Remedy Games is based in Finland, off the beaten track. You have to get away from Helsinki and drive on snow-covered roads, cross a bridge, then over a frozen lake where people play hockey and get to the next city of Espoo, to finally find the new offices of the studio.
The building is a brutalist mass of concrete and glass, originally built for a private health company. Now, a newly built machine, placed at the entrance to the building, takes a mugshot of our face and instantly sends it to the staff member we are to meet. “It has to be done”, they tell us, “because some fans have managed to break into the building.”
We are a little surprised at the whole journey they have made to settle there but once you enter the walls of Remedy, you immediately understand why they have chosen that place. The studio has managed to cultivate an unusual personality over the years, that same personality which it then poured into successful products such as Alan Wake and Max Payne. There is a sauna in the basement, I am told as we pass a row of lounge chairs on a south-facing terrace, ready to be used in the few minutes of sunlight that Finland receives every now and then.
We believe that, now more than ever, Remedy embodies a sense of proud independence, represented externally by the ubiquitous staff sweatshirts that serve as an optional uniform and, internally, by the bodies that worked hard for five long years to make that (excessively ) ambitious hybrid between TV series and video game called Quantum Break.
It is not a big narrative leap to see this strange building projected into the virtual world that we are going to explore, with its cavernous concrete spaces and branching corridors, narrow stairways and secondary rooms. You probably already know the background of Control: the protagonist Jesse Faden inherited the position of director of an American secret government agency born to investigate supernatural phenomena and has recklessly ended up in the eye of a paranormal storm. It is right there, at the Federal Bureau of Control headquarters, that Jess will prove to be the right person for this job, clearing the building of possessed ex-agents and finding answers as to why things have taken that strange turn. Weird, we’re happy to say, in a very funny way.
Unlike Remedy’s offices, the world of Control is filled with waves of possessed and armed agents, each consisting of a bespoke mix of snipers, tanks, and mysterious spherical creatures that power up the enemies around them. Remedy has invented a complicated enemy spawn system so when we explore the Metroidvania-style game map and retrace our steps, we won’t be overwhelmed by them every time. If we just caused a ruckus in the next room, we could take a breather, at least for a moment.
“Let’s face it: this is a shot in the arm after Quantum Break” “
Mikael “Mixu” Kasurinen, director of Control
The combat is, however, the strong point of Control. The fights are wild, frantic, and allow for a lot of experimentation. We felt like Jesse was learning along with us as we worked out the best way to put together powerful shootouts and combos, all floating in midair. The Service Weapon, one of the most beautiful weapons of almost all games, is the only gun present in Control but it can take three different forms (two of which can be activated at any time), and then modify it using different mods that the enemies they will drop or that we will find hidden in crates arranged in remote rooms.
Our favorite is the shape called Pierce, a long range shotgun option that allows you to shoot through cover and, if they are lined up, even hit multiple enemies. Character modifications can also be found, so that you can choose to equip clothes to strengthen Jesse’s health, the duration of an ability, and so on, depending on a specific fight.
The world of Control is not only full of enemies, but there are also still living staff members to meet, talk to and receive missions from. Some of these relate to the main story of Control (how the current crisis began and how it can be resolved), while others are side missions designed to give a little more color to the world created by Remedy. At E3 last year, for example, we saw poor Phillip, a staff member forgotten and left to check out an “altered” refrigerator. In Control, seemingly mundane objects must be observed continuously, such as the Weeping Angels devouring anyone who looks elsewhere. By agreeing to help Phillip, we will eventually be able to “clean up” the fridge and be dragged into the game’s bizarre Astral Plane. described by Remedy as a sub-dimension that can give Jesse new abilities with some ease. These acquired powers will then unlock new areas for you to explore.
On another mission we meet high-level official Helen Marshall instead: her job is to produce devices that keep people safe from possession. Unfortunately, a pointed sphere of energy from the Astral Plane has escaped his department. Thus begins a puzzle section in which we have to push the tornado of energy (which looks a bit like the smoke monster from Lost) towards an area, and then trap it inside an airlock. It’s a beautiful game environment, especially when the enemy’s environmental damage hits everything, throwing pieces of furniture and research equipment around – a real treat for the eyes. This demo is the first to show how you play Control on console (PlayStation 4 Pro) and, six months after its release,
The mission then plunges us into the Astral Plane, a vivid white space filled with menacing shapes and moving platforms. And this is where, after a big boss fight, we learn the “Seize” skill, which forces weakened enemies to fight on our side. This new tool is perfect for those opponents who empower others who are now forced to empower us. Last year’s demo showed how Jesse could launch himself into the air, levitate and protect himself from bullets. This new build includes dodges and moves that allow you to land attacks. My favorite is the Mass Effect-style charge, which allows you to teleport from room to room – an action designed for combat but which also works as a fun method of moving.
One sandbox area we tested, the Central Research lobby, offers perhaps the most indicative experience of what it will be like to play Control. Free from the constraints of the mission, we had the chance to simply explore a part of the map and poke around everywhere, go down a hidden elevator and find abandoned staff bathrooms, now home to slimy molds and dripping ferns, to find a new modification. legendary. We go back to the hall and try another door, which leads to a study area whose walls move, as we do: the dimensions of the room fall outside in front of our eyes. These areas are there to be explored, but they aren’t central to the overall storyline of the game: unlike the linear narrative of past Remedy titles,
“We want to continue building worlds, while making them places to explore,” Control director Mikael “Mixu” Kasurinen later tells us, “and not just have everything wrap up in a story arc and stop. The world has to be something. that exists and where you can find more things to do “. It seems that this is a problem that has united all the games lasting about ten hours, which were then placed on the shelf: something that became even more evident after the huge development of Quantum Break. “We used to watch people play Quantum on Twitch,” recalls Remedy’s communications manager Thomas Puha. “We spent five years working on it and for them the experience ended in eight hours.
“With Quantum Break, we played it safe from many points of view. We still wanted to be weird.”
Mikael “Mixu” Kasurinen
The launch of Control is just the beginning for its game world, Remedy reiterates. When we have finished the main storyline and side missions, we will receive “Bureau Alerts”, a still secret feature. With Control, Remedy is taking some time to create something that will hopefully inspire us to return to play once the main story is over, and that may still entice us to investigate.
“Let’s be honest, we are not one of the largest studios in the world but we are still independent,” continues Kasurinen. “This is our IP and we can decide which way to go. The smartest thing, for us, is to do what we believe in, to be ready to be a little weird, even controversial. Let’s try to express ourselves this time instead of going on sure. This is a shot in the arm after Quantum Break. Control proves it perfectly. “
Remedy didn’t say much about how things actually went with Quantum Break compared to their expectations. At launch, it received a mixed reception, with heavy praise for Remedy’s style and visuals, but little more than a shrug for its live action episodes, which suffered from Microsoft’s bankruptcy influence. in pushing on the television component.
However, Remedy has said a lot about its new IP which it owns the rights to and which it has chosen to publish with a smaller publisher like 505 Games. He showed it to the world at E3 last year during Sony’s PlayStation conference: “that’s a statement, I guess,” says Kasurinen when we point out that the first time Control could also be tested on the PlayStation 4 Pro. ” The more people play our games, the better, “he adds diplomatically. “We want to do this for a while.”
While Quantum Break wanted to tell a Hollywood-style time travel story, Control is unusual and has an indie connotation that Remedy hasn’t shown since the days of Alan Wake. “With Quantum Break we have been, and I can’t find a better word here, mainstream,” says Kasurinen. After all, the team was working on a big-budget exclusive for Microsoft. “We chose things carefully and also avoided certain things we love; we were afraid of doing things that were too weird and so we tried to play it safe with Quantum Break in several ways. After we finished, however, we felt we wanted to do something different. . We wanted to go back to doing weird things. “
“If we think back to Quantum Break, we could say that it is the most distant thing we have achieved in terms of storytelling. Inside you can find a live action TV series, extremely long and complicated cinematics and an elaborate system of facial animations. . It is the most distant from the narrative from a visual point of view. Control, on the other hand, is based on the gameplay and on a complicated universe in an open world and from this point of view it departs a lot from the typical perspective of Remedy. “
On the far wall of the office is a roadmap of work still to be done before the game launches in August, and beyond. The sheets cover the last months of the year. If it were a Bureau of Control room, we would consider it beautiful environmental storytelling. “There will be two expansions,” Puha says when we ask him what will happen next.
Named Foundation and AWE will only go into full production when the main game ends: “But we want to release some content in the meantime,” continues Puha. “Since the first expansion won’t arrive for two months after launch, we want to take our time.”
These smaller pieces of content coming in small blocks could answer the question of what’s behind that particular door or lead players to a new floor of the building – but the studio isn’t willing to tell us yet.
Whatever happens is content designed to ensure that players can continue to unravel the mysteries of Control for a little while longer. And we understand this instinct. After all, it’s something we wanted to do too, once we left Remedy’s studio on the way home.