Tech reviews

Review: Control Ultimate Edition – Cloud Version


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Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch (Via Cloud Streaming Tech)
Also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.


Control is one of the many games that I had heard a fair amount about, thought “it’s worth a try”, and personally never got around to playing. At the time it first came out, that being 2019, I was too preoccupied with other great games from 2018 like Sonic Mania Plus, Celeste, God of War (PS4), Dragonball FIghterZ, Batman: The Enemy Within, and Red Dead Redemption 2, to name quite a few. All were phenomenal in their own rights, and were a source of sinking an average of 20 hours a week. (Bad news for an overweight guy like me)

Then, when I was gonna play Control a few months after it came out, other great 2019 games came out like Devil May Cry 5, The Outer Worlds, Mortal Kombat 11, Kingdom Hearts III,  Borderlands III, Shenmue III, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses all took up a ton of my time in 2019. Combine that with retro and current titles like Gears 5, Rare Replay, Jetpac Refueled, etc. all coming to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate alongside the long-anticipated Phantasy Star Online 2, and any thoughts of Control were quickly cast into the abyss of my memory.  As of this writing, an Ultimate Edition was released for Current-Gen systems, and versions are being planned for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

That said, I wondered if they’d ever bring a Alan Wake-themed game to Current-Gen systems, much less the Switch. This is where last week’s Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase comes into play. The direct itself was interesting, and the real highlights (for me, personally) were the revelations that HItman III and Control: Ultimate Edition were both coming to the Switch, at least as a Cloud Version..

As someone who’s written articles and reviews for various Stadia Websites last year, I am a fan of this, as it means that games that would be natively impossible for the Switch to handle, like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War or Phantasy Star Online 2 or even Watch Dogs: Legion, can come to the Switch. Moreover, HItman III and Control: Ultimate Edition are the first Cloud games from Ubitus to make their way to the rest of the world after Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was Geo-blocked to Japan, and Phantasy Star Online 2 and Resident Evil 7 Biohazard also got stuck in Japan, most likely due to a small team handling these cloud ports at those times.

Sorry about the rant and sidetracking. Where was I? Oh yeah, Control Ultimate Edition – Cloud Version.

This hit from Remedy Entertainment and 505 Games, the folks behind Alan Wake and one or two other titles I’m most likely unaware of, was nominated for a number of awards last year, and won a few of them, including IGN’s Game Of The Year Award. It won several E3 awards as well, and received positive critical acclaim from reviewers. So, having recently bought a $50 Nintendo eShop gift card from Walmart this past weekend, I bought the pass and “played” it.

Long story short, I can’t believe I missed out on this game when it first came out. It’s simply amazing!

To start with, the story of this game is very much a combination of Twin Peaks (which I’ve only seen small bits of), and The X-Files (which I have seen a bit of, and recognize the main theme; Thanks, Quarter Guy!)
Aside from the main story, which I’ll cover shortly, (Spoilers warning, mind you!) Control was followed by a downloadable expansion, The Foundation, which was released on 26 March 2020. A second expansion, AWE – a crossover with Remedy’s previous game Alan Wake (not to be confused with the character of Alan Wake)- was released on 27 August 2020. 

As this is my first proper exposure to Control, I’ll be going over the story in its entirety. This includes the main game’s story and its 2 DLC expansions, The Foundation, and AWE. I’m going into full spoiler mode, even though this game is only a year or so old. You have been thoroughly warned.


STORY


Jesse Faden arrives at the Oldest House under the telepathic guidance of Polaris, finding the building seemingly devoid of people. She bumps into a Finnish janitor, Ahti, who directs her to an elevator for her “job interview”. Through the elevator, Jesse discovers that the Federal Bureau of Control’s Director, Zachariah Trench, has seemingly committed suicide with his own sidearm. Picking it up, Jesse learns that it is an Object of Power known as the Service Weapon, and is transported to the Astral Plane, where she completes a ritual and is selected as the new Director by the Board.

 Jesse emerges from Trench’s office and finds that the Oldest House has been invaded by a hostile force she dubs “the Hiss”, which has possessed most of the Bureau’s agents and corrupted the building’s shifting topography. Jesse uses an Object of Power known as the Hotline to listen to the lingering presence of Trench, who relays that his former management team knows the secrets of the Bureau, and Jesse hopes they may be able to tell her the whereabouts of her brother, Dylan, who was kidnapped by the FBC years prior.

Jesse aids Emily Pope and the other remaining agents of the FBC, who have survived by donning Hedron Resonance Amplifiers (HRAs), devices developed by Casper Darling that protect their wearers from the effects of the Hiss. 

Pope explains that the Oldest House is on complete lockdown until the Hiss can be eradicated. Seeking to release the lockdown and access other sectors of the building, Jesse enters the Oldest House’s Maintenance Sector and is guided by Ahti to repair the building’s electricity and plumbing to prevent a major meltdown. Jesse uses a Directorial Override to reopen the other sectors, and enters the Research Sector in search of Helen Marshall, whom she believes knows about Dylan. 

Jesse aids Marshall in retaking the Research Sector and facilitating production of more HRAs. Marshall reveals that Dylan, known to the Bureau as “Prime Candidate 6”, was brought in as a candidate for the role of Director due to his special parautilitarian abilities, but after he proved unstable and killed several Bureau agents, he was detained in the Containment Sector.

 Jesse rushes to the sector to find Dylan, only to learn that he has appeared in the Executive Sector and surrendered to the FBC agents there. Dylan tells Jesse that he has embraced the Hiss, which he believes will set him free of the Bureau, and that their invasion was made possible by the slide projector Object of Power that the Bureau recovered from Ordinary. Dylan warns his sister not to trust Polaris, but Jesse resolves to find and deactivate the Slide Projector.

Jesse investigates the Prime Candidate program and learns that both she and Dylan were considered for the role of Director, and that the slide projector is contained in the Research Sector. Ahti gives Jesse a cassette player which enables her to navigate an elaborate maze protecting the slide projector’s chamber. In the chamber, Jesse finds the slide projector missing. 

She learns that Darling led several expeditions into the dimension accessed through the only surviving slide the FBC was able to recover (the other slides having been burned by Jesse years prior), discovering a polyhedron-shaped organism he named Hedron, which is the source of the HRA resonance. Jesse discovers that Hedron is Polaris, who called out to Jesse to save her from the Hiss; however, when Jesse reaches Hedron’s containment chamber, the Hiss attacks and seemingly kills it.

Jesse’s mind is invaded as the Hedron resonance falters; however, she is able to rediscover Polaris’s essence within her and restore control. Jesse learns that Trench fell under the Hiss’s influence during one of Darling’s expeditions; he stole and concealed a second slide and used it to let the Hiss into the Oldest House to destroy what he perceived to be the threat of Hedron’s takeover. 

Jesse finds the Slide Projector in the Executive Sector and through it enters the Astral Plane to confront Dylan, who is attempting to take over the Board through the Hiss. The Board, fearing they are losing control of the Astral Plane, allocates what power they can to Jesse, amplifying her abilities to stop the Hiss. Jesse, with her newfound power, defeats the defending Hiss and cleanses Dylan, who falls into a coma. Accepting her new role as Director, Jesse resolves to defeat the remaining Hiss in order to restore order to the Bureau.

Well, that’s certainly a LOT to take in all at once, ladies and gentlemen. It takes what worked from Twin Peaks, X-Files, and – as DLC shows, Alan Wake – to make a truly practical and wonderfully written story with memorable characters like Dylan, Jesse, Marshall, Former, The Board, etc. It also has a good mix of Dark Humor, wacky moments, and serious moments mixed as well. The main game’s story was interesting, but I felt that more could’ve been done with the story, instead of simply leaving us with hopes for a DLC expansion. I hate when companies sell the rest of the complete story as DLC instead of including it in the base game. I really sure as Hell do.

But all critiques aside, this was enjoyable, and now it’s time to see how the Foundation stacks up

DLC #1 – The Foundation

The Foundation takes place in an eponymous location at the bottom of the Oldest House, after the main story, where Jesse is summoned by the Board to deal with a threat to the Bureau. In the Foundation, Jesse discovers a “Nail” that acts as a conduit between the Oldest House and the Astral Plane. The Nail has been damaged, resulting in the Astral Plane merging into the real world which would be catastrophic if it continued beyond the Oldest House. The Board grants Jesse a new ability and instructs her to find the Nail’s four nodes to repair it; in the process, Jesse searches for the whereabouts of Marshall, who entered the Foundation during the initial Hiss invasion seeking to secure it.

While repairing one of the nodes, Jesse suddenly encounters Former, an extradimensional entity and ex-member of the Board, which grants Jesse an additional ability which the Board had not ordained. The Board is furious, but later calms, and attempts to persuade Jesse not to trust the Former. She then has a conversation with Former, which claims that it was blamed for something that it got exiled by the Board as a result, and is more willing to help her however it can, though its true motives remain unclear. 

Jesse repairs the nodes, but tremors occur between the Oldest House and the Astral Plane which threaten to destroy both dimensions. Jesse reaches the base of the Nail, where she finds Marshall possessed by the Hiss, and kills her. With the aid of Former, Jesse cleanses the Nail.

Marshall’s presence reveals through the Hotline that it was she who destroyed the Nail, seeking to prevent the Hiss from taking over the Oldest House through it, and also as a preventative measure against the Board’s control. The Board, in response, destroyed Marshall’s HRA, allowing her to be possessed by the Hiss. Jesse, with her faith in the Board shattered, resolves to lead the Bureau her own way, but continues letting the Board believe it is in control. As Jesse exits the Foundation, Former recedes in the distance.

As an epilogue for the main story, this DLC is really great. There’s new characters like Former, Marshall shows up for a rematch after the prologue of the main story. Making Marshall the final boss of the (post-game) story was an amazing idea. It redeemed her for her rather easy boss fight near the beginning of the main game,and made her a sympathetic character who sacrificed herself for both the greater good and to help Jesse realize the Board’s corruption. What a way to die tragically, by your savior’s hands after getting infected via The Hiss. Poor Marshall. . .Now, onto DLC #2 – AWE.

DLC #2 – AWE

AWE takes place in the Investigations Sector during the endgame, a closed sector of the Oldest House formerly used to investigate various Altered World Events. Jesse is summoned to the sector by an apparition of Alan Wake (the protagonist of Remedy Entertainment’s eponymous video game), where she discovers that the sector was closed off several years prior after a major breach of containment. 

In the sector, Jesse learns of the Bright Falls AWE (the Altered World Event encompassing the events of Alan Wake), including Cauldron Lake, a naturally-occurring Threshold in the town of Bright Falls which enabled artists’ works of art to rewrite reality. Dr. Emil Hartman, a psychologist, attempted to study and control the lake’s power via troubled artists kept at his clinic. However, after attempting and failing to do so with Wake, Hartman was confronted by agents of the FBC, who took all of Hartman’s research.

Hartman ultimately resorted to diving into Cauldron Lake himself in a final attempt to study the forces within it. He was immediately taken over by the Dark Presence (known to the FBC as “the Shadow”), a monstrous entity and the antagonist of Alan Wake, after which he was contained by the FBC at the Oldest House. However, Hartman soon breached containment, forcing the FBC to abandon most of the sector. 

During the Hiss invasion, the Hiss entered the sector and took over Hartman and the weakened Dark Presence; the Hiss and the Dark Presence amplified one another, twisting Hartman into a monstrous entity. Inside of the sector, Jesse is contacted by Frederick Langston, who tells her to eliminate Hartman so that the sector can be retaken. All the while, Jesse visits the Oceanview Motel, where she experiences visions of Alan through a doorway marked with a spiral.

Eventually, Jesse is able to reach the Bright Falls AWE area of the sector and kill Hartman, ending the threat and cleansing the sector of the Hiss and the Dark Presence. Langston then informs her that the FBC has received a possible AWE report from Bright Falls, but notes that the date of the report is several years in the future. Huh…?

Well, that was… interesting. Seeing Hartman from Alan Wake play such a huge role was interesting and exciting, even to me – and I’m not even an Alan Wake fan! Getting to avoid him in some creative puzzles using “light” was an ingenious idea, and his boss fight, while standard in comparison to the previous DLC’s offerings, is pretty cool. Seeing the spiraling loading screen be a hint at and reference to Alan Wake was awesome.

Overall, it’s all really good, but I feel there could’ve been more put into the base game, such as enhanced rematches with Hiss-controlled characters, such as Marshall in the Black Rock Quarry. That’d have been a PERFECT rematch location! Oh, well. Not much can be done at this point but to move on to the gameplay. Let’s go.

GAMEPLAY 


Control is played from a third-person perspective, and is built using Remedy’s proprietary Northlight Engine, which was first used on the company’s previous title Quantum Break. Control is set within the Oldest House, a featureless Brutalist skyscraper in New York City, and the headquarters of the fictional Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) which studies Altered World Events (AWEs) and collects and studies Objects of Power from these AWEs within. The Oldest House, itself an Object of Power, has an interior far larger than its exterior, an enormous, constantly shifting supernatural realm that defies the laws of spacetime. At the onset of the game, an entity called the Hiss is attempting to cross over through a dimensional barrier into this reality, and has taken over numerous parts of the Oldest House, reconfiguring its architecture to its needs, as well as many of the FBC employees to fight for it. The player controls Jesse Faden who has come to the Oldest House seeking answers about her brother after a prior AWE, but becomes involved in the fight against the Hiss.

Control is built in the Metroidvania format, with a large world map that can be explored at a nonlinear pace, unlike Remedy’s previous titles which were primarily linear. As the player completes main story missions, they will encounter areas known as Control Points, which can be unlocked after clearing the area of enemies and then used both as save points and for fast travel throughout the building to previously-unlocked Control Points. As the player completes missions, they unlock more of the building to explore along with additional side quests, in addition to various rewards. These include skill points which can be used to improve psychokinetic powers that Jesse gains over the course of the game, such as projectile-launching debris at enemies or seizing control of enemies’ minds temporarily to turn them into her allies. Mission rewards can also include resources that can be used to improve the function of the Service Weapon, a special gun that can take on multiple forms, ranging from a close-range shotgun-like blast to long-range sniper-like form, with each form outfitted with various perks. The player can equip perks to improve Jesse’s base attributes. Various side-quests and optional time-limited mission alerts are available with additional rewards if completed.

An A.I. system known as the Encounter Director controls interactions with enemies based on the player’s level and location in the Oldest House. Enemies in Control are predominantly human agents of the FBC possessed by the Hiss, an otherworldly force. They range from standard humans carrying firearms to heavily mutated variations that possess a variety of superpowers

Also included in the Ultimate Edition of Control is one of the best Assist modes in any game, period. Unlike most games where you can adjust the difficulty to a certain extent such as, say, being stuck in Safety mode if picked in Persona 5, you can adjust the difficulty, toggle one-hit kills onto and off enemies as you wish (this applies to bosses as well), and even give Jesse God-Mode Immortality. You do still have to unlock Levitation, Telekinesis, and the Gun, but you can just mess around with enemies as you wish. I know playing as a “god” is not the way the game wants you to play it, but here’s my story of my first hour with Control Ultimate Edition – Cloud Version on Nintendo Switch, so you can get my perspective.

I was starting up the game and getting used to the controls, input lag, story, and all that jazz. Then, the enemy encounters started, and I began dying to simple enemies even when I took the game’s advice to time my shots,  and melee enemies who were close to my character’s position, and yet I still died as demonstrated in this screenshot below.

As you can probably guess, I died – a LOT – in the opening two missions of the game. Then, as I checked the options to see if things could be made easier to any extent, I found Assist Mode, which after assuring the game I wanted to toggle around with it, let me do so. I could make enemies and bosses die in ONE HIT, and make Jesse invincible to everything except bottomless pits. This is only available in the Ultimate Edition of the game.

This is useful for eliminating the difficulty spikes that plagued the game for some, and I’m among those who agree with that mentality. I’m gonna be upfront: the difficulty spike in the near-beginning of the game was brutal, and made it difficult for me to maintain my interest in “playing” the game. (more on that in a minute, folks) That being said, it does make the game a bit boring. Good thing there’s platforming challenges in the Astral Plane to keep your skills sharp.

These challenges will test you with different tasks like targeting hiss-possessed enemies, navigating tricky jumps, and running through noise/hiss-infested clusters, to name just a few of the challenges you’re gonna deal with when battling the Hiss. While the game works and runs fine from a technical standpoint, with minor input lag most of the time, there were times where I had considerable input lag and latency issues, with it being arguably even worse than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Yeah, I said it! 

With Smash, it was built with both online and offline in mind, while this port is a streaming video feed from Ubitus’s headquarters that’s entirely online based. The lag as a result contributed to several deaths during the first 1/5th of the game. Performance mode lasted for 15-20 minutes, and Graphics Mode lasted for 20 or so minutes before going to low mode, each leading to stuttering and major LAG that lead to my usually 30-minute long to one-hour LONG sessions being cut short!

Also, if you leave the game idle for too long, you’ll be disconnected automatically. That sucks if you get interrupted a lot like I do and have to leave for 5-10 minutes at a time, which I do, a LOT!

Despite these issues, I got addicted to the game and fell in love with it. What was supposed to be short 10-minute sessions turned into 30-minute sessions. And 30-minute sessions, in turn, turned into hour-long sessions. Best part, though? I can walk around the house and play this game, and not have to sit in front of a tv to play, unlike when I want to play on my PS4 or Xbox One or even Stadia.

And, as I said, for the most part, there’s little-to-no input lag if you have a good connection to the internet, and most places have free Wi-Fi access. It runs at a good and surprisingly steady 30FPS with very few dips unless your connection dips due to weather distance from said wi-fi.. Even without much of a connection, from my experience, it still runs at 30FPS, with small dips to 20-25FPS in Performance Mode. Graphics Mode, surprisingly, still yielded good results of about 20-25FPS, but slightly more dips into the low twenties-early teens. Impressive work, Ubitus, Remedy, and 505Games. Basically speaking, if you can handle youtube, then your switch can handle this with little trouble, and only a 98mb download file is needed.


FINAL VERDICT


Now, to finally answer the burning question you’re all waiting for: Is Control Ultimate Edition – Cloud Version  really worth burning through $42 dollars on the eShop after taxes? The answer, YES!

Folks, the game is a HUGE step forward, as now more Cloud games can make their way to America, and thus more games “CAN” be “on the Switch” in some capacity. Think of the possibilities of the games that could reach Nintendo Switch systems through this service that Ubitus is doing. Titles like Watch Dogs: Legion (Because Watch Dogs was on Wii U before), Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (It’d make a lot of money for Activision), and Resident Evil VIII: Village (It would be a huge surprise and a great way to make up to the Nintendo fans for their apparent lack of third-party support).

Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity. Just, don’t miss out or neglect it at least until you try a free 10-minute trial.

It’s an overall enjoyable game, with little-to-no input lag, great controls, a story leaving me wanting more, and a perfectly adjustable difficulty through a broken assist mode. Bring on Hitman III, Ubitus!




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