Our biggest gaming surprise of 2019 is back in the form of the Control Ultimate Edition. We loved it because of its excellent lead character, unique setting, intriguing enemies in the Hiss, chaotic action and superb world building, so going at the story again is a no-brainer for us. It’s a bonus too that this is the full on next gen version with raytracing support, all the download content and improved loading times, offered up as a single package. If you want our original thoughts then read that first before continuing here. This is not a free upgrade of the original game though, so you’ll be looking at shelling out again if you picked this up first time around and fancy another run around the Oldest House. The question on Remedy and 505 Games’ lips though is will people buy into it a second time in under 18 months?
That initial question is answered pretty quickly – they’ve no confidence at all. At the time of pulling this review together, Control Ultimate Edition is available on Game Pass on the Xbox (and has been since it launched late in 2020), and has been added to PS+ for February 2021. The latter has generated some controversy as the first day it was available on Plus was the day of release for the next gen version, and prior to that the only way to get it for the PS5 was to buy the Ultimate Edition in full on the PS4. If you’d bought that based on getting the shiny new release as soon as it was available, then found it given away ON THE DAY IT CAME OUT.. well, you’d be a bit f*%&ed off by it. Refund requests are going through to Sony, which I’m guessing will be passed back to 505 Games and won’t do much to garner goodwill with Remedy. The move to have it available for free to all console players on the subscription services is a good one, especially for those early supporters, but it could have been handled a lot better and been a lot clearer.
Retailing issues aside, getting the chance to jump back into Jesse Faden’s mad world is one that the Codec Moments team weren’t going to pass up. The graphical overhaul was a key factor, but the story is one that’s a joy to experience, and loses none of its charm on repeated playthroughs. Control Ultimate Edition doesn’t change anything in the formula, but does bring a greater degree of authenticity to the journey. The Oldest House was always an unsung integral character and with the effects enabled under the power of the new consoles, the Northlight engine helps it stand out even more. Shadows and reflections are present everywhere – and in a game that’s reliant on industrial office design and creepy dark corners, this is transformative. Its sense of space and place is heightened and whilst the layout is familiar, it begs for more detailed exploration. A simple jog through the cafeteria now has moments where you stop and stare at the play of light from the fixtures, or drop into photo mode just to see the reflection generation at different angles. It is simply gorgeous in the way it’s presented.
It also loses nothing in the destruction stakes. If that cafeteria jog turns into a fight then the whole place will erupt with particles, fire and smoke, and once there are no Hiss left standing Jesse will really need the janitor to put in some overtime. With the psychokinetic ability to pick up and launch near enough anything, or just wrench chunks of concrete from the walls, and the weapon forms bringing massive amounts of damage to the scenery, it doesn’t take much to reduce a room to near rubble. Those with secretly harboured thoughts of throwing chairs through meeting room windows and tossing files all over can have a field day here. Genuinely, it’s staggering how much of a mess it’s possible to make. This level of debris could have been present in the last gen version of the game, but it feels much more pronounced in the Control Ultimate Edition. It maintains pretty much a rock solid 30 fps throughout too, with only the drop back from the pause menu causing a stutter (which used to happen in the original release too).
If you’re not happy with the relatively slow pace of 30 fps, you can switch to performance mode on the fly and have the frantic combat happen in 60 fps. There’s a bit caveat with this though – it makes a very pretty game look surprisingly ugly. Sure, it’s smooth and responsive, but Control was designed to run at 30 fps in the first instance, so it’s not like there’s an issue there. To get the framerate up it basically drops all the reflections and unnecessary effects, and after a bit of time in quality mode it’s tough to accept the graphical downgrade. It’s flat, lifeless and boring… or at least feels that way with such a change in the way it looks. Sure, both modes are presenting in 4K, so there has to be a hit somewhere, but fingers crossed for a compromise in resolution where maybe that’s reduced yet still keep the reflection and shadowing and run at the higher rate. That might prompt yet another playthrough just to see how much more entertaining the combat could be.
It’s not like there isn’t enough to keep you busy though as there’s all the content from the season passes available too. Well, nearly everything. Weirdly, there was a side mission voiced by Hideo Kojima that was exclusive to the PS4 that’s missing (though still hinted at in the brilliant collectible documents); and the pre-order outfits aren’t there either. However, The Foundation and AWE expansions are included, as well as the Expeditions, and there’s plenty of extra hours in those. Time to completion is a bit variable because if you know what you’re doing it’s easy to whip through, and if you’re a savvy former player it’s worth tweaking the accessibility options to remove some of the difficulty spikes. Control Ultimate Edition is far from the hardest game there is, but every now and again you’d hit a frustration barrier with particularly awkward bosses. Using the accessibility options lets you tweak ammo and energy regeneration, as well as damage and health, so you can set your own level of challenge. A brilliant addition that came late on in the original releases life.
So, if you’ve Game Pass or PS+ then grab this now, even if you’re still waiting on getting a next gen machine. Control was always a great game – we figured it was so good it deserved its own podcast – and this is the best version you can now play. Fantastic story, brilliant mechanics and a stunning presentation… there’s nothing we can think of why we shouldn’t recommend this game. If you’ve not been affected by the cash in shenanigans of the publisher then this is a perfect way to experience Jesse Faden’s exploration of the Oldest House and her efforts to conquer the Hiss, all whilst interviewing for a job as janitor’s assistant.
Control Ultimate Edition is out now for around £45 depending on platform, or free until March 2021 on PS+, and part of Games Pass on the Xbox for the time being.