Control lets players run wild with supernatural powers. Jesse, who is baptized in fire as the Federal Bureau of Control's new director, can pick up gigantic objects and throw them with ease, can levitate, and can move short distances at light speed. For speedrunners, the question was: How can we break this? At this point, they've already beat Control less than an hour, and Jesse's magic is only part of the key. Plain old glitches make even greater feats than telekinesis possible.
Specifically, two hefty glitches have helped runners skip through time consuming segments of the game. Runner Bryon "Bryonato" Rothfusz, who is known for an absolutely wild Titanfall 2 run at Summer Games Done Quick and the second fastest Control speedrun, walked me through both those strategies as well as a couple of special moments in the run.
The first is jokingly called Slidey McGunny and it effectively makes Jesse invisible, removing everything in her character model except her gun. Discovered by runner s10px, it's done by overlapping two in-game menus, the control point menu where you fast travel and your inventory in the pause menu, playing a multimedia file, and then intentionally getting killed.
"I tried to open the checkpoint menu and the inventory [at the same time] to see if i could possibly find something," said s10px, who found similar glitches in Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto 5. "I played around with this but couldn't find much besides softlocking the game and having to restart. I tried playing some video files on one of my last attempts and noticed that I couldn't pause the video after stacking the different UI. So I backed out and nothing unusual had happened outside the visuals getting darker and some UI elements disappearing. I decided to kill myself in order to completely reset the weird glitched state and I somehow spawned back in at the checkpoint but my entire character model was missing."
At that point, s10px was a crazed paranormal gun set on revenge (the glitch also tends to remove the character models of all enemies, too). The main purpose of this glitch is to open doors you would normally need access cards for by clipping through them. Runners can turn the camera to see the other side of a door and open it from there, giving them access to a room that normally would be locked until later in the game.
This strategy also lets runners skip the first (and second most annoying) boss in the game, Tomassi. Hence the name of the skip: No Massi. Nobody wants any more of Controls overtly frustrating boss fights, anyway.
The second major glitch lets runners consistently get out of bounds by picking up items at a certain angle. Discovered by Fladi, this out of bounds strategy doesn't have a name yet, but is the most important strategy in the run. It helps runners skip big swaths of the game, including combat and cinematic sequences that chew up a lot of time.
"I tried jumping onto a metal pallet while still holding it and and I flew up with the object a little bit," said Fladi, who first found out how to clip through walls in Control by pushing himself under a small stairway. "I held it up against a wall while jumping on top of it and after a bit of trying I went through the ceiling."
This lead to the biggest, and possibly most disappointing for fans of the game, skip in Control: the Ashtray Maze. You know that dope segment with metal ripping in the background as walls, floors, and ceilings bend and slide around you? That's the one. It turns out that sequence is almost six minutes long and a complete detriment to any speedrunner.
"A lot of the run is currently performing the same out of bounds method in different places in different missions and just sequence breaking that way so I don't really know that that's unique," Rothfusz said. "We're quite likely going to implement a 'no out of bounds' category because we're nearing the point where we have an out of bounds skip for every mission."
The out of bounds skip lets you wander around in the dark, high above the maze, for about a minute instead of playing one of Control's best sequences. It turns out giving the player the ability to fly in an enclosed space makes it a bit easier to break a game.
Rather than being protective of its game's off-limits areas, Remedy looks upon speedrunners with fascination. "We love to see it," said community manager Vida Starčević, who noted that normal players don't spend their evenings trying to break the game, and aren't going to accidentally clip through walls whether or not they have telekinetic powers. Some of the tricks don't even require the powers. "We've seen players do it with fridges and vending machines," she said.
"I don't know how the hell they figured out a way to bypass the entire Ashtray Maze, but it was not what I was expecting," said one of Control's developers after Starčević showed them Kevbot43's world record video.
It's still incredibly early in Control's speedrunning scene (there is a Discord channel if you want to join in on the fun of discovering new strategies) and much of the run is still about playing Control as it was meant to be played as fast as possible.
Runners currently emphasize upgrading their energy levels, the pierce mode for their service weapon, as well as their levitate, throw, and dash abilities in order to take out enemies quickly. That means neglecting any health upgrades, so most runners take on late-game bosses with the health levels Jesse starts with. They have to tussle with the toughest boss, Salvador, in a fight where one wrong move can send them packing.
"Combat is definitely based around resource management. The goal is going to be using throw on enemies with shields while going to try to pick up two or three-for ones," Rothfusz said. "Killing enemies when you pull items toward you or killing multiple enemies with one throw. We only get three throws before we have to recharge."
It's only took a few weeks after Control launched for runners to circumnavigate much of the game. Rothfusz hopes to turn it into a run for one of the annual speedrunning events, but it's too early to tell if that'll work out. You can check out full runs by Rothfusz and KevBot43, the current world record holder, on their respective channels.