It feels like ages since we played through Control and making it our biggest surprise of 2019 for how much we loved the concept, presentation and the absolutely insane world it drew us in to. Ever since wrapping up Jesse Faden’s adventures through the Oldest House we’ve wanted to return to find something new – which was entirely likely anyway given the shifting nature of the structure. Releasing six months after the main game, Remedy have brought us Control: The Foundation as time limited DLC on PS4 and PC that promises to take us deep into the core of the house for a fight to stop the whole thing collapsing in on itself. Can it stand up on its own against the might of the core game, and can it fill in some of the unresolved parts of the main story too?
Jesse might still be the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, running around the Oldest House looking for Hiss to eradicate, but there’s something strange going on in the cellar, and it’s what Helen Marshall went off to investigate mid-way through the main story line. With the chief of security not returning, the janitor indisposed and the Board sounding frantic, Jesse embarks on a journey into the bowels of the offices to solve the mystery. Down there she discovers a major problem that threatens the entire building – and the entire universe – as the lower levels are becoming entangled with the Astral Plane. She needs to find out why everything is bleeding together, what’s causing the collapse, and how it can be stopped… all whilst dealing with new powers, new enemies and new tactics needed to stay alive. Control: The Foundation does not skimp on its high concept paranormal sci-fi trappings.
The foundation is un-populated by the F.B.C.’s teams so Jesse is on her own in Control’s wondrous blend of ancient cave system, deserted corporate offices, and blinding white Astral Plane landscapes. Its key theme is the blending of worlds and the mash up that creates, and that in turn builds unfamiliarity and an edginess to the gameplay that fully levelled players might not have been expecting. Add in higher level enemies with powers that mimic some of the hero’s and it’s a deadly place to be. The DLC does bring with it the ability to increase max health, abilities and make higher level mods, though it’s not one to tackle unless you’ve a lot of combat experience. Hiss Sharpened are the main bad guys and they can teleport as well as throw homing climbing axes that deal huge damage, so getting surrounded means a quick game over. Fortunately, the environment comes into play more than before thanks to a couple of new additions.
With the option of one of two new powers (effectively create and destroy), Jesse can pull spikes and platforms from the ground and walls, or break apart pathways and blockages. These don’t seem immediately useful for fighting at first, yet once you get used to spotting the cues in the world they become essential to taking enemies out. A swift spike trap from below can take out multiple Sharpened within a few seconds, rather than spending minutes evading and recharging the service weapon. They are essential for traversal too and the sublime level design returns in spades to give a platforming experience to remember – the vast majority of it making sure Faden isn’t plummeting into a bottomless pit. The Northlight engine does Control: The Foundation proud again, and even with largely solid pillars and imposing rock walls the main scenery, it still manages to find enough particles to fling around and make the scenes busy.
The core missions with Contol: The Foundation will only take a couple of hours, though there are a number of really interesting side quests to take part in, and the usual hidden area and collectable hunts are there which extend this into around 5 – 6 hours of content, depending on your skill. The side quests are tough in their structure and failing can lead to a lengthy replay, so be prepared for what is probably the only frustration to the game. It gets made up for by the inventiveness of the scenarios and the detail that’s put into the backstory of how the Oldest House was discovered and what happened to the first Director – the letters, videos and audio logs once again standing out for their ingenuity. It’s a great additional layer to the game that underpins more of the strange world the bureau are protecting/saving, and fans of the base game should be exploring these depths.