Remedy's Control brings rad environmental destruction to a very freaky house

Remedy's seventh game is the surrealist third-person shooter Control. You play as Jesse Faden, who stumbles into a strange, brutalist building called The Oldest House. This labyrinthine, shifting space is the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control, and you'll explore its many mysteries over the course of the game.

It's not a pleasant trip through a quirky office. Jesse must battle a strange force called the Hiss, which has corrupted many of the Bureau's employees. In fact, saving the Bureau is now her job: after acquiring an 'object of power'—a transforming gun—Jesse is named the new director of the FBC.

It's a bizarre premise for a hiring policy, but one that results in plenty of classic Remedy action. As director, Jesse has abilities that she can acquire and upgrade by completing quests and finding new objects of power. In a hands-off demo, we see Jesse levitate nearby rubble to form a shield and grab and throw objects in the environments at corrupted employees.

"On the engine side we have pushed the dynamic destruction of the environment as far as we possibly could so that it adds to the depth of the action experience," says creative director Sam Lake. "And many of the abilities—the supernatural powers that the main character acquires along the way—have a telekinetic nature to it, so environments will be part of your toolkit as a weapon against the enemies and for other purposes as well."

It certainly looks good—not just the amount of debris and other physics objects flying around, but also the way concrete pillars explode into satisfying chunks when shot. This crisp, dynamic destruction is part of the reason Remedy chose to construct a space in the brutalist style. But it also has roots in the world they're trying to build.

"One really early inspiration we were looking at was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," says Lake, "the movie with Gary Oldman. And that feel of slight detachment and control." Here Lake points to his face, adopting an expressionless look. "You need to be in control all of the time—in control of your emotions—not let anything slip. That was one of the starting points." In case you hadn't guessed, 'control' is going to be a major theme.

I point out that the Federal Bureau of Control sounds like the organisation you'd be fighting against in pretty much any work of dystopian fiction, and am rewarded with a knowing look. "You're not wrong," says Lake. "They are this secretive agency that deals with the unexplainable, and investigates it, contains it and ultimately wants to control it and use it to their own ends. By no means are they the good guys always … it's more your spy thriller approach. Questionable methods, questionable goals, but at the same time they're the best we've got."

I'm told that there's even a level of internal politics and bureaucracy running through the FBC, which I look forward to seeing play out. After the mostly straight-faced Quantum Break, Lake confirms that there will be touches of Remedy-style tongue-in-cheek humour throughout Control, and supernatural bureaucracy seems like a rich vein to tap.

In the demo, in fact, Jesse stumbles across a hapless employee in a locked cell, watching a refrigerator. He explains that nobody came to relieve him—no doubt a result of the Hiss attack—and that he must watch the object at all times or else it will "deviate." This, I'm told, is a sidequest—one of many found in Control. Depending on Jesse's actions, she can help this man, and there will be consequences depending on that choice.

The existence of sidequests is one example of how Control is less linear than previous Remedy games. The Oldest House is a space to be explored, to the point that abilities Jesse acquires, such as levitation, will let her reach new parts of areas she's previously been. The house, too, is malleable. In one scene, Jesse performs a cleansing ritual that shifts the house to let her progress. In another, she pulls a light switch and is transported to a motel. The demo ends when Jesse reaches a television set, causing the house to warp and reconstruct, going through an M.C. Escher style transformation before opening a pathway to an astral plane.

As excited as Remedy sounds about Control's combat and action, it's the weirdness of the demo that leaves me excited to see more. This brief look is packed with surreal, imaginative imagery, and I'm left wanting to know more about the world and the weird shit happening in it.

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.