Control is an excellent supernatural thriller with hints from Metroid

It only took a few hours before I got used to the floating bodies. In Check, the newest game from Alan Wake and Quantum Break studio Remedy Entertainment, those bodies are absolutely everywhere. You walk into a room, and there they are, lifeless forms dressed in boring office clothes or bright orange helmets and safety vests. They are initially disturbing, but the more you explore the paranormal world of the game, the less disturbing they become. They are only part of the landscape, such as stairs or cabins or coffee makers. But as I got used to seeing them, I never felt very comfortable hearing them: a steady drone of nonsense words that get louder as more bodies cling to the sky. After hours of playing, singing still made me feel uncomfortable.


That is far from the only strange and disturbing event in the game. Check is an experience that was built on those moments. It is what would happen if you mixed it X-Files with a Jeff VanderMeer novel and then structured the whole thing like an open-world video game such as Breath of the Wild.

For the most part this blend works well. CheckThe disturbing and atmospheric environment is incredible. It is full of mysteries that only get stranger and more interesting the further you dive. This also ensures exciting action; fight against all kinds of strange creatures while using a series of supernatural skills. It is very satisfying to float through the air while using paranormal powers to throw fire extinguishers at bad guys. However, there are times when the promotion becomes too much, and at these moments, Check evolves into a mostly generic third-person shooter where you hide behind coverage. It can drag an otherwise excellent experience. But it's worth penetrating to see the unique, uncomfortable world that Remedy has created.

In Check, you play as Jesse Faden who, at the start of the game, shows up at the Federal Bureau of Control – a government agency that investigates and documents the paranormal – for an interview as an assistant caretaker. But almost immediately she becomes director of the entire office; the previous boss died, and only a select few can use the fantastic & # 39; service weapon & # 39; that serves as a director's version of Excalibur. Around this time, a hostile paranormal force, known as the Hiss, started taking over the oldest house, the creepy name for the FBC headquarters in New York City. Employees have been transformed into zombie-like monsters and parts of the building have been flooded with inexplicable phenomena. Even for an organization that explores the unknown, it's all pretty weird.

The entire game takes place in the oldest house, a massive brutalistic structure that seamlessly merges between the banal and the bizarre. There are rows of cells, vast meeting rooms and observation areas for studying apparently normal objects that possess supernatural powers. However, the closer you look, the stranger things become. You will cheerfully notice everyday posters that warn how excessive hours caused by temporary shifts will not lead to overtime and old VHS training videos that explain what a "threshold" is. The signs that point you in the direction of specific departments look almost unbelievably normal – until you see research fields such as parapsychology and astral exhibitions. Eventually you will discover a huge underground quarry filled with floating rocks and a light switch that can transport you to an apparently random motel. Even before you take into account the new appearance of the Hiss, the oldest house is a very strange place.

But it also feels surprisingly real, thanks to all those little details. If there was a wing of the US government dedicated to the study and control of paranormal activity, I would imagine it would look something like this. There is a huge amount of world construction that has gone into the creation of Check. It is one of the few games where I set aside time to read all the (heavily edited) files that I have collected along the way and to listen to the many audio data. It is worth reading memos from field agents about expense reports lost due to temporary shifts.

Check is also a very open experience. The design is something of a mashup of Metroid and Breath of the Wild; You have a lot of freedom to explore, but some areas are closed until you unlock the right skill or reach the next big story beat. It can be frustrating to come across doors that are locked because you are not yet at the right security level, but it is at least logical in the game's fiction. That said, this is not the kind of experience that pushes you in a certain direction. There are no large glowing arrows that show you where you need to go and the mini map is quite difficult to use. I noticed that I got lost a lot, especially in the beginning, when I stumbled through the confusing maze-like structure of the oldest house. But it also felt appropriate. In the beginning, Jesse is a newcomer to this world, someone who knows very little about the Hiss, or & # 39; objects of power & # 39; or the constantly changing layout of the building. You learn alongside her, and it is very worthwhile.


While the spaces you explore vary quite a bit – one moment you are surrounded by glowing, alien vegetation, the next you climb a mountain with discarded clocks – what you do remains fairly consistent, and most of the time, that means a lot of fighting. Check plays as a fairly standard cover-based third-person shooter. The service weapon can be upgraded with different skills, but they will all feel familiar if you have played an action game in the last decade.

What makes Check something else are the forces that you slowly unlock. By the end of the game, Jesse is like a superhero. She can fly, pick up objects with her mind and control weakened enemies. You must link these skills to weapon attacks to defeat waves of enemies. The enormous range of powers means that you can constantly explore new playing styles and improvise immediately. There is a simple RPG-like structure, so you can adjust Jess' powers to better suit how you want to play, and some of the skills are hidden in side missions, so you have to head up the main path to get everything. It helps that the different forces are just fun to play with. No matter how many times I did it, it always felt great to take a rocket out of the sky and throw it back into a glowing red hiss.

The problem is that the game depends too much on fighting. Often enemies would apparently randomly reappear and I would be forced to play simple but boring combat scenarios several times. This discouraged exploration. You can somewhat bypass the fighting CheckThe fast travel function, but of course that is not exploring at all. Even worse, some of the bossy fights that seem downright unfair are throwing wave after wave of bad guys at you. It's a frustrating way to slow down your progress, and there were times – particularly a very long fight towards the end of the game – where I almost gave up Check because I didn't want to repeat the same fight for dozens of times.

Even some of the stranger side missions, such as one where you are chasing a flying TV set, eventually end up in a big fight. Outside the battle there are some excellent environmental puzzles, in which you navigate through architecturally impossible mazes and analyze strange symbols to operate complex machines. Unfortunately, these moments are relatively rare. It is disappointing that some of the best parts of the game are overshadowed by the abundant shootouts.

In the end I am happy that I went through those frustrating moments. Although it can sometimes be annoying, Check It is worth experiencing only for the atmosphere. It is the kind of place that feels both extraterrestrial and everyday, and it gets richer and more captivating the more you explore it. Towards the end, the things that first bothered me became almost banal. Floating, singing bodies are just the beginning.

Check will be launched on August 27 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.