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Xbox Game Pass Just Quietly Added the Most Mind-Bending Shooter of the Last Decade

Take Control.

Remedy Entertainment

Finnish game developer Remedy Entertainment has built its reputation on games that are unlike anything else, highly atmospheric experiences that revel in experimental ideas and pushing the boundaries of storytelling. Games like Max Payne and Alan Wake have become all-time classics, but in 2019, the studio released its crowning jewel, Control. Taking the best parts of everything Remedy has done and fusing it with Metroidvania elements, Control is a mind-bending supernatural thrill ride that delivers thrilling combat and thoughtful narrative in equal measure. As Xbox quietly drops Control on Game Pass, it’s one of the must-play titles of the service.

In Control, you follow Jesse Faden, a young woman who’s spent years searching for her brother after he was abducted as a child. Jesse finally stumbles on the Federal Bureau of Control, a clandestine agency that investigates all things supernatural and paranormal. Within the first hour of entering its headquarters, Jesse is made the Director of the FBC and thrust into dealing with an otherworldly crisis. An alien entity called the Hiss has infiltrated the bureau and threatens the very fabric of reality.

Control has an immaculate aesthetic that frequently plays with perspective and reality.

Remedy Entertainment

This setup works wonders for Control’s narrative and setting, filtering its weird world through Jesse, who’s experiencing everything alongside the player. The FBC’s headquarters, The Oldest House, is rife with lore and history. The building itself is practically a sentient being and active participant in the story, with its brutalist architecture warping and changing around the player. The Oldest House feels alien and familiar all at once, like you just stepped onto another planet but they still have copy machines and water coolers.

That idea is central to what Control does best, an incredible atmosphere and rich narrative. The Oldest House oozes personality from every corner, separated into different departments that all play a role in the larger agency. Not only are these areas visually distinct, but they help encourage Metroidvania-esque exploration and further flesh out the narrative context of the FBC.

For example, the Luck and Probability department is filled with research on superstitious items, like horseshoes or four-leaf clovers. Meanwhile, the engineering department is a maze of steel and concrete; tight corridors making the Hiss even more dangerous.

The Oldest House is a location layered with constant surprises, filled with lore to uncover.

Remedy Entertainment

Everything in Control is meticulously designed to draw you into the experience and keep your eyes glued to the screen. Awe-inducing and horrific sights fill the landscape in equal measure, pushing players to explore every nook and cranny. The game drip-feeds you collectibles through notes and audio logs that dive into the history of the bureau, the Hiss, and the supernatural history of the game’s universe. Exploration provides a deeper understanding of the narrative, while also yielding practical rewards like skill upgrades. The progression in Control is supremely satisfying in how it unites the game’s two aspects, with the Metroidvania elements simultaneously making Jesse stronger while deepening your understanding of the world and story thus far.

Of course, another Remedy calling card is the fusion of live-action footage and gameplay, and Control tackles that masterfully. There’s a fascinating design choice in Control where you often see live-action footage laid on top of your screen like a filter, making characters that are talking almost seem like they're entering your psyche. (It’s a neat visual trick that the studio brings back in even better form with Alan Wake 2.) Through this, you can discover episodes of a children’s show that teaches about paranormal events and audio logs from the eccentric researcher Dr. Darling.

Control’s combat feels fast and frenetic, giving you a wealth of psychic abilities to decimate your enemies.

Remedy Entertainment

That sense of wonder during exploration is key to what makes Control so special, and that isn’t even to mention its stellar combat. The game is a third-person shooter on its face, but across the experience you unlock powerful abilities that let Jesse telekinetically throw objects, conjure a shield made of debris, or even take over the minds of enemies. These abilities also mean you have to use the environment wisely, finding objects that you can fling at enemies, or chokepoints where you can stop enemies from flanking you.

Control has ambition in spades, and Remedy delivers on almost every piece of it. It’s the kind of experience that you can lose yourself in for hours on end, a world that’s simply a joy to explore and learn about. That’s not even to mention the hints it contains on Remedy Universe, and how it’s tied to other games like Alan Wake. Control is one of those experiences that comes around once in a decade, reminding you of the unique storytelling that can only be done through video games.

Control is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch via the Cloud, and PC.

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