Control is a mind-bending, visually impressive romp, but the game has much more to offer when you decide to really dig into it.
I’ve invested a healthy chunk of my time with the game reading every single scattered document, listening to every audio clip, and watching every video strewn about the game’s arcane office complex. Doing so made me realize that Control’s broader story, tucked away in these optional files, is where the game really shines.
This is why you shouldn’t ignore them, even if you don’t normally care about collectibles in single-player games. The experience becomes much richer when you experience every piece of it.
A house of secrets
The game’s setting, The Oldest House, is a serpentine, constantly shifting office building. It’s occupied by the Federal Bureau of Control, a shadowy government agency that’s more Men in Black than FBI.
As intriguing as that sounds, the employees who work there treat their work like it’s just another banal office job, complete with memos, notes about budgets, reports, and video briefings.
Control developer Remedy Entertainment has scattered those text, audio, and video files around the office for you to collect, and they’re easy to find; the game places a prominent white dot on every collectible within a certain range.
The writing in these heavily redacted memos introduces just as many mysteries as it illuminates, while giving more detail about what’s going on in this world and why. The documents also provide clues about where to go next, and how to get there. If you ever get stuck, make sure you’ve picked up all the files and have looked them over.
The supplemental material gives hints about what’s coming next, too. When I learn about how objects of power, the game’s term for “paranatural” items, can be given power through groupthink, I’m quickly introduced to what may be a semi-sentient, telekinetic floppy disk to illustrate that point. When I learn about the astral plane, it’s not a fun concept to help flesh out the story, but an actual place I explore multiple times throughout the game. A terrifying puppet show that sometimes plays on the televisions scattered around the office gives me hints about what happened to my missing in-game brother.
The little breadcrumbs I read about mundane items like a refrigerator or a quarantined mirror become narrative heavy hitters once all the pieces fall into place. Giving detailed and evocative backstories to even the simplest pieces of decoration makes me feel like I’m roaming through a museum of the unknown, with each object getting a detailed backstory, even if I can’t see all the details.
Then there are the Easter eggs, which are far too good to spoil here.
I love running across notes about objects of power, secret cover-ups, and even office gossip for the small, well-written glimpses of life in the Bureau. But several notes blindsided me, the first of which I had to read twice to make sure I understood it right. There are plenty of story and even gameplay rewards for those who take the time to read every note, and I can’t wait for more people to play to have a conversation about the implication of all these details.
This is the first game I’ve played in a while where I get excited to catch up on reading, listening to, and watching all the various collectibles. Control’s main story is a trip, and these supplemental materials add even more wrinkles to an already mind-bending plot.