Back in Control: Remedy’s weird new world feels brilliant to play

March 26, 2019
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Even if you did happen to be in Finland, Remedy Games is still off the beaten track. You need to drive out of Helsinki along snow-ploughed roads, across a bridge, over a frozen lake where people play ice hockey and on to the next town, a place named Espoo, to eventually find the studio’s new office. The building, a brutalist pile of concrete and glass, was built for a private medical firm. Now, a recently-added machine in the entrance takes a mugshot of your face and immediately emails it to the staff member you’re meeting. “You have to do this,” I’m told, “since some fans managed to get in”.

I’m sort of impressed they made the journey, but once you’re within Remedy’s walls you’re reminded why they made their trip. The studio has cultivated an offbeat personality over the years – the same personality it poured into cult hits like Alan Wake and Max Payne. There’s a sauna in the basement, I’m told, as we pass a row of seaside deck chairs on a landing facing south, ready for the few minutes of bright sunlight Finland gets once in a while. And now more than ever, I think, Remedy embodies a sense of proud independence – worn outwardly through the ubiquitous staff hoodies which act like an optional uniform, and inwardly by the bodies which toiled for five long years building too-ambitious TV-series-slash-video-game hybrid Quantum Break for Microsoft. More on that, though, in a bit.

It’s not too much of a narrative leap to see this slightly weird building in the virtual one I’m here to explore – its cavernous concrete spaces and branching corridors, cramped staircases and side-rooms. You probably know Control’s backstory already: lead character Jesse Faden has inherited the directorship of a secret US government agency designed to investigate supernatural phenomena, and which has unwisely set up shop within the eye of the paranormal storm. It’s here, within the Bureau of Control’s headquarters, Jesse will prove she’s the right person for the job, rid the building of possessed former agents, and uncover answers to why things have gotten so weird. But weird, I’m happy to say, is a lot of fun.

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