2020 Dream of Waking Video Game Awards

Hey 2020, what a fucking brutal year. Rather than focus on the bad, I’ve made no anti-awards this year, and I’m not restricting anything to releases from the current year. I played a lot of video games, but didn’t finish a lot of video games. I watched a ton of movies and TV shows. I read, but not a lot of current stuff. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to get by. Let’s celebrate some good stuff.

Edit: fuck, my WordPress site is busted so no images. Sorry. Maybe I’ll fix it in 2021? Or maybe I’ll call it quits.

2020 Game of the Year

Death Stranding

If someone had told me last year that Death Stranding was going to be my favorite game this year, I’d have been extremely skeptical, but here we are. Death Stranding is a game where you deliver packages for likes, and I collected a lot of likes. It’s a wholly unique game that takes walking simulator in a direction that only Hideo Kojima can. I thought this game would be up its own ass by the way people talked about it last year, and it’s sort of up its own ass, but I loved it from beginning to end. Doom Eternal loses points to Death Stranding because it doesn’t have the same cool, self-assured tone as Doom 2016. It’s trying too hard.

Runner Up: Doom Eternal

2020’s 2019 Game of the Year

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

When Halo 4 finally came to the Master Chief Collection on PC, I dropped everything to play it for a second time. Over the course of this year, I’ve re-played all of the Halo games, except Halo 2, which I just re-played last year. The MCC is just an incredible collection of great FPS games. STRAFE takes runner up as I finished a run for the first time, and it was in no small part thanks to a shortened run length patch.

Runner Up: STRAFE

The Most Pleasant Surprise Award

Doom 64

It’s ugly but it’s still Doom. I’m glad I didn’t play it on a Nintendo 64, and I’m glad it exists. It got a great PC port. Runner up goes to The Solitaire Conspiracy for being a super fun, super polished solitaire that I played for more than three hours.

Runner Up: The Solitaire Conspiracy

The “I’m Never Going to Finish This” Award

Forza Horizon 4

I get a wild urge to play a racing game and this year I played a lot of Forza Horizon 4. It’s got a huge beautiful open world, an impossible number of cars, and an unreal variety of races and things to do with them. There’s so much in here that I’ll never get to the bottom of, but I love coming back to it. Hades is my runner up here, because it’s beautiful and fun and amazing, but it’s run-based and I’ll be lucky to finish one run, much less multiple runs.

Runner Up: Hades

Other Awards

Movie of the YearBatman: Mask of the Phantasm
Runner Up: The Lighthouse

Album of the YearRTJ4 by Run the Jewels
Runner Up: Inlet by HUM

Book of the YearThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Runner Up: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Make Old Games Work: Stalling

It’s been a minute, right? I’ve missed a couple weeks, some on accident, and some on purpose. To be honest, at this point, I’m stalling. I’m waiting. I have things in motion. I’m waiting for them to land. To kill time, how about I present a few reasons why I’m bothering to do this.

The first is that I can. I have the console hardware. I have the games. A ton of my games aren’t available on newer consoles. If I want to play these again, and I do, I need to figure something out.

Another reason is that I have enough TVs and I don’t want to buy a good CRT to play these on. That’d be the easy way out; just buy a high quality, older CRT that has the right inputs. That’s how I got around this before and it’s how I ended up with a 100lb TV in my basement. I had to gently roll it down those basement stairs to get it there. I’d also have to buy more capture hardware if I want to record any of this, and I sort of want to be able to do that.

The third reason is that emulation sucks. Oh sure, it works a lot of times. Emulator programmers are doing great work to try to make it more accurate all the time. But since I own the hardware, I’d rather put that to use than make the effort to sort out which emulators work best. On top of that, no emulator is perfect and they get worse with fringe and uncommon games, which is what I enjoy. I’m not doing this to play Crash Bandicoot or Super Mario Sunshine. I’m not saying I’ve got rare taste, but there’s a reason why a lot of the games I like haven’t been pulled up to newer consoles. They’re just not very popular, or they’re based on licensed properties.

That’s about it this week. Fingers crossed that I’ll have more fun to report in a couple weeks.

Make Old Games Work: Inventory

Before I get started on this adventure to make old video game consoles work on my modern TV, I need an inventory. I need to know what I have and what my consoles are capable of. For this exercise, I’m focused solely on the AV parts, as I comfortably have the power situation under control. For each console, I’ve made note of the particular output ports on the console and the model number as those two things will dictate what sort of video signal the console is capable of delivering.

Playstation 3

Model: CECH-4001B

Outputs: HDMI, AV Multi Output, Optical Audio

Playstation 2

Model: SCPH-30001

Outputs: AV Multi Output, Optical Audio, USB


Model: SCPH-101

Outputs: AV Multi Output

Playstation cables: AV multi out to composite video (RCA), AV multi out to RFU adapter (coaxial)


Product ID: 561 6026331 24902

Outputs: AV in/out

Xbox cables: AV in/out to compositie video (RCA), AV in/out to component video (RCA)


Model: RVL-001

Outputs: AV Multi Out, USB


Model: DOL-001

Outputs: Digital AV Out, Analog AV Out, Hi-Speed Port, Serial Port 1 & 2

Nintendo 64

Model: NUS-001

Outputs: Multi Out (matches GC analog AV out)

Super Nintendo

Model: SNS-001

Outputs: Multi Out (matches GC analog AV out), RF Out (RCA)

Nintendo Entertainment System

Model: NES-101

Outputs: RF Out

Nintendo cables: Wii AV multi out to component (RCA), Wii AV multi out to composite (RCA), analog multi out to composite (RCA), RF out to RF adapter (coaxial), analog multi out to RF out (adapter)


Model: HKT-3020

Outputs: AV Out, Serial

Dreamcast cables: AV out to composite (RCA)

Multi-use cables/adapters: Playstation AV multi out/Xbox AV out/Xbox 360 AV out to component (RCA)/composite (RCA), component to HDMI adapter, composite (RCA) to HDMI adapter

That’s all for today. In two weeks, I’ll pick one of these to figure out.

Old Video Game Consoles

Okay, that time has come where I’ve decided to drag out my old consoles and try to make them work on modern TVs and capture hardware. Somebody said Disruptor and that kicked off my desire to try to play my own copy of Disruptor. It’s an early PS1 game. I have the disc. I have multiple Playstation consoles. This should work, right?

The PS3 offers many old Playstation games for digital download. Disruptor is not one of them. PS3 has no other PS1 backwards compatibility so PS3 is out.

I pull out my PS2. It’s one of the original models. I have a video cable that outputs component (YPbPr) video from a PS1/PS2/Xbox/360 input. None of my TVs accept component input, but I bought a component -> HDMI converter that works pretty well. I hook it all up. It’s working. I’ve got video. My PS2 still even has a close to correct clock.

I stick my Disruptor disc in. Disc read error. Oh hell. I haven’t touched this thing in a long time. It sat in my basement for something like the last 5 years. I’ve played some PS2 games on it, but that basement wasn’t perfectly dry. Did I kill my PS2?

Then I remember that my PS2 has been bad at reading CDs (PS1 games) for a while. That’s not new. I stick a PS2 game in and it works flawlessly. Okay. I have a backup. I have a PSOne.

I kept this PSOne for exactly this problem. I unhook the PS2 and hook up the PSOne. I put the disc in and fire it up. Nothing. No sound, no video. Now I’m digging around in my long term memory. While I can hook up my third party PS1/PS2/Xbox/360 component octopus to the PSOne, that doesn’t mean it’s going to output component video. And it won’t. It just doesn’t work.

Now this same octopus can do composite video, which is what the PSOne will output, and I have a composite -> HDMI converter, the video quality is absolutely terrible. It’s the reason why I bought the component converter in the first place. I don’t even want to dig it out. I’m stuck.

I could quit here. Disruptor isn’t the best video game. I could try to use an emulator and see how well that works. But I have this stack of old PS1 games. And I have a lot of other old consoles that won’t support native HDMI output. Am I just sitting on this more or less useless junk forever? Nah, I’m not done yet.

Let’s do something stupid. Let’s figure this out. Even if I just part out some solution and never buy it, I want to make this stuff work. To start, I’m going to take an inventory of consoles I want to make work.

  • Playstation 3 (more on this later*)
  • Playstation 2
  • PSOne
  • Dreamcast
  • Wii
  • Gamecube
  • Nintendo 64
  • SNES
  • NES

Next up, I’m going to have to make an inventory of what I have on hand and what the console will support. Stay tuned!

*Of course, my PS3 does native HDMI output. What doesn’t work is outputting to my El Gato HD60 game capture card. HDCP copy protection breaks it. So I need to do something else to make that HDMI signal clean.

2019 Dream of Waking Video Game Awards

2019 Game of the Year


Few games this year grabbed me like Control did. It combines a lot of things I already liked (creepypasta, Lost, Remedy Games, The X-Files) and put it into this beautiful, dark package.

Runner Up: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

2019’s 2018 Game of the Year

Return of the Obra Dinn

What a unique adventure game. I was into it the minute it was announced as the next game from the maker of Papers, Please but it absolutely delivers as a tantalizing mystery and an experience that’s impossible for other media to replicate.

Runner Up: Timespinner

The “I Wish I Liked This More” Award for Games Everyone But Me Loved

The Outer Wilds

If you accused me of not giving The Outer Wilds a fair shake, you’d probably be right. I’ve played it long enough to figure out its “trick” but I haven’t gone back since. It’s obviously well loved by many, and I’m likely to go back and give it a real go someday this year, but I find myself challenged to start up a game that gives me such an easy stopping point.

Runner Up: Metro: Exodus

The “You Tried” Award for Games Punching Above Their Weight

Terminator: Resistance

Terminator: Resistance isn’t a great game. It’s a fairly basic FPS, only extraordinary for being a decent Terminator series game. But looking at this developer’s abysmal track record, Terminator: Resistance is easily the best game they’ve made and it’s a huge improvement over their past. This game could’ve been a Rambo: The Video Game level disaster, but it turned out pretty good.

Runner Up: A Plague Tale: Innocence

Other Awards

Movie of the YearUs.
Runners Up: Shazam, Alita: Battle Angel.

Album of the Year1000 Gecs by 100 Gecs.
Runners Up: Young Enough by Charly Bliss, Fear Innoculum by Tool.

Book of the YearSeven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes.
Runners Up: The Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (I do not care if it came out in 2016, I just read it this year), One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

When credits rolled on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there was one question I simply could not shake: “what the shit was that?” It was shortly followed by “why did they do that?” and “why would they do that?” For those who want to avoid spoilers, here’s my spoiler-free review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a bloated mess that caps the Skywalker saga disastrously. It’s not even a fascinating trainwreck. It just sucks.

Spoilers follow.

If The Force Awakens remade A New Hope, and The Last Jedi set out to do its own thing with mixed results, then Rise of Skywalker is a desperate attempt to rewrite the themes of The Last Jedi so we can go back to plundering the grave of the storyline of the original Star Wars trilogy. Literally pulled from the grave, Carrie Fisher’s green screened lines are replayed in strange contexts that make it extremely obvious that they’re chopping up whatever footage they have left to give her a significant role almost three years since she died. Also literally pulled from the grave, Emperor Palpatine! Oh boy, he survived a drop down a massive hole and an entire deathstar explosion and he’s back in Warhammer 40K form. And hey, remember when Darth Vader realized the error of his ways and turned against Emperor Palpatine? Kylo Ren gets a new coat of light side paint three-quarters into this movie, and it also takes his death at the end of a lightsaber battle to save him. Did you want planetary destruction? Because we’ve resurrected the deathstar in the form of a fleet of Final Order Star Destroyers, all of which are armed with planet-destroying lasers! And surprise, they have a single point of weakness that the scrappy Resistance will capitalize on! Rise is everything you’ve already seen before, and some nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, let’s talk about Rey. Surprise. TFA gave us a mystery. Who is Rey? Surely, she’s someone special considering this is a Star Wars movie and she’s a scrappy person sensitive to the force on a desert planet. TLJ solves this mystery in an unexpected way: Rey is no one. Her parents are nobody. They sold her off for money. But Rise has to rewrite everything TLJ did, so now Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter. What. How was this necessary? It’s change for change’s sake. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it didn’t add anything to the stakes. They tease that Rey has some darkness in her, but they tease that with every force user in the series. That’s the thing about all force users, they could be good or bad at the flip of a switch. It’s a senseless change that only serves to resurrect a dead threat and wave around some of that Good Old Star Wars.

And then we get to Poe. Poe, who spends the vast majority of the new trilogy making the wrong decisions and fucking things up. He can fly a spaceship, but he shouldn’t be trusted with anything else. When Leia dies, she leaves Poe in charge. What. Poe? Poe?! What did he do to earn that? He then proceeded to gamble the Resistance against the Final Order in the same way it was gambled at the end of TLJ, except this time, for no explainable reason, other people came to help. Poe led the Resistance to their death.

Finally we get to the mountain of silly scenes that aren’t played for humor. The Knights of Ren are shown on screen and completely meaningless and die just as meaninglessly. I guess that mystery wasn’t worth expanding on. Super Palpatine starts shooting lightning out of his fingers into the sky like he’s fucking Shazam, except Shazam has the brain of a tween and not an immortal space emperor. There are constant turns in plot that make you completely numb by the end of it. Rey is no one, Rey is the most important person. The gang finds a Sith dagger that will lead them to the Sith wayfinder, oops now it’s gone. Chewie is dead, Chewie is alive. Hux is a mole who can help stop Ren, Hux is dead and can’t do anything. Rey has the Sith wayfinder (another meaningless MacGuffin), the Sith wayfinder is destroyed. Ren is dead, Ren is alive. Rey’s going to kill Palpatine, nah nevermind, he’ll suck the life out of her and Ren and become the super emperor. Ren is dead again, Ren is alive. Rey is dead, Rey is alive, Ren is dead for real. Everything is meaningless because any meaning to it is just going to flip around on you. This isn’t intricate plotting, it’s exposing how low stakes this conflict actually is.

When Disney bought Lucasfilm and Star Wars, it created an opportunity. Disney has demonstrated that they can create a Marvel universe, loosely link the movies together, and make something greater than its pieces, with all the intricacies it entailed. I expected them to do the same with Star Wars. It’s just three movies. But even discarding the Expanded Universe, it’s clear that they went into this with no plan. The Force Awakens aped A New Hope so hard that it’s essentially the same movie. The Last Jedi didn’t please everyone, but at least it tried some new ideas. And now we have this overstuffed, nostalgia-poisoned capper that truly exposes the sham. I don’t expect high art out of Star Wars. I expect some semblance of competent story telling, and I didn’t get it. I’m glad this trilogy is over. I hope Disney can find more success in individual Star Wars universe films (mixed bag so far) and TV shows (hey that The Mandalorian is good, right?). But I don’t want a new trilogy and won’t again for a while. I’m not saying this stuff is easy, but it shouldn’t have failed this badly.

Things I’ve Played and What I Think of Them

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

I don’t know if I ever finished all of the stuff in Forsaken when I rolled into Shadowkeep, but that’s okay. Shadowkeep adds more missions that further the Destiny 2 storyline in meaningful ways, though it does stop a bit short from really satisfying. It takes place on the moon, which is a location from the first Destiny, and reuses some of those areas in ways I found mildly triggering. I spent so much time on that moon already. Still, it’s kind of great to know pretty much exactly where everything in the old areas are. If you know what Destiny 2 is, then you probably know if you like it, and you should play Shadowkeep if you like Destiny 2. If you don’t know what Destiny 2 is, it’s free to play for a really significant amount of game that is out there, so play that first.

Tormentor X Punisher

Twin stick shooter, really bloody, everything dies in one hit. The trick is that your primary machine gun shot runs out of ammo until you use the secondary shotgun shot. It’s fairly difficult even with everything dying in one hit and bosses usually introduce some walls and obstacles in the open arena so they don’t die as quickly as everything else. Not my favorite twin stick shooter, but it’s got a lot more flavor to it than most of its competition.

Mafia III

I play Mafia III off and on for a while. It’s okay. It’s slower paced than a lot of open world games of its ilk. It looks great though, and it nails its atmosphere. I guess the thing that keeps me from spending more time with it is the fairly rote gameplay and the somewhat unsatisfying combat. I’m just not chomping at the bit to get back into it, so it becomes the game that sits on my hard drive forever because I don’t love it.

Disco Elysium

All the comparisons to Planescape: Torment are warranted. I like the tone of the game, though I find myself unable to will myself back into it because it really is a lot of walking around and reading dialog. It’s one of those games that’s an exercise in trusting that there’s a reason for all of this reading and it will eventually pay off.


It’s like Zelda except you die and restart every 60 seconds. And I kind of hate Zelda. It’s cuter than Zelda though, and the death gimmick makes me like it more than Zelda, but dying every 60 seconds just means I have an out every minute, and I end up taking it after about 5 deaths.


Distance is a driving platformer. Yes, that’s right. You drive in a mostly straight line, jump onto platforms, float onto platforms, and wall run (drive). Maybe it’s closer to an endless runner? Except it ends. It’s got a good look to it, but there’s not a lot there.


I slowly walked around in an empty world for a half hour and I still haven’t experienced any gameplay.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2

How did they make a big battle Star Wars game that’s so boring? It’s pretty, but that’s it. The single player is an absolute slog. This is barely fun.

Untitled Goose Game

HORRIBLE GOOSE! This game is more fun in memes and fan art than it is to play. Or maybe it’s funnier with a group of people watching? But playing it alone, it’s just mildly amusing to mildly frustrating.

Criticism about Criticism

I’m mad about two separate but related things that have to do with media criticism.

A 10 Point Scale is Bullshit

The 10 point scale is terribly common and it’s also terrible. Here’s all criticism of the 10 point scale boiled down to one simple question:

What’s the difference between a 6 and a 7?

If you’re doing qualitative reviews, and nearly every media critic is doing qualitative reviews, then there’s essentially no measurable difference between two adjacent points on a scale. You get the perfect 10, which is never used, and the garbage bin 1, which is also never used, and those are your only absolutes.

The middle of the road changes depending on whether you perceive a 5 to be average or a 7 to be average. A 5 average makes the most sense strictly from a numbers point of view, but the 7 average aligns with a C grade from school, so it’s extremely hard to escape the perception that anything less than a 7 is below average. When you, or your audience, perceives a 7 to be average, then you will use far less of the lower end of the scale, because it doesn’t matter. If it’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s less than average, and your perceived average is a 7, then it doesn’t matter whether you give it a 4 or a 5. There’s no functional difference.

Since the 10 point scale sucks, we have to look at alternatives. Of the numbered options, here are the most common:

  • 2 point (up/down, yes/no)
  • 3 point (up/neutral/down)
  • 5 point (5 stars)
  • 100 point (percentage)
  • 1000 point (percentage with decimal)

I’m going to bin three of these right off the bat. 100 point and 1000 point have the same problems as a 10 point scale. If there’s nothing quantitative to differentiate between a 91 and a 92, why are you even using a 100 point scale? I’m also going to bin 2 point up/down scales too, for having the opposite problem of no nuance. Some things are just average, or they really work for a niche but no one else, and 2 point scales don’t allow for anything but good or bad. They work for probably 90% of scoring needs, but really don’t for the rest. Criticism demands a space for something other than worst or best.

This leaves three point and five point scales. Both scales escape the problem of the 7. Both scales have more nuance than up/down. Both scales have obvious differences between scores (unless you’re doing a 5 star scale and using half stars, then you’re just using a 10 point scale). I lean closer to the 5 point scale for preference, because those extra two points between best of the best and worst of the worst can save a lot of criticism from scoring everything as mediocre. But this leads to my next complaint about criticism.

No One Uses 1’s or 10’s and That’s Bullshit

Perfect and worst scores are rare on a 10 point scale. Why? Because they represent the absolute pinnacle and the absolute pit. When you have a 10 point scale, the temptation is always there to give a 9 instead of a 10 because 10 represents perfection. But nothing is perfect. 10 and 1 are essentially unattainable; reserved for the best of the best and the worst of the worst when everything is scored at a moment in time. Even if you do something like a look-back review, your score isn’t likely to increase over time. It’s more likely to decrease if anything, because you’ve got newer works to compare it to, or because it’s being looked at outside of its bubble in time.

By making 1’s and 10’s off-limits, reserved for exceptionally exceptional works, your 10 point scale becomes an 8 point scale. 2 and 9 become comfortable because they should be 1’s or 10’s but we can’t get over that need for perfection or utter failure. Now combine this with an assumed 7 average, and you end up with the IGN problem: everything great is an 8.

I’m 100% guilty here. I’ve given 9 scores to excellent games, games that should be a 10. I’ve also been reticent to give a 1 to anything I’ve finished because, hey, I finished it right? Even worse, when I’ve tried to translate 10 point scores to a 5 point system, I’ve found myself rounding down, so those 9’s became 4’s. I’ve given reviews to things I haven’t finished a 2/5 because… why? I didn’t finish it! Isn’t that a sign that something’s very wrong?

It takes some bravery to give something a 10 or a 1, but I want to see more bravery in criticism. I want to hold myself accountable to this. Great work deserves a 10. Garbage/DNF stuff deserves a 1. Mediocre things should be a 5, because a 7 average is wrong. And all scoring of media is bullshit, because it shortcuts the actual criticism and lacks nuance, but it can be better if we stop using a 10 point scale, and start using the far ends of whatever scale we’re working with.

Blair Witch

I’m the rare person who likes everything about The Blair Witch. I like Book of Shadows. I like Blair Witch. If I had a chance to play the first trilogy of The Blair Witch games, chances are that I would have liked those too. Imagine my surprise when the game Blair Witch was revealed at E3 this year. It had what I wanted. Woods. Darkness. Dilapidated buildings. Even a dog! But, much like my feelings about 2016’s Blair Witch movie, this game doesn’t quite coalesce until you get to the end.

Blair Witch is a first person horror game in which you play Ellis. You have volunteered to scour the Black Hills forest for a missing boy. You brought your dog Bullet and little else. As you make your way through the woods, you find a trail of breadcrumbs that lead you closer to the boy and further into the forest.

Blair Witch follows Bloober Team’s recent forays into horror, namely Layers of Fear (a haunted house) and Observer (a cyberpunk haunted house). Layers of Fear‘s did a lot with atmosphere and loud noises because there wasn’t a whole lot of capital G Gameplay, but Observer added in some monster avoidance sections, ala SOMA, in which you could run face first into some kind of monster and die. Blair Witch throws in some portions where you are expected to look where your dog is barking and blast tree monsters with your flashlight. It’s clear that Bloober Team is trying to expand their horror horizons, but this felt kind of hokey. These parts weren’t terribly difficult or frequent, just sort of annoying.

If most of the gameplay is a progression of Bloober Team’s prior works, the rest is carried by the Blair Witch movies, namely wandering around in the woods and spooky rundown buildings. There’s no map and the feeling of being lost in the woods is really effective. Minus the hokey tree monsters, the horror mostly works. It builds effectively and, even with a companion dog, it’s hard to feel safe. This is what Bloober Team did well in Layers of Fear and Observer.

Where this game falters is in its narrative. Ellis never really becomes a sympathetic character and the story is built around slowly revealing his dark past and whether or not he can be saved. Bullet is a more sympathetic character here, and he’s a dog. The game also sort of relies on the player having seen some parts of the movies, leaning heavily on the most recent film. I knew what was going on because I’ve seen all of them, but I think a non-fan would be rather confused about a lot of the things that go unsaid. There’s also a laundry list of collectibles, and no way to go back through the game after you’ve beaten it to collect them or alter your ending. You can make game saves mid-game and return to those, but there’s no chapter select. Once you finish it, you’re going to have to play it again from the start if you’re chasing achievements.

I’m a tad disappointed. I saw a little Silent Hill 2 in the trailer, and I see a sliver of it in this game, but it’s not quite there. Hard to recommend for those who haven’t seen the Blair Witch movies, which I obviously enjoyed, but even fans may not enjoy this because of the weak antagonist and silly tree monsters. The scares are here, the tension is here, but it’s far from perfect.

Reference: Bloober Team. Blair Witch (Bloober Team, 2019)

Source: Free via Xbox Game Pass


Control had some work to do right out of the gate. Quantum Break wasn’t exactly an unqualified success and Remedy’s relationship with Microsoft seemed to disintegrate from it. Now back out on their own and paired with 505 Games, Control is a bit of a return to form for Remedy. Smaller in scope than Quantum Break, but doing more with less.

Control is a third person shooter with mind powers. You play as Jesse Haden, a woman who walked into the Federal Bureau of Control, and assumed leadership by bonding with the weapon of the former director. If that sounds weird, we haven’t even scratched the surface. The FBC is charged with protecting the nation from supernatural threats, and it’s been invaded by a threat called The Hiss.

Control is a pitch-perfect blend of creepypasta, Lost, and The X-Files. There’s lot of talk in memos and audio logs about containment and neutralization of Altered Items and Objects of Power. Jesse can bind with some of these OOPs to get new powers, starting with the ability to throw stuff with her mind. Littered all over this game are collectibles describing the supernatural effects of these items and how the FBC are working to contain them. There’s also a series of videos that look like someone took the Dharma Initiative videos from Lost and made their own. These all star the same guy who played Alan Wake. Speaking of Alan Wake, there’s also a series of videos starring the guy who voiced Max Payne. This whole game is stuffed with creepy fiction and Remedy all-stars and I loved it.

The gameplay is also well suited to the atmosphere. This is no cover shooter. Jesse has the archetypal shooter weapons: pistol, shotgun, sniper, etc. Augmenting these are the mind powers, with the first and most useful being Launch, which throws stuff. Essentially every piece of set decoration can be picked up and tossed at the enemy. It does a healthy amount of damage right out of the gate and it’s extremely satisfying. More abilities trickle out later, but Launch is a mainstay through out of the game. Both weapon ammo and mind powers are on a delayed recharge, so combat is usually a matter of emptying one of those meters, and then emptying the other while the first recharges. Enemies also explode with health pickups when they die, so it makes no sense to sit in one place and shoot things in the distance. Eventually you need to get up close to heal. There’s a good variety of enemies, so the mix of weapons and mind powers have plenty of uses and combat essentially never gets boring.

There are two things that take away from Control, and that’s the environments and difficulty spikes. The whole game takes place in the same extradimensional building (think House of Leaves or the Tardis from Doctor Who), and eventually I noticed that it’s an awful lot of poured concrete. It’s good looking and well designed but there’s just so much grey I can look at. Jesse is also fairly fragile, and I found numerous points in the game where difficulty spiked really hard, to the point that I sometimes just walked away from a mission and did something else, or quit out of the game entirely from frustration. There’s a brutal section near the end of the game that took me at least a dozen attempts to get past, and required that I play the game differently from how I spent the rest of the game playing it. It wasn’t fun. Even now, there are a couple side missions I may not finish because I’m past the ending and they’re annoyingly difficult.

Despite these fairly minor quibbles, I absolutely loved Control. It’s creepy, it plays well, and it looks great. Control is an excellent storytelling game.

Reference: Remedy Entertainment. Control (505 Games, 2019)

Source: Purchased from Epic Game Store

Ne Cede Malis