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Review

Control Review - An Action-Packed Paranormal Portal

  • First Released Aug 27, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Aug 26, 2019
  • PC
  • XONE
  • PS4

A return to form for Remedy Games.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

When you're so used to games that ease you in, the confronting nature of Control is immediately compelling. There's plenty of time to get to know characters, study the environment, and gradually pick up new mechanics and skills, but Control's sinister atmosphere is impactful, sending a rush of questions through your head from the moment you press start.

Who is Jesse Faden? Why does she seem both lost and found on her first day as director at the Federal Bureau of Control? How can she possibly maintain her composure in the face of the haunting ethereal and material distortions that have overtaken the bureau? You may only have some answers to these questions by the time the credits roll. While being vague or opaque could be viewed as a flaw in other games, obfuscation is part of what makes Control so spellbinding. Impressively, the mysteries grip ever tighter as you navigate the bureau's headquarters in search of answers. Knowledge is power, but it frequently opens doors to possibilities you never knew existed--doors that are better left shut, so far as Jesse and surviving FBC members are concerned.

If you've played past works from Remedy Games, you will instantly recognize the studio's footprint. Control's story plays with grim truths and strange themes. Everything is a serious matter, except when it isn't and a dark sense of humor creeps in to offer a momentary respite--which, yes, includes plenty of FMV shorts. The combat system is designed for you to be equal parts agile and destructive, bearing a notable resemblance to the studio's Microsoft-exclusive, Quantum Break. Combat aside, that game felt like a step removed from what Remedy does best. Control feels like Remedy has found its footing again.

There is one major aspect that is decidedly new for Remedy: Control is non-linear, built in the vein of a metroidvania and filled with reasons to retrace your steps over time. This approach is largely handled well, though if there's any aspect of Control that feels lacking it's the handling of the map. It's an unreliable tool presented in a top-down fashion that often feels like more trouble than it's worth. Multi-level areas overlap with one another (you can't isolate them, or zoom in for a closer look) and it's practically impossible to track specific locations you have or have not visited. Broad areas can be tracked, sure, but not, say, a single meeting room in the executive branch.

This would be a major issue if not for two things: The signage in the world is surprisingly helpful, and ultimately, Control makes wandering the halls of "The Oldest House" a consistent pleasure. If you aren't in awe of the architecture, you're probably getting your kicks from a battle that pops up when you least expected it.

No Caption Provided

Referring to the FBC headquarters as a house is a bit misleading, though you'll grow to understand how in time. In practical terms, it is a massive multi-story facility that screams government, with angular interiors formed in stone and metal, with minimal flourish. It has the outward appearance of an orderly place of process, which, while true, undersells the reality therein, or the lack thereof.

The dance between fact and fiction is at the heart of Control's setting and a fascinating narrative that unravels in Jesse's mind through a series of inner monologues and psychic projections. There are exchanges between characters that move certain elements forward, but so much of Control hinges on Jesse's discoveries and her interpretations of their meaning. Even though you're clued into her thoughts, there's an underlying element that Jesse fails to explain because, to her, it's matter-of-fact. Whatever it is has always been a part of her, creating a gap of understanding that you, for the most part, can only hope to fill in with your own inferences. There's a constant desire to know more, yet to also maintain distance from the truth in order to preserve the mystery. It's to Control's credit that it effortlessly facilitates this exchange.

If it's otherworldly, if it seems to defy explanation, odds are the FBC is running tests to discover the underlying cause and contain the consequences from the outside world. Deep within the guts of the house lie experiments and studies that dig into paranormal disturbances, the collective subconscious, and alternate dimensions. The FBC posits that entities from beyond our realm have used objects of power--archetypical things that we know and take for granted--as gateways into our world. After years of the FBC gathering these strange objects for study, the house has become an amplified conduit for a force known as The Hiss, which can reshape and move matter. The source of this power, a dimension known as the Astral Plane, has crept into the bureau, and some far-off corridors bear its telltale monochromatic, geometric motif. Occasionally, you will get pulled into this strange world to undergo skill trials, but your visits are always short, which helps preserve the mystique in the long run.

No Caption Provided

Back in the "real" world, lowly agents and high-ranking FBC enforcers have been corrupted en masse. Many float harmlessly in mid-air, chanting strange mantras in boardrooms, hallways, and research facilities. Generally, if there's headroom, there are floaters. The more aggressive of the bunch pop into existence before your eyes as you explore the bureau. They, like Jesse, fight with a mix of guns and telekinetic powers. They are generally fun adversaries, and battles are punctuated by some incredible special effects. Furniture and small props are whipped into a frenzy when you hurl a desk from a cubicle and into a group of enemies. Sparks and colorful plumes of energy fill the air when a nearby explosion cuts through the incandescent trails left behind by the hiss.

There are only a few unique enemies or bosses to speak of, but by and large the AI, in conjunction with a great variety of architectural layouts, makes every fight feel engaging. Whether a simple encounter or a complex assault, you have to approach combat with a juggling act in mind, shifting between expending ammunition and psychic energy when one or the other is depleted. You also have to learn how to defend against and recover from harm. The only way to heal in combat is to pick up essence dropped by fallen enemies, which often requires you to throw yourself into the fray while also protecting yourself from further damage.

New powers come with story milestones, but weapon forms are crafted from collectible materials. Their stats, and Jesse's, increase with the application of randomized ranked mods dropped by enemies and found in hidden containment chests. You will likely come across hundreds of mods, but because you can only hold and use a limited amount, you will end up dismantling most of them to make space in your inventory. Mods can make a tangible difference, especially once you start to find high-ranking ones, but they can't make up for a lack of skill or understanding of Jesse's tools during the game's greatest tests.

No Caption Provided
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Control is a great-looking game in general, from the overall art design to the technical execution, but combat is a notable standout in that regard. While the experience on PC can be tuned to run at a consistently smooth frame rate, the PS4 version (playing on a PS4 Pro with supersampling enabled) can exhibit stuttering when fights are at their most chaotic--no issues were spotted with the Xbox One version. This, thankfully, is an uncommon occurrence, but it definitely clues you in to how taxing the special effects and real-time physics are.

With a fair amount of extracurricular exploration, it took me about 15 hours to get to the end of Control's campaign. Though I watched the credits roll, there are still plenty of side quests for me to tackle. Jesse isn't the only sane person in the bureau after all, and the handful of key NPCs that populate each sector have co-workers gone missing or projects left abandoned that might put the bureau at future risk. They not only give you more reason to spend time in Jesse's shoes, but the supporting cast is great across the board, brought to life with excellent voice acting and top-notch character design. They aren't deep characters and your conversations never go very far, but I'm more than willing to help them in their time of need, if only to see what quirky or oddball thing they say when I return.

No Caption Provided

One of my favorite aspects of Control, now that I've got room to breathe, is spending quality time with its collectible texts and videos. I've managed to read most of the in-game materials while pushing through main missions and tackling optional pursuits, but there are so many fascinating threads to pull on that it's easy to imagine new possibilities lying in wait; if only I studied the evidence a little closer, or considered a new angle, maybe the missing pieces of Jesse's story would come into view. These tidbits can be educational, disturbing, and at times wildly entertaining, and they have inspired me to look deeper into topics like Jungian psychology.

It's not often that a game invades my thoughts the way Control has. I'm at the point where I want to consume every last thing it has to offer. And if I'm honest, it also makes me want to go back and replay Remedy's past games, too. Sure, it's a faulty metroidvania in some respects, but there are so many exceptional qualities afoot that Control handily deflects any momentary ire. I can't wait to take part in discussions about the game, to see what others have figured out, and to better understand where it all fits into Jesse's story.

Back To Top
The Good
Gorgeous art style that effectively evokes dread and awe
Fascinating sets breathe life into the imposingly rigid environment
Fearlessly doles out complex concepts that inspire curiosity and imagination
Stylish combat deftly mixes gunplay and super powers
The Bad
A confusing map that can complicate navigation
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter finished Control in roughly 15 hours, but he can't wait to continue exploring the bureau in search of every little secret that remains. He played primarily on PS4, but also spent some time testing the game on Xbox One and PC. Complimentary review code was provided by 505 Games.
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JustTheTip

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This game is very generic. The combat is awful. It’s incredibly repetitive and chaotic. The fact that you can’t shoot from cover is retarded. Sure, you can duck behind cover, but you can’t lean out from that cover and you’re forced to stand while shooting. The combat is essentially just running around wildly and hoping enemies don’t spawn behind you, which they usually do. The powers don’t feel super helpful and aren’t anything that we haven’t already seen several times before. The fact that the gun can transform is mildly cool for a few minutes. The shooting feels weightless though, just like in Quantum Break. The story is a mess and not compelling. Full disclosure: I haven’t finished the game yet, but from the several hours and chapters I’ve played, this game is a 5, for me. I doubt it’s going to get any better.

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JustPlainLucas

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I'm sure the game will get better, but the first hour didn't really grab me. I do love that gun, though. So cool to see it reload.

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p1p3dream

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Lol. I can't figure out where to buy this game.

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p1p3dream

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@p1p3dream: oh

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EdwardNygma

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How about a new Max Payne?

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Terminator95

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@edwardnygma: In good time my son In good time.

Max Payne 4 coming 2025 !

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EdwardNygma

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@Terminator95: Ha!

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southsouthsac

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Looks cool

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brievolz84

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Nice review but I find it dumb that Remedy made exclusive content for a platform. I mean I don't mind different skins or mods for the different consoles and PC but to exclude a side-misison from every platform besides PS4...that is ridiculous.

The reason why I chose the platform I chose was because I wanted the best performance and since these consoles cannot ever keep up with the PC, I have to miss content because of that choice. It's a load of bull and it shouldn't be tolerated.

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Vodoo

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@brievolz84: I own a PS4 and would still buy it for my XB1X because of performance. Those exclusive side missions are usually padded garbage anyways.

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aross2004

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@brievolz84: LOL! But wait, the powerful PeeCeez!!!

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Terminator95

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@brievolz84: well there's a lot of PS4 Exclusives you Can't play on your old big rig either so.

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NickBasile

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Edited By NickBasile

Anyone else have trouble loading the video review?

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Godlikan

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Edited By Godlikan

Finally review that is narrated well, keep up the good work and make more reviews, indie games also!

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JimAbadon

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Admittedly, I'm surprised. I did not expect this game to have such positive reception, both here and on Metacritic. I may just buy it someday.

On another note, why is the site bugging out lately? A lot of stuff just don't load properly and it requires reloading pages. This is the only site I have that issue with so I wonder if it's not on my end alone.

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NickBasile

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@jimabadon: The video reviews don't seem to be loading on my end...

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WESTBLADE

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@jimabadon: No issues here with Gamespot. Maybe your browser and/or its plugins are bugged. Try to clear cache and cookies... Some bad or questionable Adblockers can also cause few issues.

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streamline

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Didn’t notice that this review was by Peter Brown and was thinking that maybe Gamespot is regaining its game in gaming reviews, but then I saw his name. Get more of these veteran types and make gamespot about games again...Make GAGA!

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dynamotnt

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mm seems overpriced for what it is. i thought max payne 2 was one of the best action games ever made, best sequels ever made and everything they've done since has been so close, and yet so far each time and getting worse as time went on.

for me alan wake just missed the mark, nothing to really make me care about the world or story or characters, it was different and ok, but thats all, just ok.

quantum break was a big failiure imo, mainly because the pacing was all over the place, and for a game about time manipulation they literally have every excuse ever written to make it, not so. yet it was what it was, not to mention the cutscenes skipped even fully pre-downloaded on a 1x, it skipped and jittered consistantly. and was glaringly offputting.

and now this, whilst I did get some enjoyment from every remedy game, this just isn't worth the price imo, maybe when the dlc is packaged in a sale.

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TerrytheGnome19

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Edited By TerrytheGnome19

@dynamotnt: AAA video games have cost $60 for 12 years. It is totally your prerogative to not buy a game if you don't want to but understand that inflation is real. Games cost more money than ever to make. $60 for a 20 hr campaign is $3 an hour. If that is too steep then wait for a sale but lets not pretend like $60 for 20 hrs of entertainment is crazy. As entertainment goes that is pretty damn cheap per hour.

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Chlamydia

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@dynamotnt:

Opinions like this are the reason that quality Single Player only games are going to become extremely rare. Games are expensive to develop and they need to pass it on to consumers to cover that cost, but we live in a generation now where buying a £40-£50 single player game feels alien because we are accustomed to getting multiplayer games for free, or for a really low price since the developers use the low price as a tactic to initially draw people in, then a large amount of those same people will decide to spend money on microtransactions.

I'm not entirely against microtransactions (i'v spent probably £100 in Elite Dangerous over the years because I enjoy the game and want to support the company), but I don't want to see that game model choke the creativeness out of the industry and make us miss out on games because a smaller developer with a great idea for a single player game can't afford to take the financial risk.

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dynamotnt

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Edited By dynamotnt

@chlamydia: for a start there's proof, and evidence out there that games publishers are spending up to 60% less in total on game development, per game. And companies are making 500% more profit from microtransactions, then the sales of games themselves. in comparrison to say 2007.

Hence why you get games as a service, the games may die down and get more creatively bankrupt but their greed doesn't, so we get live service, pay now play later crap.

now control isn't that, I respect that and i respect remedy as a dev. But this is just not a game i'd pay full price for. then buy all dlc full price for. i'll grab it all for 30 or not bother.

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lionheartssj1

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Edited By lionheartssj1

I enjoyed Quantum Break. It wasn't perfect, but they tried something different with the TV show integration and put a lot of effort into it. This game reminds me of some of the surreal timescapes from late in QB, can't wait to try it.

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hugoadan

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good score for a good looking video game, can't wait to get my hands on it!

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odolwa99

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Edited By odolwa99

New IPs and single player focused games are about the only reason I still bother with gaming anymore. More of this, please!

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Terminator95

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@odolwa99: sadly these single player games take a long time to make and they can't steal $ from you with out online microtransactions . All games must be online for the companies to take all of our $ mhuaaaaaa

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CraigTL

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@odolwa99: I am right there with you. I am a single player campaign kind of guy and this is exactly what is needed.

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odolwa99

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@craigtl: That goes double for AAA games!

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aross2004

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InB4 it should have gotten a 10!

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gamingdevil800

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Having gotten the game over the weekend I'd give it a 7/10 I get the impression not everyone will like it. Gunplay and powers are fun. Acting is good. Yet I felt like they could of been way more creative with environments like parallel universes/realities are at play yet only two locations felt really bizarre to me. Like they could of put a forest or something inside the building if they wanted. A woman also talks about the building shifting and water/a shark moving into a room full of an execs but you never really see anyway that crazy but there are "inception" style moments.

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CraigTL

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@gamingdevil800: True if you are going to create a universe like this you may as well go all out and push the boundaries.

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xxmavr1kxx

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@gamingdevil800: How long is it. 10 hours?

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gamingdevil800

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@xxmavr1kxx: About 10 if you only focus on the main story but there are loads of side quests you can do. Even once you have completed the main story you can explore the building to finish side content.

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xxmavr1kxx

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Edited By xxmavr1kxx

@gamingdevil800: Ok. Thanks. I heard 10 hours and then I didnt know if that was everything or Just main story. Ok well thats a little bit more comforting. Maybe I will get it tomorrow then.

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off3nc3

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Glad i pre-ordered this looks like a top notch game from the GET-GO.

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bluzima

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@off3nc3: You pre-ordered this? Wow, you're brave. I'm still on the fence.

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off3nc3

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Edited By off3nc3

@bluzima: yea I took the plunge even though i almost never pre-order games outside Playstation Exclusives , I'd say it was worth it but I expected alot more , the gunplay and character power usages with telekinetics we're insanely fun.

Sadly I don't see any replay value in it , but for 36 euro's i don't regret it :) got a hell of a deal on it.

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cejay0813

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Edited By cejay0813

@bluzima: didn’t preorder but I do plan on picking it up today based on the feedback. And yes, at full price. Take a chance and support the devs. It’s like people refuse to pay full price unless the game blows them away. It’s ok paying full price for a good game and everywhere I’ve seen has pretty much said this is a good game.

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bluzima

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@cejay0813: I think I might like it because I am a sucker for conspiracy theories but the thing is I'm from Australia and Epic doesn't have AUS pricing yet so $59.99 becomes nearly $90 for me. I'm not sure if that's worth 10 hours of game when longer games are releasing soon. I wish money wasn't a factor but it is limited for me >.<

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CraigTL

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@bluzima: thats a bummer, I feel this game will see a price drop in 3 months.

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bluzima

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@craigtl: Hope so, I feel like $39.99 would’ve been a more reasonable price

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Control More Info

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  • First Released Aug 27, 2019
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Solve puzzles and complete quests to discover the secret of Jesse’s past and the true purpose of the Bureau of Control
    7.3
    Average Rating46 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Control
    Developed by:
    Remedy Entertainment, 505 Games
    Published by:
    505 Games, Marvelous Inc., Marvelous
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Strong Language, Violence