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Credit: Remedy

Inside the story and game mechanics of Control at NYCC

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Oct 6, 2018, 4:00 PM EDT

After revealing their thrilling new project, Control, at E3 this past June, the video game developers at Remedy gave eager fans a much better look at the upcoming game at New York Comic Con. Like Remedy's previous games, Alan Wake and Quantum Break, Control focuses on a character who must explore the hidden mysteries of the world to keep us safe without us ever knowing we were in danger. SYFY WIRE got a closer look at Remedy's spooky action game, and sat down with writer/director Sam Lake and actor Courtney Hope to learn more about the Control's world.

Control follows Jesse Faden (Hope), a new officer on the job in the supernatural jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Control who arrives for her first day at the worst possible time. There's been an incident, and it's left much of the FBC in absolute chaos. The events take place primarily in the Bureau's headquarters in New York, the Oldest House. Loosely based on the old AT&T building in Manhattan, whose brutalist architecture appealed to Remedy, Oldest House isn't just an office; it's also a mystical building with more secrets than you would think just from looking at it from the street.

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Credit: Remedy

"The starting point idea of the game was that [the FBC] has this headquarters that is a very strange place," Lake tells SYFY WIRE. "For a mysterious reason, it is a place of power. It's this weird, shifting place that, in the inside, has the potential to be much larger than the outside world would have you believe. If the conditions are right, if you know the rules and the right ritual steps, suddenly there is a door where there wasn't a door."

These elements play a part in the demo that was available to play at NYCC. In it, Jesse must navigate her way through the labyrinthine building that shifts and expands once the right words are spoken. Sometimes it's as simple as Jesse just reciting a phrase in the right spot of a room. Other times, Jesse can find herself transported to a seemingly far-off location like a mid-western motel, where yet another hidden room brings her back to Oldest House in a new area. It's a bit of a trip to see in action, but it sells the idea of a world within worlds quite effortlessly.

control remedy

Credit: Remedy

As Jesse explores more, she comes across an area where the Bureau keeps "altered objects," which are artifacts from unexplained supernatural phenomena around the country. Though she's chasing down one item in particular, during the demo Jesse stops when she sees a man watching what appears to be a refrigerator. He complains of having to watch this item incessantly since it could alter its form if no one is looking at it. Jesse can't relieve him, as she has bigger problems on her hands, but it's a brief moment that hints at the kind of bizarre secrets hidden within Oldest House. Those are the kind of elements that attracted Courtney Hope to the role.

"There are layers to it, there's depth to it that I can I can pull from, and I think it also mirrors real life," Hope says. "There are things that seem like one thing, but really they're not if you look deep and hard enough. That's a huge reason why I was drawn to it. I love that kind of stuff, any sort of weird, paranormal, mystical thing interests me as a person. So as an actor I love to dabble in that aspect of it and go in a direction I don't normally go."

Remedy fans might remember Hope from her portrayal of Beth in Quantum Break, but Hope tells us Jesse is quite different from Beth's straight-laced soldier persona. Jesse has a bit more swag and is more street-smart. She's still exploring what could be considered the traditional hero's journey in this game, however strange and twisted it might be.

"I like the model of the classic hero's journey quite a bit," says Lake. "I feel like it fits the action game very well as a loose framework. The hero's journey is very much about going into that hidden world. You can interpret that in many ways. It doesn't need to be extreme, but here it is very extreme. Secrets and mystery and something you knew on an emotional level suddenly are there and real. That desire to find magic is a big part of Control."

Fortunately for Jesse, she's got a bit of magic of her own. Well, technically telekinetic powers aren't magic, but they sure feel like it when Jesse is throwing office furniture around with a wave of her hand. Though Remedy is being carefully tight-lipped about much of Control's narrative and characters, we know Jesse has some supernatural abilities of her own. Seeing them in action shows Jesse is more than ready to be a member of this covert government agency.

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Credit: Remedy

After arriving in the main lobby during the demo, Jesse quickly makes her way to a series of offices. There she encounters the first wave of people that appear to be infected by the Hiss, an opposing force to the powers of the FBC. Though she can dispatch of enemies quite easily with her mystical service weapon, a gun that has many forms and customizable upgrades, Remedy put a lot of time and effort into using physics as a weapon. Whether she wants to grab a chair and throw it across the room with her mind, or summon bits of the floor and walls to form a protective barrier, Jesse has plenty of tools at her disposal.

"We've been investing a lot on the engine side with dynamic destruction in environments, so that becomes your playfield and tool as well," Lake says. "You can use your telekinetic powers to jump off a wall and use it as a shield, or use it as a weapon against the enemy... Then it was like, let's figure out the fiction and story that can enhance and frame this in the right way. It led to a very strange fiction, but at the same time, we were very happy with that. Quantum Break was mainstream-friendly in a way, but here we're not worrying about that anymore, so let's go as far into weird world building as we feel suits this game."

Even in just the brief time we got to see Jesse's powers in action, it's clear the physics-based fighting is going to be the star of the show. The mysteries and design of the world are terrific, but it's rare to have such creative destructive freedom in a game. That so much of the world is there to be used however you see fit in combat is refreshing. Even if the possibilities of things we'll be able to hit people with is overwhelming.

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Credit: Remedy

The demo rounds out with a few Inception-esque sequences that feature rooms geometrically expanding, opening new pathways and exposing more threats. With nothing but her instincts and spiritual aid of the former director (played by Max Payne himself, James McCaffrey) to keep her afloat, Jesse doesn't have an easy path ahead of her. For players at least, there'll be plenty of eerie elements to uncover along the way, driving them to help Jesse in restoring Oldest House to its former glory.

"There are a lot of answers to be discovered," Lake says. "They are fractured and it's trippy and hallucinatory, but all of that has been in there to be discovered. I'm looking forward to people making their own interpretations of what's happening, and seeing what those are."

"I'm most excited for Jesse's journey," Hope adds. "It's a matter of her growing up and going deeper. There are so many different elements and aspects to where she starts and where she ends. I'm excited to explore the powers or intellectually how she overcomes the challenges she encounters."

"And cool powers," chimes in Lake.