Now is the time to play Control: Ultimate Edition on PS5

Playable character Jesse develops para-natural powers that allows her to launch objects and do other superhuman things in "Control."


By GIESON CACHO | The Mercury News | Published: March 5, 2021

Games that come with Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus can be hit or miss. The free offerings are often titles that players may already own or are projects that weren’t that great to begin with. Once in a while, the services’ offerings hit that sweet spot: A title comes along that has won acclaim and may have been missed.

For me, that game is Control. Now being offered on Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus, Remedy Entertainment’s 2019 action title was praised when it launched, but that was a busy year and I didn’t have enough time to play it. Fast-forward to 2021 and 505 Games has released an updated version for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

The iterations take advantage of the hardware by supporting ray-tracing and 4K visuals at 60 frames per second. Keep in mind though, the next-gen upgrades are only available to the Ultimate Edition of the game, and that happened to be free via PlayStation Plus on the PS5. The Xbox Game Pass version is the Standard Edition and doesn’t have the extra content or improved visuals.

Sometimes it’s better to be late to the party. Control: Ultimate Edition throws players into shoes of Jesse Faden, who finds herself at the secretive Federal Bureau of Control. Think of it as a U.S. agency committed to “X-Files”-type cases and run by people who have a penchant for making videos in the style one would see in “Lost.”

The executive hub is where players begin their efforts to retake the Oldest House in Control.

The secret institution is tasked with the handling and investigating Altered World Events. These para-natural occurrences are tied to Altered Items or Objects of Power. They can be as innocuous as a rubber duckie that quacks and follows a person, or as dangerous as a merry-go-round horse that murders people.

When Jesse enters the Control headquarters, which is itself a para-natural Place of Power called the Oldest House, she finds it in disarray. She has personal motives for visiting the agency but ultimately finds herself involved in the bureau’s struggle for survival. Transdimensional entities called the Hiss have invaded the base, and the employees are battling to retake the facility.

Control throws players immediately into the deep end, almost like an “in media res.” It doesn’t offer any background and forces players to solve its inner mysteries. They have to adjust to the odd reality in the Oldest House, a facility that’s always in flux with shifting walls and rooms that contain enormous quarries that sit alongside offices and soaring atriums.

Players also learn that when Jesse picks up ana Object of Power called the Service Weapon, she becomes director of the bureau and everyone magically acknowledges that. The firearm also has the special ability to transform into a shotgun-type weapon, a submachine gun, a rail gun-type contraption and other weapons. It also reloads automatically. In addition, Jesse has para-natural abilities that let her handle Altered Items and Objects of Power she finds in the Oldest House.

Structurally, Control resembles a Metroidvania-type game. Jesse has to stabilize the bureau by helping out the Power Plant and Maintenance Sector, and afterward she’ll have the freedom to investigate how the Hiss infiltrated the headquarters. Jesse is weak and the explorable world is small in the beginning, but as she meets other employees, she gains clearance to more of the Oldest House and the objects of power that give her new abilities.

At first, she can run and gun while taking cover behind desks. Soon after, she gains the ability to launch objects at foes, dodge incoming attacks, create shields out of debris, levitate over short distances and enact mind control over adversaries. In addition, she can also upgrade these abilities and make her weapons more powerful.

Jesse has paranatural powers that let her launch objects and do other superhuman things in Control.

All this lets players design a version of Jesse that fits their playstyle and offers depth to combat. With different power-ups, players can emphasize the use of mind control or shields, or they can focus on maneuverability and gunplay. Personally, I relied on launching objects at foes and generating the energy to do that. I also had some mind control thrown in for good measure.

As Jesse ventures deeper into the Oldest House, players will find that the world is enormous, overwhelming and easy to get lost in. Thankfully, Remedy offers players fast travel through control points and it labels players’ missions so they know where to go. Some side missions can be harder than others because they require puzzle solving or looking for the right object, but it’s manageable if players are methodical explorers.

The only drawback with the way that Remedy tells the story is that it relies on collectibles to fill in the gaps. Players discover the plot outlines but to understand the details, they’ll have to grab collectibles and read through them. Doing that disrupts the flow of the combat and exploration. It would have been better to integrate them more into the gameplay or have them read aloud so players can continue playing without stopping to read through the menu.

That’s a shame because story is a huge component to Control. Remedy crafts an intriguing world that interconnects with its other hit, Alan Wake. Together, they forge a compelling universe that’s filled with odd phenomena and equally strange explanations. The atmosphere it creates is both creepy and whimsical, like “X-Files” at its peak.

On the PS5, Control benefits from the console’s hardware. It produces ray-traced graphics that heighten the realism with lifelike reflections, while the performance mode runs the game at 4K at 60 frames per second, giving players silky smooth visuals that flow from the screen. The additional Alan Wake-centric mission makes the campaign beefier but not overly long while the Foundation expansion gives players another set of quests that’s serviceable but not as good.

Two years after its release, Control still holds up on the latest generation of consoles, and it’s a value that players shouldn’t pass up if they own a PS5 and have a PlayStation Plus subscription. For Xbox Series X fans with Xbox Game Pass, the standard game is still great especially with the speedier hard drive that cuts down on load times. The core experience is still worthwhile for those who haven’t tried it yet.

Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Online: 505games.com/games/control