Leave The Lights On

HIGH Turning Assist Mode on and burning through the back half.

LOW Darkness is one of the worst videogame gimmicks, ever.

WTF Alan’s barely in this.

Disclaimer: This review is for Control’s AWE content only. For a full review of the base game, please go here. For a review of Control: The Foundation, go here. Also, be aware that players wanting to start AWE must have first finished the 7th story mission from the main game, titled “The Face of the Enemy“.

After playing Control: AWE, I’m convinced there’s a hidden formula for creating successful add-ons. The longer it’s been since release, the more an expansion must offer — not ‘more’ in terms of content, though, but in concept.

When a level pack or extra challenges drop soon after launch, most players are generally glad to get more as long as they enjoyed the core experience. It’s still fresh in their minds, and they’re probably not feeling done with their purchase yet. Control was my game of the year in 2019, and if $10 would have bought me another five hours after rolling credits, I would have gladly paid and played.

On the other hand, when developers take their time and a long window between content drops occurs, that material has to be good enough and special enough to get players to come back after they’ve moved on.

It’s been a full year since Remedy’s latest hit consoles and I’ve played — literally — dozens of games since then. While I have fond memories of Jesse Faden and her shenanigans in The Oldest House, I want something new if I’m coming back. Unfortunately, AWE fails to offer any surprises or interesting twists, instead delivering what feels like the dullest parts of the campaign slightly remixed.

In AWE, Jesse is led to a new section of The Oldest House which has been acting as a prison to someone (or something) with links to Remedy’s hit from 2010, Alan Wake. As she investigates, a few brief, oblique cutscenes with Wake pop up as she comes across assorted documents, voice recordings, more Hiss to shoot, and so on. It’s par for the Control course, but at this point that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The last DLC, The Foundation, took Jesse to a part of the House that looked visually distinct and she did new things with new powers. In contrast, AWE is largely indistinguishable from the base game. Players can expect the same gray hallways and large rooms populated with the same enemies they’ve been through time and again. The new map even feels cut-and-pasted – for example, the large bridge/turntable feature so memorable the first time it appeared is re-used here, and more than once.

When not shooting mobs, Jesse occasionally uses light to burn away black blobs that block her way (a direct nod to Wake’s use of flashlights) and will spend a significant amount of time fitting Control’s ubiquitous power cubes into slots to activate gates and lights. There’s also also a separate kind of darkness that enervates Jesse, so that’s a genuinely new wrinkle. However, these things don’t add up to much, and the darkness was more irritating than engaging.

Oh, look forward to a handful of miserable boss fights, as well.

The one bright spot is that alongside AWE, Remedy has released a free “Assist Mode” update to Control which gives the player powerful options to tailor gameplay — increase energy gain, reduce damage taken, or just go whole hog and activate true invulnerability and the power to kill any enemy in one shot. Given how dull and annoying AWE is, being able to speed through the worst parts of it was a godsend.

While I greatly enjoyed Control and The Foundation was solid, it feels like Remedy didn’t have any gas left in the tank for AWE. It’s visually boring, it’s irritating to play, and the connections to Alan Wake are laughably thin — the entirety of it could have been summed up in 90-second cinematic trailer. If this content had been available when I was going through Control the first time, I probably wouldn’t have objected. But now, a year later? It’s far too little, far too late.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Remedy and published by 505 Games. It is currently available on PC, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the add-on was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to it, and the main questline was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated and contains Blood, Strong Language and ViolenceControl might be rated M, but I didn’t experience anything memorable that some T-rated games like Uncharted don’t get away with. There is violence and language, but none of it is over-the-top. I don’t see any problem with early teenagers playing this with some adult supervision.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes but an option to toggle enemies’ health bars between red or yellow exists.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Control features subtitles in three different sizes for all spoken dialogue in the game. It also features an option to put a shaded box behind the subtitles for better clarity. Control features text-overlay options for signs in the world, but the subtitle size changes do not affect the sign overlay text size. Control is more difficult without sound due to a drastic music change that signals when enemies are on the attack and when they’re asbent. This music change has no visual cue. Also, Control includes three options for subtitle sizes, the largest is shown below.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls on the PS4 version. Y and X-Axes and stick sensitivity can be changed. A picture of the PS4’s controller setup is below.

Brad Gallaway
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