Control Ultimate Edition is an action-adventure video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by 505 Games. Control Ultimate Edition was released in August 2019 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A cloud-based version for the Nintendo Switch was released in October 2020. Versions for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are planned. The game revolves around the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), a secret U.S. government agency tasked with containing and studying phenomena that violate the laws of reality.

As Jesse Faden (voiced by Courtney Hope), the Bureau’s new Director, the player explores the Oldest House – the FBC’s paranormal headquarters – and utilize powerful abilities in order to defeat a deadly enemy known as the Hiss, which has invaded and corrupted reality. The player gains abilities by finding Objects of Power, mundane objects like a rotary phone or a floppy disc imbued with energies from another dimension, that have been at the center of major paranormal events and since recovered by the FBC.

Control Ultimate Edition is inspired by the fictional SCP Foundation, an online project of user-created stories of paranormal objects, and based on the genre of the new weird. The environments of the Oldest House are designed in the brutalist architecture, common for many oppressive governmental buildings and which served as a setting to show off the game’s destructive environmental systems.

Control Ultimate Edition was one of the first games released to take advantage of real-time ray tracing built into the hardware of newer video cards. In addition to Hope, further voice work and live-action footage is provided by James McCaffrey, Matthew Porretta, and Martti Suosalo, while the band Poets of the Fall provided additional music.

Upon release, Control Ultimate Edition was met with positive reviews from critics, with several gaming publications naming it among their top games of 2019. The game was nominated for numerous video game awards, winning several related to the game’s art and design. Control Ultimate Edition 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 – was released on 27 August 2020.

Control Ultimate Edition Gameplay

Control Ultimate Edition 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 Ultimate Edition 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 Ultimate Edition 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 Ultimate Edition 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.

Synopsis

Setting

Control Ultimate Edition revolves around a clandestine U.S. government agency known as the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), which is responsible for the investigation of “paranatural” phenomena which defy the known laws of reality. These phenomena manifest in the form of Altered World Events (AWEs), intrusions upon perceived reality shaped by the human collective unconscious. These AWEs affect archetypal objects and give them unique properties; referred to as Altered Items by the Bureau, they are contained within their headquarters at the Oldest House, an enormous Brutalist skyscraper in New York City.

AWEs produce Objects of Power, which are unique in that they grant certain individuals (referred to as “parautilitarians”) paranatural abilities. Objects of Power are connected to the Astral Plane, an alternate dimension housing the Board, a pyramid-shaped entity which ordains the Bureau’s leadership through a ritual connected to the Service Weapon, an Object of Power.

Whomever the Board chooses to wield the Service Weapon is considered by default to be the Director of the FBC. The Oldest House is referred to as a Place of Power by the FBC; on the interior, it is an infinite, constantly shifting paranatural space connected to various alternate dimensions through rooms known as Thresholds.

The protagonist of Control Ultimate Edition is Jesse Faden (voiced by Courtney Hope), who arrives at the Oldest House seeking the whereabouts of her younger brother, Dylan (Sean Durrie). Seventeen years prior to the game’s events, Jesse and Dylan were involved in an AWE in their hometown of Ordinary, Wisconsin involving a slide projector Object of Power capable of opening portals to other dimensions.

After the Slide Projector’s paranatural properties resulted in the disappearance of Ordinary’s adult population, the FBC apprehended Dylan and the Slide Projector while Jesse fled, burning all but one of the slides. Jesse arrives at the Oldest House through the guidance of Polaris, a paranatural entity that rescued her and Dylan during the Ordinary AWE.

Jesse encounters various allies in the FBC, including research specialist Emily Pope (Antonia Bernath), security chief Simon Arish (Ronan Summers), Head of Operations Helen Marshall (Brig Bennett), and Ahti (Martti Suosalo), a mysterious Finnish janitor. She learns of the FBC’s former Director, Zachariah Trench (James McCaffrey), and finds various informative videos created by Dr. Casper Darling (Matthew Porretta), the Bureau’s missing Head of Research.

Cast

The game’s main voice cast was announced at New York Comic Con in 2018, consisting of various actors from Remedy’s previous games. Courtney Hope, who played the character Beth Wilder in Quantum Break, stars as Jesse Faden, while James McCaffrey, known for his roles as the title character of Max Payne and Thomas Zane in Alan Wake, plays the role of Zachariah Trench.

Matthew Porretta, who portrayed the titular character of Alan Wake, is also featured in both voice roles and live-action videos as the character of Dr. Casper Darling. Finnish actor Martti Suosalo voices the janitor Ahti. Remedy’s Sam Lake said that he had been yearning to add his native Finland to one of their games, and Control Ultimate Edition presented that opportunity to incorporate this. Among one of the these pieces includes a Finnish tango which Lake wrote, Petri Alanko composed, and Suosalo sang.

The game includes a voice cameo by Hideo Kojima and his English translator Aki Saito; in one side mission, a recording by Dr. Yoshimi Tokui, voiced by Kojima, relates a dream-like experience in Japanese, with the English translation given by Saito.

Technology

A further challenge in the game’s design and implementation involved creating an environment that would encourage the player to explore, get lost in it, and learn by observation. Kasurinen felt they did not want to include a traditional heads-up display for the player, with mission markers or other clutter, and instead have the player use mission descriptions in their log and careful observation of the environment to figure out where to go next. This further led to the decision to only tell player critical information via some means, leaving the player to fill in the missing parts with their own observations and imaginations.

They also wanted a fluid environment, where nearly any object in it could be used as part of the player-character’s telekinetic powers, so that the game world could be both a weapon to be used by the player, or a weapon against the player-character. To achieve this, Remedy replaced the Havok physics in their in-house game engine with PhysX, and improved their artificial intelligence to enable enemies to take advantage of these changes.

Control Ultimate Edition represents one of the first major games to be released after the introduction of graphics cards that support real time ray tracing (RTX), and considered the first game with a nearly-full implementation of all possible RTX features. The game also supports more standard rendering techniques suitable for less powerful graphical hardware. Nvidia heavily promoted Control Ultimate Edition among its campaign alongside its first RTX graphics cards featuring hardware ray-tracing support. The game was bundled with sales of graphics cards supporting the RTX technology. Nvidia created or hosted nine videos, including an exclusive gameplay trailer, to display the game’s ray tracing integration.

Marketing and release

In May 2017, Remedy announced that they had partnered with 505 Games to publish the game, then codenamed “P7”. 505 provided marketing and publishing support and a fund of €7.75 million to assist the game’s development, while Remedy retained the intellectual property rights to Control Ultimate Edition. In the press release, Remedy revealed that the game will have complex gameplay mechanics and that it will be a “longer term experience” than its previous games. P7 was being worked on by Remedy alongside two other projects. The game was officially revealed at Sony Interactive Entertainment’s E3 2018 press conference.

The game was released on 27 August 2019 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Epic Games had secured a year-long exclusivity deal for Control Ultimate Edition on the Epic Games Store with Digital Bros, the parent of 505 Games, for €9.49 million (US$10.5 million).

On 27 August 2020, the first anniversary of the game’s release, Control Ultimate Edition was released via Steam, including the base game, both the “Foundation” and “AWE” expansions, and the additional free updates. Control Ultimate Edition is scheduled to launch on the Epic Games Store, GOG.com, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 10 September 2020, and was to be available for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X after the release of those consoles.

Those that own the Control Ultimate Edition on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will be able to update their version to the newer console for free. 505 Games stated that while they looked to find a free upgrade path that would work for all users but that there was “some form of blocker and those blockers meant that at least one group of players ended up being left out of the upgrade for various reasons.” The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions and updates were delayed until early 2021 in an announced just prior to the consoles’ launches in November 2020 to improve the quality of the product.

A cloud gaming-based version of the game was released for the Nintendo Switch on 28 October 2020. It was the first cloud-based game released on the Switch outside of Japan.

Post-release

Remedy has affirmed plans for at least two additional content expansions to Control Ultimate Edition, titled “The Foundation” and “AWE”, both narratively set after the main game with Jesse taking on her role as the FBC Director. However, at the time of Control‘s launch, the specifics of this content had yet to be determined, according to narrative designer Brooke Maggs, as the team’s focus was on addressing performance issues for the console version of the games. “The Foundation” released on 26 March 2020 for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows and for Xbox One on 25 June 2020. The second expansion “AWE” was released on 27 August 2020, marking the game’s first anniversary.

Additional smaller, non-narrative content is also planned. The first, “Expeditions”, was released as a free update on 12 December 2019, and presents standalone missions of various difficulty with power-up items for their character.

A free update, to release alongside the “AWE” DLC but available for all players, will increase the number of control points, or “hard” checkpoints in the game where saving the game is possible, including adding ones before boss fights, as well as several “soft” checkpoints where players can restart without having to travel back to a control point should Jesse die. A new “assist mode” will allow for the player to have more control on customizing the game’s difficulty, with Remedy intending this to make it possible for even novice players to complete the game.

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