The bizarre, twisting world of Control gains a new dimension (literally) with the release this week of The Foundation DLC, the first half of the planned season pass of content. Taking Jesse Faden into the very foundations of the Federal Bureau of Control, The Foundation expands on her abilities and takes her deeper than she’s ever gone before into the origins of the Bureau and its headquarters, the Oldest House.
As those who’ve played Control will know, the Federal Bureau of Control secures and contains supernatural individuals and objects, much like the SCP Foundation stories it takes much inspiration from, housing them within the infinite TARDIS-like space of the ‘Oldest House’, a skyscraper in Manhattan. However, the Bureau had become invaded by a foreign alien frequency, the Hiss, transforming agents into paranormal predators that threatened to take over the world. Accessible only after completing the main game, The Foundation follows up the conclusion of that story, and the disappearance of Helen Marshall, the Bureau’s Head of Operations, as she vanished inside the ‘Foundation’ of the Oldest House. As newly-appointed director of the Bureau, Jesse descends into the Foundation herself to find the monolithic ‘Nail’ that needs to be repaired and cleared of Hiss, lest the Astral Plane and real world collide with each other.
It’s another dose of the same kind of storytelling that smashes The X-Files together with pure surrealism, although Remedy is careful not to give too much away, as you explore the origins of both the Oldest House and the Bureau. While theories are proposed, and elements can be implied, there aren’t many massive revelations that ruin the mystery behind any of Control‘s most well-kept secrets, more quiet confirmations and interesting implications that give you more to chew on. Most interesting is the development of ‘The Board’, the faceless benefactors of the Bureau, and Jesse’s relationship with them, as she learns that their own benevolent system of control may not be entirely what it seems. While character interaction is kept to a minimum, beyond a few conversations with Jesse’s employees and her continuing narration to the player, it’s nonetheless well written with a clear purpose, steering the narrative into what I assume will be explored in a future sequel.
Practically, what this all adds up to is another floor to the Oldest House to explore, but knowing what we do about how the Oldest House operates, this means that it transitions into several dimensions and environments within that floor. Inside the Foundation are primitive cave systems, filled with red dirt and decorated with neolithic cave paintings of unknowable origin, office blocks which have collapsed in on themselves to this deep level, and many white featureless voids containing abstract platforms, where the Astral Plane has begun to devour the internal dimensions. As with the main game, there’s so much detail and creativity put into these areas that it makes The Foundation a joy to explore, with a number of new audio recordings, files and hotline messages to discover as well.
Fighting the Hiss is familiar, with Jesse’s combination of gunplay and supernatural powers still fun to experiment with – a recent patch adding the ability to not only tear off chunks of the environment to protect yourself, but launch them at enemies afterwards too as a ‘Shield Rush’. The Foundation adds two new strings to Jesse’s bow with the new ‘Shape’ skill, with two forms – ‘Create’ and ‘Fracture’. It sounds more interesting than it ultimately ends up becoming, as within the Foundation are special highlighted areas where crystals grow, and this ability allows you to either extend them to create platforms or traps for enemies, or destroy them to clear paths or demolish the floor beneath bad guys. They’re not nearly as dynamic as the rest of Jesse’s arsenal, only working on pre-selected areas, which is disappointing. However, that’s not to say it isn’t satisfying luring one of the new melee Hiss Sharpened enemies into a crystal spike trap, even if it’s just an embellished damage boost. In terms of platforming they work well enough, albeit a little awkward combined with Jesse’s levitation.
There is also a fair amount to do in The Foundation beyond the 4-5 hour main story, with a couple of side missions and new areas to explore, and a wonderful 80’s throwback Altered Item sequence that places Jesse in her own bizarre movie. It’s dampened by a weird difficulty spike, of which there are a couple in Control, although this may not be as much of an issue for higher-level players who have been farming mods and upgrades in the endgame. There certainly could have been more checkpoints, especially in that Altered Item scene, which is otherwise very enjoyable.
The Foundation is a worthy continuation of the Control’s storyline, that plays just as well as the main game, with some additions that while not game-changing, are nice to have. It fleshes out some of the lingering questions you might have had, and paves the way for the future of the franchise in smart ways. What I’m really looking forward to is the second half of this season pass, as the worlds of Control and Alan Wake are hinted to collide in AWE, due later this year. For now, though, The Foundation is a fine epilogue to Control that gives you just a little bit more of everything you liked.
-Adds an entire new massive 'floor' to explore -New lore fleshes out the world of Control even further -Same enjoyable combat and supernatural powers make for a great time here
-New abilities are somewhat limited and don't add a great deal to gameplay -A couple of weird difficulty spikes, especially with the Altered Item sequence