Remedy Entertainment’s most recent game, Control, is an atmospheric tour de force. The entire game is set within the mysterious Oldest House, headquarters of the top secret Federal Bureau of Control. Much of the game has protagonist Jesse Faden exploring the Oldest House’s various departments, crafted by Remedy with heavy chiaroscuro or sometimes completely bathed in vivid colors. Creepy ambient sounds let the player know that the invading Hiss enemies are around every corner. There is, however, one extremely annoying, immersion-breaking feature that carries over from Remedy’s past games like Alan Wake.
Control‘s AWE DLC revealed that Alan Wake and Control share a universe, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jesse also has to frequently stop what she is doing to stand around and listen to a collectible audio log. Never mind the Hiss methodically indoctrinating the Bureau’s workers to be mindless, violent drones; it’s time to listen to another zany account of a poor worker’s encounter with an Altered Item.
It’s unfortunate that Remedy insists on presenting these audio logs diegetically, since it would be much more convenient for the player to find the collectible, hold the interact button for a second, then continue on their way while the audio log plays out. Hopefully this issue won’t plague fans in the next game.
Yes, making audio logs diegetic increases Control‘s immersion. Half of the game’s fun is picking up the many, many collectibles and piecing together the game world. Places like the Dead Letters Department are great for world-building. However, gameplay is paramount in video games, and standing around for sometimes more than a minute to listen to an audio log is a huge detriment to the game’s pacing.
This is only an issue because the world of Control is endlessly fascinating. It’s one of those games that is best played without any foreknowledge. The game begins with Jesse arriving unceremoniously at the Bureau of Control, but most of the lights are off and there is no one to be found, save for an extremely odd and prophetic janitor. And it only gets stranger from there.
Control‘s gameplay really excels when the player is levitating 30 feet off the ground, launching various object at enemies with Jesse’s telekinetic powers, and blasting them with a shape-shifting gun (made even more satisfying by the new DualSense controller support on PS5). So it’s a real shame when Control makes players stop doing all that really cool stuff and instead forces them stand in place and listen to an audio log to get the most out of the game’s endlessly fascinating universe.