Strictly speaking, Control is an action-adventure game, but if you’ve played it you’ll know that doesn’t really do it justice. Now, over half a year after its initial release, Control has received its first real expansion in The Foundation. For the most part, Control’s first piece of DLC is as thrilling and satisfying to play as the game proper. Read on to hear our full Foundation DLC review.
The Foundation DLC sees you exploring exactly that, the subterranean caves beneath the Oldest House. At the outset it seems the biggest problem on Jesse’s hands are the Hiss having discovered The Foundation. Upon closer inspection though, the situation is far more troubling, the Astral Plane is bleeding into the physical world.
After Jesse successfully makes her descent to the crossroads of The Foundation, she is given the task of repairing a mysterious obelisk called The Nail. As a means of assistance, the Board offer the choice between two new abilities to help traverse the treacherous caves.
As Jesse’s first real test since becoming the Bureau’s new director, ‘The Foundation’ directly follows the events of Control. The Foundation mostly does a brilliant job of expanding on the weird and wonderful world of the base game. Although there are some new surprises in the gameplay, that isn’t where the DLC shines.
Story of The Foundation
Like the base game, the DLC offers a satisfying self-contained story that adds more depth to the already lore-rich world. Impressively, this self-contained story also nicely ties up some loose threads from the base game. Though still tantalising you with a suggestion of what’s to come. In fact the story of Control‘s DLC is by far its strongest element. Though this isn’t to say the rest of it is bad by any stretch.
The story does a fantastic job of both asking and answering questions you hadn’t even thought about yet. The beauty of it being Jesse’s first job as Director means she often voices your concerns as her inner monologue. One such observation regards the seemingly arbitrary rules put in place by The Board. Early on in the DLC you are offered the choice of two powers, and while this choice – or any choice for that matter – doesn’t affect the story at all, the futility of your choices are almost the point. The story of the DLC is all about the mysterious forces that reside not only behind The Foundation, but the entire Oldest House and the Bureau itself – and where their motivations lie.
Characters & Performance
One of the smartest decisions was actually the lack of additional characters. Control is at its best when exploring the mysterious and unsettling. Having Jesse explore the caverns of The Foundation alone fits that to a T. In fact, the only new character, Theodore Ash, appears only via audio recordings. Yet somehow still manages to become just as intriguing a character as the likes of Dr. Darling. Throughout, it gave me the same buzz picking up each new document or recording I found, right to the end. Never knowing just how weird the contents would be.
Courtney Hope, voice of Jesse Faden, gives another wonderfully nuanced performance. This time around betraying a slightly cockier side to the Bureau’s new Director. Hope nails the subtle cracks in Jesse’s façade as the threat ramps up and the choices she has (or hasn’t) made reveal their effect. The returning supporting cast are on top form too. The delightfully curious Emily Pope (Antonia Bernath) is a personal favourite. Always pursuing the next tidbit of knowledge no matter the mood of her put-upon Director.
Given that its DLC, The Foundation has the same beautiful visual fidelity we saw in the base game. Though this time trading the (subjectively) beautiful mid-century brutalist architecture and concrete, for a more alien labyrinth of cavernous tunnels, covered in martian-like red sand.
Similarly, the animations are almost entirely carried over from the base game. Thankfully retaining my favourite animation, of Jesse’s simultaneously unsure and graceful push into levitation. There are few new additions to the series of animations though. The aforementioned powers come with shiny new visuals. The creation ability allows you to pull crystalline structures rippling from rocky edifices. While the destruction ability simply adds a slight expansion to the game’s already stellar destructibility.
As with the base game, each power’s animation really lends a certain weight to everything you do, helping combat stay exciting well into the add-on’s runtime. The same goes for Control‘s often grotesque enemies, the new additions also having some terrifyingly fluid animations as they attempt to bludgeon you or otherwise horribly kill you.
If there’s one area that Control has excelled in, it’s the visuals. This regularly stunning game has me stopping to use the photo mode every ten minutes or so. The music and sound design are superlative too, walking the tightrope-thin line of being satisfying to listen to while also keeping you slightly unsettled for most of the runtime.
Simultaneously one of the best and slightly disappointing aspects of the DLC is that Control changes very little. Meaning despite the new powers that are thrown at you, your hands barely have to adjust to the new information. The new powers add in a good level variety to the gameplay but act as extensions of your existing powers.
The first DLC hasn’t lost the magic of the original instalment either though. Powers are just as weighty and satisfying to use. I still haven’t got bored of launching bits of debris at the unfortunate Hiss to get in my way, or randomly levitating around with a shield of rocks. The adaptability of the service weapon comes into its own once again too. But playing around 5 hours of DLC with only a handful of new toys left me a little wanting.
I continued to find a use for each weapon form at various points throughout the game. Though one small quibble that remains unfixed from the main game is that, given the gun can shape-shift at a moment’s notice, it’s slightly frustrating that you can only switch between two forms at any time. I can see how it would be annoying having to cycle through each of the 5 forms just to get to the one you want. Although with that in mind, maybe a weapon wheel would have been more appropriate than jumping in and out of the menu every time you want to switch form.
The addition of new powers is probably the best example of how little the DLC changes the gameplay. Both of which represent extensions of existing powers, rather than completely new ones. One allows you to create platforms and deadly spike traps, the other allows you to remove obstacles and destroy the ground beneath your enemies’ feet. Of the two, the creation skill offers a far more satisfying variation on the gameplay, though neither of them have any effect on the way the story plays out, and are largely used as mechanics to restrict you from exploring the entire map from the off-set.
Along with the new slice of story, Control’s DLC also brings new enemy types, a new map, and new powers. Unfortunately the new abilities are only really useful to the DLC. Though if you’re like me, you’ll only be dropping into Control for these 5-6 hours until the next piece of DLC drops. That might say more about the game’s replay-ability than my gaming habits though. Despite their usefulness being limited to those hours, the new powers do lend a satisfying element of variety, and rejuvenate the combat by adding a couple of handy extra ways to take on the Hiss.
Since we’re on the subject of the Hiss, it’s worth mentioning the new enemy type, the Hiss Sharpened. It’s an interesting addition, and sees the Hiss wielding melee weapons to deal some serious damage when they get too close. Sadly, in keeping with most of our issues with The Foundation, the Hiss Sharpened soon fall into the category of ‘slightly repetitive after 5 hours’.
The map is an entirely new beast, and very different from the main game at that. It’s a shame then, that it suffers the same kind of wear that the locale of the campaign did, but in a much shorter space of time. Namely, that after a couple of hours, the red sand and white rock combination does get a little boring. At least the brutalist architecture and occasionally art deco design of the base game added an intentional layer of mundanity to the weirdness. It’s a relatively small complaint in an otherwise impressive and substantial piece of DLC. In fact, it’s probably the substantial nature that draws attention to the game’s repetitive aspects.
Where some of the new additions fall flat, or otherwise fail to introduce much new-ness into the mix, the DLC does bring a shining star of Control at large. Its incredibly high concept side-missions. Each of which require Jesse to track down an iconic Altered Object that has fled into the Foundation. A particular favourite was the mission titled ‘Jesse Faden Starring in “Swift Platform”‘ which ramps up the already sky-high levels of weirdness in Control, whilst also offering what is without doubt the most challenging portion of the DLC. We won’t spoil what the mission involves, but there’s a lot of moody colours and 80’s synth. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.
The Foundation DLC adds a few new aspects to the already satisfying gameplay loop of the base experience in Control. While not all of them add a substantial amount of variety, it still provides more of what we loved about the main campaign. The Foundation DLC occasionally reaches genuine excellence too – by way of stellar performances, beautiful visuals, and yet more novel and wacky missions.
Control DLC ‘The Foundation’ is developed by Remedy Entertainment and released March 26th 2020 on PS4 and PC, it is due to release on June 25th 2020 on Xbox One.
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A Mostly fun expansion to the weird and wonderful world of Control.
- Score - 7.5/107.5/10
+ Fantastic performances
+ Stunning visuals
+ More of the fascinating lore
+ Innovative side-missions
– Repetitive environments and enemies
– Gameplay not hugely changed from base game