gamescom 2019: Control

I approached the Control demo at gamescom this year with very little knowledge. I knew it had a female protagonist called Jesse and if you read my post last week about playing as the opposite sex, you’ll know I’m always interested in games with a strong female lead.

There was no queuing required this time as I’d booked a slot for the fast-track queue using the Experience PlayStation app. I highly recommend checking this out along with Linistry if you’re heading to gamescom next year otherwise it can take around two hours of lining up to play. The bookings become available at 09:00 so you need to be quick as there are only ten or fewer slots per game; more become available at 13.00 but the same rules apply.

The demo began in a maintenance area of an unknown facility with a task to speak with the janitor, having only received brief advice about how to play. The controls are standard for a third-person shooter and I was put straight into the action with an enemy encounter just around the corner. Equipped with only a pistol, I gave it my best against the strange zombie-like enemies dressed in armour. There was no explanation at this point about who they were and why they were so weird but I had no time to consider this as the fight began as soon as I was spotted.

I completely underestimated the difficulty of Control as I died three times on just this collection of baddies. As explained by the hints on the loading screen, the combat is about managing resources. The gun has limited ammo yet slowly recharges and if you empty it, you are penalised with a short delay. One of the enemies had a powerful shield protecting their health and it took many shots to take down. I had to pause between small salvos of shots to allow the ammo to regenerate. If I emptied the gun, I would have to wait several seconds which is enough time for the enemy shield to restore. This is similar to how shields work in other games such as Borderlands.
After finally working out the trick to taking out tougher enemies, I finally made my way to the janitor who had some surreal dialogue for our protagonist and her internal monologue reflected this. I soon had my instructions to make repairs to the power plant but not before falling through a non-existent hole in the floor into a kind of simulated training area to learn more about the movement mechanics. Jesse has some powerful moves at her disposal and I was introduced to a dash which aided with crossing significant gaps when combined with jumping. I continued through this training segment, getting used to the jumping and dashing mechanics, while still not knowing the reason for having these abilities.
Moving onto the power-plant itself I learned a bit more about the enemy as Jesse referred to them as ‘The Hiss’ while speaking with a member of security, who then asked if ‘that’s what they’re called now’. So if the in-game characters aren’t clear on what’s going on at this point, then I know this will be a slow-burning story. I was getting the government involvement vibe at this point, considering how the protagonist was dressed and how people were responding to her. Nothing was explained in the demo but I carried on with my repair task.

Unfortunately, because I had died so much, my playtime was cut short as we were all asked to finish up before I could get to repairing things. It’s a shame as I expect it would introduce more of Jesse’s powers and hopefully explain where they came from. There were a few smaller battles to be had with weird floating aliens that gave off an impressive warping effect to the air when killed. The game will look impressive with all the supernatural effects going off at once later on. What I saw from it was pretty enough visually, and the characters were very detailed in cutscenes including facial animation and lip-sync.
Control will be available to purchase by the time you’re reading this, and I expect much of the mystery will have been uncovered. I found the combat to be harder than I expected at first but it might just take some getting used to. I hope this game is more than just impressive visuals – so if you have the full release and can provide any further insight into the story, please let me know in the comments. No spoilers though!

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