Complex Control is the Grand Theft Auto mod equivalent of 'What if... but?'
What if... GTA 5, but with roguelite and battle royale elements, dozens of superhuman abilities, a century of characters, stats, permadeath and permanent progression? Oh, and decoy husky dogs best used to distract aggressors.
That's Complex Control. And if you're struggling to get your head around all of that, I don't blame you. Here's some moving pictures, courtesy of YouTube person Nerdcubed.
Complex Control is the result of over 1,500 hours of solo work, and, as outlined above, it transforms GTA 5's singleplayer mode beyond recognition. Creator Theaetik tells me they started work on the project in late 2016, as a means of learning C#. It was originally designed to be a "fully-replayable" multi-mission bomb defusal and hostage rescue mod, that pushed the boundaries of the crime sim's rambling sandbox. The project's scope, however, steadily "evolved in scale" during development.
With 100 idiosyncratic characters, 55 unique abilities, and a whole host of in-game systems and moving parts—not least levelling brackets and instant teleportation—this feels like an understatement.
"In the vanilla experience, the player's mobility is always limited to realistic functions," explains Theaetik. "You're going to have to climb ladders to get on rooftops, if you're ever lucky to have one available in the first place. Adopting changes like Teleportation and instant in/out vehicles allowed for the player to get in no matter where the enemy landed.
"It also makes for interesting moments, like teleporting out of an incoming rocket trajectory or just running down a series of enemies with an ability follow-up post teleport. Or maybe instantly get out of your vehicle before it gets blown up by an RPG. All of these factors made me realise it was the better approach for what I wanted to achieve."
Today, Complex Control boasts both roguelite and battle royale elements—although Theaetik stresses their interpretation of the latter leans towards survival. Those after a PUBG or Fortnight-like endeavour could look elsewhere.
"I always thought the shrinking circle aspect was interesting," says Theaetik, "but I never was a huge fan of vanilla BR myself for pacing reasons. After prototyping a survival/BR hybrid over the previous design I've had, I realised it just simply overall more fun to play, the final result was more convincing."
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To this end, Complex Control is suitably chaotic—so much so, its self-indulgent disorder can overwhelm. During one particularly gruesome playthrough, I met my maker after teleporting in front of a lightning-fast, super-powered car. It struck me at force, and as if getting knocked 50 feet backwards onto my arse wasn't painful enough, a downed chopper then fell from the sky smack back on top of my crippled avatar. It exploded on impact. Obviously.
It was all difficult to watch, but these incidental, hedonistic flashes are not only Complex Control's bread and butter—they're also exactly what make it so much fun. I'd even go as far as saying dying can be as, if not more, entertaining than offing your enemies.
Having clocked up so many hours crafting such an ambitious solo project, I ask Theaetik if motivation is ever an issue. "Not if you enjoy playing what you're working on," they say. "Considering you're using your own personal free time, I personally can't imagine finding motivation on a project I'd hate playing."
Likewise, Theaetik advises like minded modders to spread their workload in order to prevent ideas from stagnating. "UI isn't looking the way you wanted? Work on the characters. Sick of working on the characters? Switch to implementing/designing sounds. You'll have a different mindset when you return and your productivity will not cease with your motivation in the end."
Theaetik underscores the importance of testing, and says fixing new problems as they occur is over and above the most challenging aspect of growing the project. The easiest? Spawning specific instant vehicles, props and assets—something Theaetik describes as the GTA 5 mod scene's "Hello World" moment.
This is perhaps best showcased in the above footage by Complex's insta-spawn husky dogs, who can be used as decoys for blood-thirsty enemies. It is however worth noting that, despite their cuteness, man's best friend is unlikely to save you from oncoming traffic and falling helicopters. Needless to say, I speak from experience here.
As for Complex Control's future, quality of life improvements and the introduction of new abilities currently top its To Do list. Despite how entertaining I reckon multiplayer elements could be, Theaetik has no plans to introduce multiplayer via open source channels such as FiveM.
"There are many reasons why [multiplayer wouldn't work currently], ranging from the way the mod is currently coded and the amount of logic-rewriting required, and my limited knowledge with multiplayer," says Theaetik. "The development process also requires players to test with. In the case we're talking about PvP multiplayer, the mod simply does not support the idea from the design standpoint with abilities that would be broken to hell in such environment.
"Also, considering there are so many BR games out there already, with some good luck the project would land 3 players peak. It just sounds like so much trouble for so little result. PvE / Co-op would have been more feasible, however I'm currently directing my attention to another project."
More information on Complex Control, including installation instructions, lives on its GTA 5 Mods page.