Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Remedy Entertainment’s 2019 action game Control—if I may take off my Serious Critic Hat and replace it with my Person Who Just Likes Video Games Hat—is rad as hell. It has some very big problems, and some of the blurring effects gave me a headache when I played it for review last summer. But goddamn, it is just super freakin’ cool (and those blurring effects are often in service of really nice environmental destruction). The game’s first paid expansion, The Foundation, just came out on Xbox One after being exclusive to PlayStation 4 and PC for three months, and it’s a fantastic refresher on all of the things Control did well (and also, oddly, the things Control kind of whiffed on). If you played the base game, it’s a nice opportunity to expand the story in some interesting ways and lay down some surprising groundwork for future stories. If you haven’t played the base game, go do that. It’s rad as hell.
Here’s a refresher on Control: You play as Jesse Faden, a woman who experienced a supernatural event as a child and has been searching for her missing brother ever since. That search leads her to an office building in the middle of New York called The Oldest House that happens to contain the headquarters of The Federal Bureau Of Control, a secret government organization that investigates supernatural events. When Jesse arrives, she finds FBC Director Zachariah Trench dead, and an extra-dimensional entity known as The Board (which sort of runs the FBC from behind the scenes) appoints her as his successor.
The Foundation takes place after that story, which I won’t fully spoil here (as I already did that elsewhere), with Jesse accepting her new duties as FBC director and responding to a call from The Board about something wrong with The Oldest House’s Foundation. The building is sort of a sentient entity, known for shifting hallways around on a whim—or at least the skyscraper equivalent of a “whim”—and the Foundation is mostly a byzantine series of caves spiraling out from a black monolith called The Nail. The Board tells Jesse that The Nail is broken and that she must fix it, which mostly involves solving some puzzles and trying to kill (or “video game,” to quote one of Control’s best jokes) new enemies infected by the evil hive-mind creatures from the base game.
The main plot is pretty standard stuff, as far as Control goes, but it gradually raises some really cool questions about The Board and the history of the FBC that were never really addressed before. The Foundation makes it explicit that the FBC existed before The Oldest House and The Board were discovered, and yet Jesse and her predecessors were perfectly willing to go along with whatever The Board (which is only ever depicted as an inverted black pyramid) told them to do. Over the course of The Foundation, Jesse’s trust in The Board starts to shatter as she realizes how she’s being manipulated, and she starts to learn more about an entity called The Former that showed up as a minor side-boss in Control and has a connection to The Board (it’s the big one-eyed bug thing).
The Foundation also has a lot more of the supplementary reading material that was one of the biggest highlights of Control, fleshing out some members of the FBC and offering weirdly hilarious bits of flavor text about this universe’s extremely dry treatment of fantastical events. You find a letter at one point from a man who believes he has learned how to speak the language of fish, and it’s simply addressed to “Science.” It’s all mostly great, and now I’m even more excited for the next expansion, AWE, which is supposed to directly tie in with the events of Remedy’s similarly excellent Alan Wake. Combine that with the interesting stuff that happens in The Foundation, and how great Control was already, and AWE could be… pretty rad. It just needs a release date now. And by “now” I mean “Please, Remedy, give it to me now.”