Control review: Mid-century postmodernism

August 26, 2019
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It spoils nothing, I hope, to reduce a game as luxurious and uncanny as Control to just four words. Here goes, then: Hell is an office. Remedy’s latest takes place inside the Oldest House, the austere, echoing and inhumanly vast headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control. The FBC is an agency that deals with unusual horrors and is, as of your arrival, in the process of being overwhelmed by them.

Unusual horrors are not actually that unusual in games, though, so the peculiar genius of Control is that its oddness often lurks in its workaday setting rather than the many dizzying glimpses into the void on offer. There is something wonderfully perverse about so many of the things I marvelled at in Control. Sure, here is a magical winter forest growing out of an old storage room, but look at how convincingly placed these snowfalls of Post-it notes are! I can throw desk chairs around with my mind, which is great, but it’s so much better when one of the desk chairs in question hits a wall of filing cabinets and the doors of the cabinets ripple, woozily, outwards and away from the point of impact! That I could watch pretty much forever.

This blend of the paranormal and the clerical works so well because offices are weird already. Testify! What are offices if not places where ill-matched strangers come together in the name of some nebulous and often deeply abstracted common cause? Offices are filled with monstera deliciosa and water coolers, but they are also filled with grudges and arcane rituals and human secrets and mysteries. Certain phrases act like incantations in offices: we’ve-always-done-it-this-way-that’s-why and only-Henry-knows-how-to-make-copies-on-both-sides-of-the-page-and-he’s-off-today.

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