It’s been a few weeks since I completed the main storyline of Control, and perhaps coincidentally the same amount of time has passed since I paused my X-Files re-watch. After completing the main story I decided to pause before making a decision on whether to embark upon the DLC. Reflecting on my time with Control, I think I will make an effort to work my way through the DLC.
Would I contemplate sinking my teeth into the DLC if it wasn’t for the Assist Mode that came with a large update to the game back in August 2020? I think not.
There’s a great sense of place when it comes to the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control. I am of course talking about The Oldest House, a shape shifting locale which holds many secrets alongside a wonderful diorama of the hometown of protagonist Jesse, and even its own quarry. Sadly, it’s also a pretty boring office complex which at times left me yearning for the ventilation shafts of Black Mesa.
If the locations you explore in Control are an eclectic mix of highs and lows, the story beats that accompany team are perfectly in sync. While getting the pacing right in a vast game like this isn’t easy, all too often I found my time spent monotonously fighting the same groupings of enemies, just waiting for the next thrill.
Back in Week 133 of Our Week in Games I highlighted the enjoyment I had with the A Matter of Time side-mission. It had a simple driving force of finding a stricken trooper and getting him the medical help he needed, but it was a mission with a clear thread to follow, all made complete with weirdness that Control is so good at.
Drawing a tenuous link with my recent TV watching habits, this was a good ‘Monster of the Week’ style mission that, while not matching the excellence of something like Squeeze, the third episode of The X-Files, was certainly enjoyable.
Sadly, to a large extent the main storyline was more reminiscent of latter series mythology X-Files episodes. Lots of potential, but ultimately failing to stick the landing and lacking the fizz and sparkle that highlighted some of the standalone episodes.
There are no doubt some great set piece moments like gazing upon the quarry at the heart of the Oldest House, while the majesty of the Ashtray Maze is nearly worth the price of entry alone.
The combat in Control could have been so much fun, with the dimension bending and otherworldly shenanigans lending themselves perfectly to an awe-inspiring arsenal and range of abilities. As it is, the weaponry is subdued with even the rocket launcher lacking any thrill. The abilities on offer add some spice, but the repetitive enemies and encounters soon drag.
If it wasn’t for Assist Mode and the ability to turn on one-shot kills and invulnerability at the flick of a switch, I wouldn’t have made it to the end. But being able to feel like a god allowed me to rattle through the combat and enjoy the special locations that the Oldest House would reveal.
It’s the thought of missing out on another moment like the Ashtray Maze, combined with Assist Mode that will bring me back to complete the DLC. In an era where traditional cheats are few and far between in singleplayer games, I have to thank Remedy for including the Assist Mode and will pray to the gaming gods that more singleplayer games (and yes, I’m including the solo modes of titles like Demon’s Souls) include something like the Assist Mode in future.