Rem­edy’s con­trol

Af­ter the dis­ap­point­ing Quan­tum Break, Andy is ex­cited to find that Rem­edy is weird again.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Andy Kelly

Some­thing has in­vaded the Old­est House. An evil force known only as the Hiss. And i t’s up to you, Jesse Faden, di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Bu­reau of Con­trol, to de­feat it. But that’s not the only strange thing hap­pen­ing in this top se­cret gov­ern­ment fa­cil­ity. . .

Asci­en­tist sits in a glass cell, star­ing at a fridge. He’s been there for hours, maybe days. But he can’t look away from the fridge. If he does, he says it’ll ‘di­verge’, and from the sheer ter­ror in his voice, I can only as­sume that’s a bad thing. This is one of the many pe­cu­liar ar­ti­facts stored in the Old­est House, a mono­lithic, win­dow­less skyscraper in down­town Man­hat­tan that serves as the se­cret head­quar­ters of the Fed­eral Bu­reau of Con­trol. The FBC in­ves­ti­gates para­nor­mal phe­nom­ena and ob­jects that ex­hibit odd, real­ity-bend­ing be­hav­ior— in­clud­ing that mys­te­ri­ous fridge. As Jesse Faden, our pro­tag­o­nist and the new di­rec­tor of the bu­reau, wan­ders the stark, bru­tal­ist halls of the Old­est House, she sees rows of iden­ti­cal cells con­tain­ing other mun­dane ob­jects—a wrecked car, an old tele­vi­sion set— that, for what­ever rea­son, have to be kept away from the gen­eral pub­lic.

In some ways, Con­trol is a clas­sic Rem­edy game: a slick, cin­e­matic third-per­son shooter with a strong nar­ra­tive fo­cus, a dark at­mos­phere, and a hint of the sur­real. But struc­turally it’s some­thing com­pletely new for the stu­dio. The Old­est House is a hub of sorts, with mis­sions branch­ing off from it. It’s a place you’ll re­turn to reg­u­larly, us­ing newly ac­quired pow­ers to reach ar­eas that were pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble.

“I want to re­tain the way Rem­edy tells sto­ries and cre­ates worlds, but present that in a way that gives the player more agency,” says Mikael Ka­suri­nen, Con­trol’s game di­rec­tor and a Rem­edy vet­eran who’s been with the stu­dio since Max Payne 2. “We want the game to have the feel of a sand­box. The world is a key el­e­ment in Con­trol, and ev­ery­thing re­volves around it. That’s the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween this and our pre­vi­ous games.”

IN­NER SPACE

From the out­side, the Old­est House looks like a fea­ture­less block of con­crete, but in­side it’s a weird, ab­stract, ever-chang­ing space where the bounds of real­ity are pa­per-thin. The walls and floor move and shift around you, swirling por­tals open up out of nowhere, bod­ies float in the air and the nor­mal rules of physics clearly do not ap­ply. The Old­est House is also be­ing in­fected by an evil force known as the Hiss: a creep­ing, or­ganic malev­o­lence that’s in stark con­trast to the hard lines and cold aus­ter­ity of the build­ing.

In one scene I watch Jesse pull a light switch, only to ap­pear in what looks like a dusty old ’70s mo­tel. You’ll travel be­tween re­al­i­ties and time­lines like this fre­quently in Con­trol, thanks to the mind-bend­ing, mul­ti­di­men­sional prop­er­ties of the Old­est House. This is an­other ex­cit­ing change for Rem­edy, whose set­tings are usu­ally more grounded and fa­mil­iar. The stu­dio has al­ways used the tropes of genre fic­tion as the ba­sis for its games—hor­ror, pulpy noir, science fic­tion—but Con­trol is

some­thing to­tally unique.

“This means we can have that fa­mous Rem­edy quirk­i­ness with­out the set­ting lim­it­ing it,” says Ka­suri­nen. “In a way it’s the per­fect IP for us, be­cause it plays to our strengths. It al­lows us to be a lot stranger, but not in a ran­dom way. There’s an in­ter­nal logic to it, and play­ers who choose to look deeper into the story will re­al­ize that ev­ery­thing is con­nected.”

“The free­dom of this set­ting is ex­cit­ing,” says Sam Lake, writer and Rem­edy’s long­time creative di­rec­tor. “I feel like a kid in a candy store. We’re cre­at­ing a new IP here, so it was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. With Quan­tum Break we wanted to do this big sum­mer block­buster. It had some in­ter­est­ing, com­pli­cated time travel stuff, but it was ul­ti­mately quite ap­proach­able. But com­ing out of that, now we can do some­thing more hard­core and chal­leng­ing. Some­thing that is deeper and more mys­te­ri­ous. Mikael and I love weird stuff, so we de­cided not to worry about some­one not get­ting it or find­ing the story dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand, and just went as far as we could with it.”

WEIRD FIC­TION

Sam Lake’s love of cult su­per­nat­u­ral soap opera Twin Peaks is no se­cret, and I won­der if its re­cent third sea­son—which was provoca­tive and deeply un­usual, even by di­rec­tor David Lynch’s stan­dards—has in­flu­enced this de­sire to em­brace the sur­real again. “I ab­so­lutely loved the new Twin Peaks,” he says. “I was smil­ing all the way through the first episode. I know that might sound strange be­cause it’s so dis­turb­ing, but I was just so happy. It was per­fect. It was cer­tainly a big in­spi­ra­tion, and it con­firmed to me cer­tain things we were do­ing. I think that se­ries will in­spire me for years to come.”

Jesse may be the di­rec­tor of the FBC, but she’s no pen-pusher. Her sidearm, called a Ser­vice Weapon, is a gun that can mu­tate into sev­eral dif­fer­ent forms, re­plac­ing the tra­di­tional shooter hi­er­ar­chy. In my demo I see her switch from a pretty stan­dard pis­tol, its most ba­sic form, to a vari­ant called Shat­ter that has a wide spread and can take down mul­ti­ple en­e­mies at once. You’ll need it, be­cause the Hiss has pos­sessed the

“it was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing dif­fer­ent”

ma­jor­ity of the bu­reau’s em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing armed guards, and turned them against you.

But, more ex­cit­ingly, Jesse can use an ar­ray of su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers, too. She can pluck ob­jects from the world us­ing telekine­sis and launch them at en­e­mies. In an im­pres­sive ex­am­ple of this, I watch lead de­signer Paul Ehreth grab a fork­lift truck, lev­i­tate it in the air, then slam it into a group of Hiss-pos­sessed se­cu­rity guards, killing them in one hit. The game’s lev­els are filled with ev­ery­day ob­jects to wield as tele­ki­netic weapons, and it’s pos­si­ble to de­feat en­e­mies by knock­ing them off or into things.

“We iden­ti­fied very early on that tele­ki­netic pow­ers in games of­ten don’t feel very in­tu­itive or nat­u­ral,” says Ka­suri­nen. “We never want it to feel like the player has to look around the en­vi­ron­ment for some­thing to throw. That se­cond step should never ex­ist. When it feels like it’s the right time to use a tele­ki­netic at­tack, the en­vi­ron­ment should sup­port that mo­ment ef­fort­lessly. It shouldn’t mat­ter if you pick up the chair or the ta­ble, as long as it just hap­pens. But the more you use the abil­ity, the more you can do with it, and skilled play­ers will be pulling off all kinds of crazy things as they mas­ter the con­trols.”

MIND GAMES

Jesse can also use her tele­ki­netic pow­ers to grab chunks of rub­ble and use them as a shield. The com­bi­na­tion of these, the Ser­vice Weapon, and a re­al­is­tic, re­ac­tive physics sys­tem should make for thrilling and dy­namic com­bat. But Con­trol won’t be a re­lent­less pa­rade of ac­tion set­pieces: We’ll also ex­plore the Old­est House, find­ing se­crets and un­cov­er­ing the story at a more leisurely pace. There are sid­e­quests, too, like help­ing the fridge guy.

“If you take, say, Quan­tum Break, that was al­most de­signed like a movie,” says Ka­suri­nen. “We care­fully

crafted where en­e­mies would come from, what vis­tas the player would see. It was rel­a­tively lin­ear. His­tor­i­cally, you rarely turn around and go back the way you came in Rem­edy games. But now we sud­denly have a world that you’ll ac­cess mul­ti­ple times from dif­fer­ent direc­tions, and this means we have to re­think how we de­sign lev­els.”

“I’m en­joy­ing the chal­lenge of writ­ing a story that isn’t so lin­ear,” says Lake. “And be­cause our tech has ad­vanced so much, I can do things I couldn’t even con­ceive of in pre­vi­ous projects. First and fore­most, we want the game­play to be good, and deeper than any­thing we’ve ever done. And I took that as a chal­lenge, to come up with a story and build a world and set of char­ac­ters that re­in­force the game­play and lift it up.

“This is a more open, in­ter­con­nected world than we’ve ever had,” he con­tin­ues. “The game is still mis­sion-based, but it’s a world that’s meant to be ex­plored. I love how games let you tell more frag­mented sto­ries. You can put dif­fer­ent pieces in the game and trust that any­one who wants to un­der­stand it will put it to­gether. At Rem­edy we’ve ex­per­i­mented with a lot of dif­fer­ent forms of sto­ry­telling. Graphic nov­els in Max Payne, book pages in Alan Wake, TV shows, songs and so on. But in Con­trol I think it’s the world that tells the story. It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent set of rules, and we’re do­ing a lot of ex­per­i­ment­ing.”

A key char­ac­ter in Con­trol is Trench, the former di­rec­tor of the FBC. The bu­reau has been over­run by the Hiss as a re­sult of his fail­ure as di­rec­tor, leav­ing a mess for Jesse to clean up. “We needed a char­ac­ter that rep­re­sented the place and its ques­tion­able meth­ods,” Lake says. “I thought about one of our ear­lier char­ac­ters, that hard-boiled cop. What if he ended up in a po­si­tion of power? Some­one who has suf­fered a great tragedy. A man of ac­tion, a cynic who has been forced to make some tough choices and is tired of it.

“This was the first thing I wrote, but then I took a step back,” he says. “We needed a hero who comes into the world fresh. But it would also be ben­e­fi­cial if the char­ac­ter wasn’t a to­tal out­sider, and had some con­nec­tion to what’s go­ing on.” This link in­volves a de­struc­tive, trau­matic event in Jesse’s child­hood in­volv­ing dark forces that she didn’t un­der­stand at the time, but that has shaped her life and per­son­al­ity.

“She’s al­ways felt like the odd one out,” Lake con­tin­ues, “see­ing the world dif­fer­ently from ev­ery­one else, and in Con­trol she’s on a quest for an­swers. The game be­gins with her first day on the job, and in the Old­est House she might fi­nally find out what hap­pened to her. The bu­reau is kind of like this old boy’s club, and so Jesse is a strong con­trast to that—a young woman, an out­sider. It feels like some­where she could fit in and call home, but she also sus­pects the group might have had some­thing to do with that child­hood tragedy.”

At the end of my demo Jesse lev­i­tates to­wards a TV set that ra­di­ates an other­worldly aura. She re­cites the words of some rit­ual, touches the TV, and ends up float­ing in a white void in front of a vast up­side-down black pyra­mid. This enig­matic ob­ject seems to be a big part of Con­trol’s story. I also no­tice it on one of the doors in the ’70s mo­tel Jesse vis­ited ear­lier. The demo ends be­fore I get any sense of what it is, but it’s a pow­er­ful, eerie im­age.

FREE FORM

I missed Rem­edy’s weird­ness in Quan­tum Break, so the idea of the stu­dio dou­bling down on it in Con­trol is ex­cit­ing. The Old­est House is an un­pre­dictable set­ting, giv­ing the team li­cense to flex its imag­i­na­tion. The roots of Rem­edy are still there— elab­o­rate, cin­e­matic gun com­bat—but it’s good to see the de­sign­ers and writ­ers ex­per­i­ment­ing with some­thing more open-ended. I don’t know what other se­crets are wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered in the Old­est House, but I can’t wait to find out. Just don’t look away from the fridge. “This is a more open, in­ter­con­nected world than we’ve ever had”

ABOVE:This fridge is one of the many bizarre ar­ti­facts stored in the bu­reau.BE­LOW:Some peo­ple in the bu­reau haven’t been pos­sessed by the Hiss. Yet.

BE­LOW: Us­ing Jesse’s telekine­sis cre­ates a storm of physics ob­jects.

ABOVE: This im­pres­sive cham­ber is the set­ting for an in­tense fight against the Hiss.

LEFT: Jesse will need her lev­i­ta­tion power to get across gaps like this.

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