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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2019


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PS4 Review - 'Control' The Foundation DLC

by Redmond Carolipio on April 22, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Control is a third-person action-adventure game combining Remedy's trademark gunplay with supernatural abilities.

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No one would blame you if you thought the Oldest House was the real star of 2019's Control, the mind-bending, reality-warping action title that flexed all of Remedy's storytelling muscle and ended up leaving players with more questions than answers. As entertaining as protagonist Jesse Faden was as the reluctant new director, one always got the sense that the Oldest House, with its shifting walls and seemingly infinite boundaries, was always pulling the strings of the narrative. At the end of the main story, Jesse felt more like the latest caretaker of this building and not someone who has mastered it. As she also said with conviction in the end, "I am the Director," which signaled she's ready for whatever comes.

In The Foundation, Control's first major expansion, instead of Jesse being asked to go above and beyond to wrangle the Oldest House's secrets, she goes below. What follows is a robust subterranean trek that, while still truly enthralling at points, feels more direct and systemic, and therefore slightly detached from the charm that makes Control special.

It was the air of weirdness and thrill of random discovery that made the above-ground Oldest House such a captivating place. What other monolithic, supernatural office buildings have departments like "luck & probability" and "parapsychology," or whole sections dedicated to re-creating a town or researching household items charged with unknown energy, including a fridge that serves as a portal into an astral plane where you have to ward off some monster with a floating eye.

By contrast, The Foundation is an intricate system of caves and caverns pockmarked with dig sites and the occasional odd structure. The oddest of these structures is also apparently the most important: the Nail, a tall, dark and mysterious structure that apparently maintains the realmic balance between the Oldest House and the aforementioned Astral Plane. In a somewhat panicked call from the Board — the entity or entities ostensibly at the highest level of command at the Bureau of Control — Jesse is told that the Nail is damaged, and that has resulted into elements of the Astral Plane bleeding into the real world, or at the very least, the Oldest House. According to the Board, if the Nail ends up destroyed, it means the end for the Oldest House and possibly more. It's up to Jesse to fix it.

The expansion's main story is moved along through messages via the Hotline, a communications line to the dead (and beyond) that was established in the main game. It allows Jesse to get messages from the Board and the former director of the bureau. In the expansion, she starts to hear from Marshall, the intense and mission-focused director of operations who sort of disappears at the end of the core game. Now, Jesse finds out what she's been up to.

Exploring The Foundation isn't as visually sexy or mentally engaging as what players might be used to from their sojourns in the Oldest House, but the atmosphere is still vintage Control. There are plenty of collectibles to read and audio recordings to listen to that provide more context on the Foundation and its significance. Among the recordings is one from the son of a major character, and as Jesse progresses and finds more recordings, she gets to hear this poor guy slowly lose hope while also shedding more light on the thinking behind the research. The Foundation is large enough to warrant its own sector map, and there are plenty of passages and nooks, from extra lore to side missions to paths into the Astral Plane, which gets a lot of runtime.

The Astral Plane, once a testing ground for new powers and site of occasional tussles with the being known as Former (more on him/it/whatever later), is now a level integral to the story, as Jesse is asked to float up to and around the Astral Plane's mythic suspended platforms (fighting varieties of Hiss enemies on the way) on several occasions to "free" a set of four locks that have been bound by some kind of self-growing crystal formations. Doing so, she's told, will help restore the Nail.

On her way to freeing locks, she encounters a couple of new powers that enable her to manipulate the crystal formations she encounters in the Foundation and Astral Plane. She can shoot through walls of crystals to uncover new paths, or shoot out crystal floors to eliminate enemies unfortunate enough to stand on them. She also gains the ability to extend and contract crystal formations, which also helps with exploration into newer areas by creating platforms to stand on or even spikes to clear out Hiss foes. All of this is helpful, as there's a lot of heavy combat in steadier doses. The game blends it together smoothly without compromising the difficulty, adding the potential for satisfying moments like shooting out the floor underneath a handful of Hiss. The last couple of locks become a little harder to free, as Jesse has to use her ability to regrow crystals to "heal" parts of the keys — which are big, dark orbs — while shooting off other crystal formations that grow back after a few seconds. In a sense, they become somewhat maddening action puzzles.

I won't delve too much more into the story, only to mention how it doesn't necessarily wrap up any epic questions. It's fun hearing Jesse, just a touch more emboldened in her position, trade lines with both the Board and Former, who show themselves to be locked in some sort of "they said, it said" conflict that confuses Jesse as much as it will confuse anyone else. I experienced three side missions. One was a collection mission that led to a boss battle, another involved carrying a TV that mesmerized anyone in its light through a cave system and back into its containment field. The last one I found was the most entertaining and possibly the best part of the whole expansion: The mission is called "Jesse Faden Starring in 'Swift Platform,'" and it involves our hero trying to chase down a fleeing "altered" film camera while jumping/floating back and forth between high-speed platforms on some eternal (or at least very, very long) rail system, fighting Hiss and dodging obstacles to an upbeat, retro-sounding instrumental that sounds like it came from the "Thor: Ragnarok" soundtrack. It was difficult for me, and I died several times, but if you liked the "maze" sequence, you'll probably dig this.

I enjoyed a lot of my time with The Foundation, but I'm left wondering how much of a lasting impact it'll have on the Control universe as a whole. It felt more like an entertaining distraction than a large step forward, but I had no problem eating up all the lore, info and strange encounters I could find. If you're a fan of the game and thought it was one of the best games of 2019, you'll see that poking around in the underbelly of the Oldest House is well worth the time.

Score: 8.0/10

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