me quite a bit of when I read Flatland as a kid. The part where A. Square tries talking with the King of Dot-land and describe his own 2D world to a 1D being, and fails just as badly as the 3D sphere that has tried enlightening him for most of the book.

  16. Tamsin says:

    This is the first I’ve seen anyone *not* praising the combat of this game; I find it incredibly fun myself, and the sheer power you wield – particularly with telekinesis – just feels awesome. But I know it’s different for everyone. One review I saw talked about how he skipped all the reading to get back to the combat because that was the best part for him; meanwhile Shamus says he was obsessed with the reading but didn’t like the combat. I think the worldbuilding’s the best part but also love the combat. Curious to read the next analysis and see your issues with it.

    1. Ashen says:

      The combat was the highlight for me and I probably wouldn’t bother finishing the game if it wasn’t so good. What I didn’t like was the entire loot/upgrade/crafting systems. Game constantly drowns you in these boring mods that you just endlessly recycle. None of them feel meaningful and the whole system feels tacked on for no reason other than “modern video games must have this”.

  17. Agammamon says:

    That’s good, because if I didn’t love the world so much then I never would have put up with this combat.

    Weirdo;)

    Pretty much every other review I’ve seen is the opposite – they love the gameplay but the story is crap and all the interesting stuff happens when you ignore it to go exploring on the side.

    Though, IMO, that’s sort of a deliberate design by the developers. This is called ‘SCP: The Game’ for a reason. It seems (I haven’t played it) that the developers did like the guys who made the MASH movie (way back when) did – filmed a bunch of great scenes and then, at the end, said ‘oh shit, how do we turn this into a coherent movie’. In MASH’s case that was solved with the loudspeaker scene cuts. In this one they just sort of hashed out a weak meta-narrative just barely strong enough to tie everything together while expecting you to be interested enough to keep ignoring it to explore and thus find the good stuff.

  18. Agammamon says:

    Also, you can’t take it because that’s MY stapler / altered item.

    OMG! This explains where Milton got the red Swingline. He’s a former Control agent, damaged in the line of duty and the Initech job was the government putting him out to pasture. But he snuck an altered object out. Its actually the thing helping him hold on to his sanity. Once he loses it, he loses everything.

  19. Kasper says:

    Your description of the game reminds me of warehouse 13, one of my favourite shows. Thinking of what i liked about this show, mostly the everyman point of view trying to come to terms with and using the rules of a paranormal world, I think that marrying the kind of detective meets paranormal vibe that makes me love that show to shooter mechanics would be a great way to get me unhooked on this game real fast… “here’s a great setting of mystery and discovery about an unknowable force trying to subvert our world, now go shoot some mooks! Don’t forget to hide behind cover while your health regenerates!” I’m hoping the game doesn’t swing this way but since I’ve read quite a bit of this blog over the years and there’s a post with gripes coming up I’m not all that hopefull…

    1. Wiseman says:

      I came here to mention Warehouse 13. It seems even more of a dead wringer for this game as most other stuff people tend to compare it to. I seldom see it mentioned and had even forgotten about it. I guess it must not have been very popular.

  20. Armagrodden says:

    Next Lake wrote the Stephen King / Twin Peaks mixtape Alan Wake…I found it plodding, self-indulgent, tonally confused, and way too proud of its many references and influences.

    So what you’re saying is that Alan Wake didn’t stray far enough from it’s source material. ;p

  21. Nessus says:

    “A briefcase is likely, but a plain wooden box of the same size is not.”

    Game missed an opportunity to go meta there. Put only one solitary “standard videogame” crate in the entire game, and make it an artifact with its own entry: “This artifact is an altered wooden crate. It became altered because of the memetic prevalence of crates in video games over the past 30 years….”

  22. MaxEd says:

    Another great book series in the same vein – Charles Stross “Laundry” – also shares some details with this game, it seems. There, magic is a subset of mathematics, and complex computations tend to draw beings with too many legs and eyes from beyond. And the main hero (of the first several books) is an ex-programmer, too! I love geeky references Stross inserts into his stories, like this “quote”: “Like the famous mad philosopher said, when you stare into the void, the void stares also; but if you cast into the void, you get a type conversion error. (Which just goes to show Nietzsche wasn’t a C++ programmer.)”

  23. Zaxares says:

    Wow… Now I’m seriously considering keeping an eye out for this game for when it goes on sale on GoG. I LOVE this kind of surrealistic, supernatural-infused world with Cthulhu-esque elements, and Control sounds like it might be right up my alley. :)

    1. Syal says:

      I’ll probably wait until “Alt” and “Delete” come out and get the whole trilogy at once.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Focus group feedback is suggesting that joke is too on-the-nose. Leaked internal memos show the team is considering changing the names of the sequels to Shift and Escape.

  24. Aaron says:

    There is a roleplaying game setting that does exactly what you describe when you talk about Cthulhu and government agents. It’s called Delta Green and was originally made in the 90s and got updated into its own original game system last year.

  25. Ben Matthews says:

    “The Oldest House is a strange thing with a life of its own, and walls shift according to designs that are mysterious even to the people who work there.”

    Sounds a lot like a Discworld concept, L-Space.

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