Control - AWE Review

Published: Friday, August 28, 2020 - 14:00 | By: Nirav Gandhi
Publisher
505 Games
Release Date
August 27, 2019
Monetization
One Time Purchase
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
Steam Epic Games Humble Bundle Amazon
AWE Shines a Light on Control's Greatest Strengths

Exactly one year after the somewhat rocky launch of Remedy's third-person shooter Control, the second and final expansion has found its way to all platforms concurrently. Returning to Control after finishing it last March, I was worried I'd need to reacquaint myself with the controls and story to make my way into the AWE DLC. Not so - if you've beaten the game, firing it up will give you immediate access to the new questline and take you to an entirely new sector of The Oldest House (note that the expansion cannot be played without finishing the main game's story line). Luckily, Remedy was observant and careful in their construction of AWE - it leans heavily on Control's greatest strengths while downplaying its weaknesses, creating a survival horror experience centered both thematically and in gameplay around light.

Jesse Faden's American Nightmare

Control 2
The use of tone in AWE is impressive

Although AWE expansion was marketed as a crossover between Control and Alan Wake (AWE stands for both "Altered World Event" and the "Alan Wake Experience"), it is very much an expansion of Control and only features Alan Wake in its opening and closing segments. Fans of Alan Wake, be advised this is much more of a nod to the fictional author than a sequel to Remedy's 2010 cult hit. Personally, I thought the story of the base game was a bit too Lynchian for its own good and the absurdist plot was held up by excellent atmosphere and gameplay. If you, however, enjoyed the story of the base game, you'll enjoy AWE's story as well. Even though the story is only tangentially related to Alan Wake, the gameplay of AWE (light killing the darkness) is directly influenced by its gameplay.

 
 

Jesse begins the quest by receiving a mysterious transmission from the famous horror novelist Alan Wake, of whom she is a fan. Upon arriving once again at the familiar Oceanview Motel, Jesse sees Alan Wake in a mysterious conversation with an alternate version of himself before disappearing into the brand new Investigations Sector. Following him into the lost sector of The Oldest House leads Jesse into a confrontation with a terrifying new boss, around which the entire expansion is centered.

AWE 1
Dr. Hartman is always watching...

The Investigations Sector was sealed away years ago because it contains one very dangerous, immortal monster - Dr. Hartman. Although he used to be a man long ago, he has since evolved into something else through the high exposure to altered world events. Losing his mind during the "metamorphosis" (their word), Hartman became part of the darkness and cannot exist in the light. As such, it's impossible to get a good look at exactly what he is for most of the DLC, despite the fact that you spend half of it directly fighting him. I would honestly describe AWE as one 6-hour boss fight that takes place over a giant area with a lot of downtime in between phases. There are about a dozen side quests as well including one involving a gerbil and a top hat that will drive you absolutely insane.

Hartman cannot touch Jesse while she is in a lit area. While Control's base game had horror elements in it, be aware that AWE is a full-on survival horror game. One indestructible creature is constantly stalking you, and only by frantically solving puzzles and manipulating light can Jesse hope to destroy him. Each puzzle you solve drives him deeper into the sector, and eventually, you'll realize that he's just as trapped in here with you as you are with him. If that pitch hasn't sold you on AWE, I don't know what will.

AWE Presents the Best of Control

AWE
Light is used to destroy black ooze masses for cleverly designed puzzles.

AWE goes leaps and bounds to rectify the base game's biggest problem -  checkpoints plentiful and frequent in AWE, showing up before and after every horde fight and boss encounter. A free update released alongside AWE, scattering dozens of new Control Points around The Oldest House retroactively, including one directly in front of every boss fight. The number of enemy encounters has been dramatically reduced from the pace of the base game, instead presenting environmental puzzles as the "obstacle" of most rooms with only about a dozen horde fights during the entire expansion. Enemy encounters were much too frequent in the base game, and this pace makes them feel more thrilling when Jesse wanders into them. The difficulty of the fights is about equivalent to the base game, but the free update has added a difficulty slider if you'd like to ramp up the frustration. Control takes full advantage of its robust lighting and physics engines in AWE, having Jesse levitate construction lamps with a singular beam to navigate the pitch-black hallways and hangars of the Investigations Sector.

One final note: do not play this game without ray tracing enabled. I played Control: AWE in 1440p at 60 fps, high graphics settings with RTX on high. Control, when played in this manner, is without a doubt the most graphically impressive game I've ever seen. Considering AWE's dependence on and dedication light manipulation mechanics, playing Control without ray tracing would be a disservice to both you and it. If you've got a high-end PC, go ahead and jump in! Otherwise, I recommend you wait to buy the Ultimate Edition on Series X or PS5 later this year and enjoy it in glorious 60 FPS with Ray Tracing enabled. Control suffered from being unplayable on base PS4s at launch, but a patch has since then corrected the problem. However, if you purchase the PS4 or Xbox One version of Control: Ultimate Edition now, you'll be able to upgrade it to next gen consoles for free.

AWE's dedication to the strengths of Control caused me to retroactively appreciate the base game more. My only two complaints with AWE are that the "new" enemy type is just a levitating version of an existing enemy and that that new Surge gun is 100% useless in all situations. Despite those small shortcomings, if you have played Control and want to see the best of what it has to offer, I highly recommend diving into AWE. If you missed Control, the whole game is available now as the Ultimate Edition. It's well worth it to step back into the gorgeously rendered, fully destructible environments and mess around in the most robust physics engine since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.


TechRaptor reviewed Control: AWE on PC via a code from the developer. Control: Ultimate edition is available now on PC via Steam and Epic Games as well as PS4 and Xbox One. Control: Ultimate Edition will be available on PS5 and Xbox Series X on launch day.

Review Summary

9.0
AWE builds on the best parts of Control to deliver a gorgeous and terrifying survival horror experience.

Pros

  • Beautiful Lighting that Takes Full Advantage of Ray Tracing
  • Seamless Transitions Between Puzzle, Action, and Survival Horror Segments
  • The Boss Fights are Clever Light Puzzles and Mix Up the Action
  • Frequent Checkpoints and Sparse Enemy Encoungers

Cons

  • No New Abilities or Enemies to Speak Of

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Nirav
Staff Writer

Nirav is a 27 year-old unpaid Nintendo shill. When he's not blackmailing his friends into buying a Switch, he's probably stanning for Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage. He considers himself an authority on Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, and Fallout franchises. He's best known for his overwhelming knowledge about the Scooby-Doo extended universe.