Control: Ultimate Edition Review – Still Worth Your Time

As long-promised, Remedy has dropped their big new-gen update for 2019’s excellent Control. Well, less of an update and more an entirely new build of the game (sorry, save files) designed to take advantage of the power of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

James’ original review of the game still stands – this is one of the last generation’s must-play titles, hands down. If you’ve slept on the game before now, this is your chance to experience Remedy’s best work yet. If you’ve played it before though, now’s the perfect time to do it all again. Especially if you own a PlayStation 5, where you can grab the game for nothing at launch as part of February’s PlayStation Plus line-up.

Control: Ultimate Edition is the complete package. Not only does it contain the base game and both of its expansions, but it comes with a handful of new features exclusive to the new consoles. The biggest of these is, of course, an updated visual package that gives the game an overall uplift in presentation but more importantly gives PS5/Series X players the option of either playing the game at a cool 60fps or with ray-tracing enabled at 30fps. After replaying the game in its entirety on the PlayStation 5 I found a lot to like about both options, but wound up sticking with one over the other by the end.

Graphics Mode is obviously the option a lot of people are going to be interested in. This mode targets a framerate of 30fps at 1440p (using the game’s scaling techniques to output at 4K) and enables ray-traced reflections and transparency. What that means for the game is that surfaces, objects and materials accurately reflect the light from the world around them, especially things like glass panes and mirrors. In a lot of areas, the difference is stark – walls of glass with real-time reflections where previously there were none at all, harsh lights realistically diffusing across massive stone walls – and in other places it’s more subtle.

You really have to look for it, but I found some of the most impressive benefits in the way objects catch light and colour from things around them, like aluminium radar dishes picking up the bright reds from office carpets in other parts of the room. The Bureau/Oldest House is one of the most interesting and engaging spaces in modern video games, and ray-tracing goes a long way to really amplifying its already-excellent sense of place. It’s not quite transformative, and at a glance the more accurate lighting can make some darker areas seem less detailed when compared to Remedy’s very good pre-baked solutions, but as a player it definitely adds a ton to the overall atmosphere.

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The surprise hero in this new-gen package though, is the Performance mode. Ray-tracing is neat and all, but swapping it out for a 60fps target is a pretty sweet deal. A higher framerate is a pretty big deal for Control on console, where it previously struggled with its 30fps target across the last generation of machines, and I’d argue it adds even more to the experience than the RT effects. Control’s architecture and visual language has an incredible brutalist nature that truly comes through when the player’s visual and physical connection to the world is heightened. It also highlights even more the utterly fantastic facial motion capture in the game’s cutscenes, as well as making the sheer amount of shit going on in combat that much easier to manage and appreciate. Whether you pick Graphics or Performance though, everything from regular gameplay to combat to the UI itself is much more stable than the last-gen release, which is good news indeed.

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It’s worth noting that Xbox Series S owners will only get access to the Performance mode, and will see the game rendered at 900p with a 1080p upscale in comparison to the 1440p/4K upscale of the other new-gen machines.

With the new consoles’ fancy new SSD storage comes much faster loading as well. Control’s load times vary wildly from area to area so it’s tough to get measurements with any consistency, but on average things like fast travel and respawning happen at least twice as quickly. Travelling between sectors typically took me an average of around 6-9 seconds on PS5, versus 20+ on the PS4 version, with very similar numbers for respawning. Interestingly, not only does the game boot up faster but the splash screens pre-main menu have been sped up significantly, bringing the wait from console UI to game from nearly 2 minutes right down to a mere 20 seconds.

Outside of looking better and loading faster, Control: Ultimate Edition also comes with some new features specifically for PlayStation 5 owners. Adaptive trigger and haptic feedback support is in, giving the various forms of Jesse’s Service Weapon each a distinct in-hand feel and differing levels of trigger feedback. With everything going on in combat I found it super helpful to be able to feel the resistance fall away in the trigger when my ammo had been depleted instead of having to zero in on the tiny on-screen icon. Some players might be turned off by some effects, like the constant haptic representation of Jesse’s footsteps, but thankfully the game gives you very granular control over the strength of its DualSense features (all the way down to zero).

Control UI

There’s also built-in support for the PlayStation 5’s new activity and help features, giving players an indication of their progress across the game’s 10 main and 6 expansion missions. I couldn’t see any of the help stuff, which supposedly includes text and video assistance, so it might not have been live at time of writing, but I did really appreciate being able to see my progress in each of the Control’s trophies as a percentage as I nabbed the game’s platinum a second time.

As a next-gen update then, Control does a decent job of taking advantage of both the power and unique features of the new generation of consoles, especially if you happen to be playing on a PlayStation 5. While the ray-traced effects might not make this a must-replay, it’s still a far better and (crucially) more stable experience than the game has ever been on consoles, not to mention the joy of playing with the 60fps option instead. At the end of the day Control is a game worth checking out for the first or fifth time, so now’s a better time than ever to get on that.