How Control never stuck the landing with its story – Reader's Feature

A reader explains why he was disappointed by the end of Control and its hints at a more daring and unpredictable storyline.

With only 69,000 metric tons of the stuff in the world, platinum – the inert corrosion resistant metal – has found its way to becoming the signifier of gaming excellence. I was proud that my PlayStation and Xbox accounts were platinum free, but no longer. I’ve succumbed and became just another hardcore gamer scrub with a platinum, making it look like I’m a trophy hunting obsessive. What game served up a googly and broke my gaming duck? It turned out to be the very excellent Control.

As I wandered the corridors of the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), completing the story, the usual ping of the trophies regularly fading in and out I scrolled over them and realised, bloody hell, there’s a real chance that I could nail this and lo and behold I made it. But this article isn’t about that, this was just some common or garden humblebragging about probably the only platinum I’m ever likely to bag. No. This article is about Control’s story and how, while I loved it, I feel it didn’t quite stick the landing.

I love single-player story driven games, they’re totally my bag, my genre and obsession when they’re good, and by god was Control good. Like a warm bath in a cloud with angels bearing me upwards to a rainbow slide into a ball pit of peanut M&M’s. I’ve dabbled in other genres, but over the years I’ve come to accept that these are the games that give me the most pleasure, so I seek them out and tend to single-mindedly devour them.

Alongside gameplay I need a story in order to place a game high in my mental top 40. So, for example, while the gameplay is probably better in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, I still think the Tomb Raider reboot is better since it had the more compelling story. With that in mind, in order to discuss what I need to about Control, I’m going to have to talk about the story which obviously entails some spoilerific content, so, you’ve been warned.

Control opens strongly, with an intriguing premise, half Men in Black, half Ghostbusters with Star Wars Force powers thrown in. You play Jesse Faden, a young woman who arrives at the building of the government agency responsible for taking her brother after some… unpleasantness in her hometown. Like Gordon Freeman, Jesse lands at the worst possible time, with everything in this mundane brutalist building in disarray.

Clearly some emergency has upended the natural order of things and Jesse’s first interaction is a cryptic conversation with the enigmatic Athi, which does nothing to ease your shredded nerves as you creep around corners waiting for the inevitable appearance of the big bad responsible for all the terrible feng shui. Athi advises you to go to the director’s office for a chat and it’s here that the story really lifts off.

The exposition comes thick and fast after you pick up that service weapon in the form, of well-produced and acted video presentations, environmental storytelling, and a snowstorm of documents. Objects of power, The Oldest House, The Hiss, Hedron Resonance Amplifier (HRA) devices. Jargon and lore are thrown at you at a million miles an hour – it can be overwhelming to take in but after a while you start to piece it together.

It seems that you and your brother were targeted by the FBC after you both encountered an object of power, allowing a being from the astral plane called Polaris to latch onto Jesse like a benevolent hitchhiker. Whilst Jesse escaped the FBC her hapless brother Dylan was not so lucky. Experiments were conducted which had the side effect of driving Dylan quite, quite, opera music conducting, dancing in his underwear mad. Dylan is possessed by a malevolent entity from the astral plane called The Hiss, which was ushered into our dimension by the previous director – a weak-willed person who let the job get on top of him, literally.

There’s a lot of potential in the story as it’s laid out but the longer I played it I knew they would play it safe and not throw any curveballs at me. Polaris is a nice astral plane resident and not a string-pulling evil doer and those hints that you and Dylan could in fact be the same person are debunked almost as soon as they’re hinted at and that’s what I mean by sticking the landing.

None of the curveballs were completely necessary to elevate the game but I couldn’t understand why the game would hint at interesting and leftfield turns but consistently avoid taking them. I wanted it to go there but they weren’t brave enough and, unlike Spec Ops: The Line, they stopped short from suggesting you’d been playing for the wrong side the whole time.

By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)

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