Fans of the weird and spooky got a real treat when Remedy launched Control just a few weeks ago. The title went for the supernatural, and it delivered a stellar product that we can’t recommend enough. People have noticed, too. At PAX West, the game did well, despite having already been out for a few days at the time. The lines were always busy at the 505 Games booth, and the few extra stations at Discord’s and Sony’s booths were always packed.
To catch up with Remedy’s runaway success, we spoke with Communications Director Thomas Puha to see how the Finnish studio has been doing in this post-Control world.
The Stellar Reception to Control
If you ask any developer about some of their best accomplishments, many will tell you that simply shipping a game is an achievement in its own right. Beyond that, Remedy has found itself showered in praise since launching Control, and it’s been a great feeling for the team.
“People send us DMs and emails and everything congratulating, whether it's players or other developers or fans,” Puha said. “It's been super gratifying. We didn't expect this level of love, but it's super nice to see the game resonating and getting great reviews.”
Remedy tried something very new while developing Control. The game uses newer technology, being one of the few games out there to incorporate ray tracing and Nvidia’s RTX technology. Furthermore, in terms of game design, the studio hadn’t done anything like this. Control is more open than Alan Wake or Max Payne, featuring side quests among other things. The studio had to approach narrative and world design in a new way, but the challenge paid off.
“When the reviews came out, people in the studio had big smiles on their faces, sitting down and catching their breaths while really enjoying the moment,” Puha said. “It's really amazing to see. It's hard to even explain to the people who support us, who write the nice reviews, and buy the game how much that means.”
Control: The Oldest House
A major part of the game involves the Oldest House, which has more than enough of its own character. Early in development, the straight lines and concrete look of the building was pretty set in stone. This brutalist architecture set the stage for one of Control’s major themes: contrast. Despite the buttoned-up look from the outside, players know that it’s anything but that on the inside. The corruptive power of the Hiss has paranaturally changed the Federal Bureau of Control, bringing it to life in a decidedly unique way.
The chaotic nature of the Oldest House draws its roots from all sorts of modern literature, according to Puha. The team cites the film Annihilation as inspiration, along with the novel House of Leaves. The latter especially makes sense, considering some of the pages ask you to rotate the entire book just to read them. Early in development, Puha cited Inception as another source of inspiration, mainly the scenes with the clashing and transforming buildings.
Furthermore, Jesse, the game’s protagonist, represents another avenue of contrast for Remedy. As the new director of the bureau, she embodies a major shift in leadership, which has traditionally featured “old men who are very stuck in their ways,” per Puha.
“Jesse is a younger female, like a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Control featuring Hideo Kojima
It’s no secret by now that famed video game auteur Hideo Kojima plays a role in Control. His place in the game was cemented in January 2019, when Kojima and some of his staff members visited Remedy.
“We showed him a bunch of stuff, he showed a bunch of Death Stranding to us as well,” Puha said. “And I was telling the creatives on Control, 'Hey, let's just ask the man, let's get him in the game. How awesome would that be?'”
By that point, the Guided Imagery Experience—called “Isolation” at the time—had already been written with a Japanese character in mind. The stars aligned, and thus, Kojima became a character in Control.
“It just shows how amazing the games industry can be, right? We really loved Kojima's games, and he likes Remedy's games,” Puha said. “It's super gratifying that we were able to do it because he's a very very busy man.”
That January visit wasn’t the first time Kojima and Remedy interacted. Back during E3 2018, Kojima tried out an early build of Control, and that’s where he met writer Sam Lake. It turns out, both creators are fans of each others’ games.
“They just like each other's games,” Puha said. “They both push the envelope when it comes to being weird and not conforming to very sort of western commercial sensibilities in big games.”
In fact, Control only got weirder since that fateful meeting at E3 2018. After the positive public reception, Remedy decided to double down on what made its game stand out.
“Especially after the reception was so good at E3 2018, we were like, 'Okay, fuck it, we're really gonna do our own thing. Let's just be weird and go down the rabbit hole,’” Puha said.
Control is already out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. If the supernatural wasn’t enough to entice you, maybe a motion-captured dog named Uuno might.