Control was one of the most unique games of last year. A mixture of The Matrix and David Lynch. A high-concept sci-fi thriller that delves into the metatextual, exploring the controlling forces beyond our understanding through the medium of video games. It was not without its issues, it suffered frequent performance issues and the impossibly structured, Shining-Esque map could seriously halter your momentum as you frequently refer back to the map screen but, on the whole, Control was arguably the opus of Remedy’s resumé, it combined every concept and theme they had played with from the day’s of Max Payne through Alan Wake and right up to Quantum Break. It was not their best gaming experience but, as a complete package, it was saying something that the developers had been trying to get out for decades.
The Foundation is the first of two story-driven DLCs for the game, taking us to a new location, deep in the basement of The Oldest Building. This new environment is more organic and earthy, composed of strange rock formations. It is a far cry from the clinical and unsettling office structure of the main campaign and initially feels very fresh and invigorating after hours spent in the constantly shifting hallways of the Oldest Building, but ultimately it lacks the level of invention that made exploring new corners of the main campaign map so engrossing. After a certain point, the freshness fades as it becomes clear this corner of the world is not going to offer you anything on the level of the Ashtray Maze from the main game.
The story is very much of this ilk, it is not offering you much to sink your teeth into, rather relying on the bizarreness of your new surroundings rather than offering any compelling new places to take Jesse’s character. This is very much a story without any intense personal drive, it feels far more like just another weird day in the weird office.
That leaves us with the gameplay to fall back on and Control: The Foundation has the same highs and lows as it’s core experience, with a few novel additions. The combat is your typical, sturdy Remedy style shooter that they have been perfecting since Max Payne blasted his first grimacing mobster, and the superpowers and weapon mods you unlocked in the core experience provided a nice amount of customisation in how you approach a room, you will have your own preferred approach and I will undoubtedly have a different one, but the options were there. The Foundation does not add much in the way of innovation on this front, offering a handful of new abilities entirely reliant on this new Rocky environment. You have the ability to manipulate certain areas of your environment to create temporary platforms to jump on, another ability shares a similar concept and allows you to spring massive spiky traps on groups of enemies although it does not always work out that way when the enemy AI avoids clustering as much as possible.
Ultimately these new powers, and the other new additions to the combat, amount to very little. I never found myself making much use of them, in the same way that I rarely used the ground pound or shield powers in the main campaign and relied largely on the ‘launch’ and ‘seize’ powers. Many of these powers only come in handy during specific scenarios, most scenarios can be handled with your old preferred tactics, after some trial and error.
The new enemies are a challenge but, much like with most combat encounters later in the base game, they are frequently frustrating. The sheer amount of damage inflicted, and the suddenness of their appearances can result in an instadeath scenario if you are not careful. The combination of largely ineffective new powers with increasingly difficult enemies only brings to mind how frustrating Control’s combat experience was, rather than making me eager to play more.
This was ultimately the sticking point between me and Control: The Foundation. It did not fix the things that I found to be faulty or outright broken, the core gameplay was pretty much the same, and there were still aggravating performance issues throughout. It reminded me why finishing the main campaign was frequently more of a chore than a pleasure, something I largely saw through to the end because of my appreciation for Remedy’s strong storytelling instincts. The main campaign of Control is a 7/10 game elevated to 8/10 through the sheer power of its offbeat storytelling and visually stunning world-building. The Foundation significantly lacks those latter two qualities, and the new elements of gameplay added do little to enhance the overall package, feeling very much like a supplemental entry in the series rather than an essential one. Hopefully the much rumoured Alan Wake crossover DLC, titled AWE, will offer fans something more substantial. It will need to in order to make a third return to this game worthwhile.
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