It was only last year when Control was in the news for blowing away the competition in nominations at the 2019 Game Awards. Now the game is back with an expansion, AWE. If you haven’t played the original game, in Control Jesse Faden enters the Federal Bureau of Control to find her lost brother. She then has to fight through a monstrous horde of people possessed by a paranatural aggressor she names ‘The Hiss.’ She has to rely on her psychic abilities and the remaining survivors of the FBC to, hopefully, push back the Hiss, find her brother and possibly save the world. You know, normal stuff for a twenty-something to be up to in her free time.
Without any spoilers the game ends with a pretty spot on climax that would have left most players satisfied but still wondering what happens next. However the developers over at Remedy Entertainment thought it best to give us a little extra to ponder over in the form of two follow up expansions: The Foundation and AWE. Both were promised before release so we knew they were coming.
Having literally just finished AWE about 30 minutes ago the whole experience is still fresh in my memory. AWE, for the uninitiated, stands for Altered World Event which is how Altered Items are created. Altered items can do all sorts such as create a duck that teleports around, following you and quacking all the while or even construct a fridge that if you look away from it or blink it will make you explode.
So on to the actual expansion itself. I’ll say from the get go I am, honestly, a little disappointed by AWE. I paid for the season pass of control after playing the main game which costs £19.99 saving me £3.99. Considering the main game is £47.99 I have to measure the value of the season pass based on how much I spent on both the game and the pass. Do I feel like I got another twenty quid’s worth of playtime in the season pass? Maybe? But that was mostly from the first expansion The Foundation which gave you some new enemies to fight, a very different area to explore, a different colour scheme that really changed the vibe of your situation and a huge amount of plot points to add to my conspiracy board. AWE on the other hand gives you 1 new enemy to hunt throughout the expansion and you only really ‘fight’ them once and that’s at the end.
AWE also links Control to Remedy Entertainment’s property Alan Wake. Which is what a lot of people were expecting considering the myriad of hints given throughout the base game. When this was confirmed in the trailer I was pretty excited. Were we about to see a Jesse Faden/Alan Wake team-up to fight Darkness infested by The Hiss? Nope.
Oh. So were we going to go to the location of the Alan Wake games; Bright Falls to find that The Hiss had power beyond the bureau? Also nope!
Well what do we get? A bad guy from the previous Alan Wake games! One! We don’t even actually get to interact with Wake himself. Instead we receive visions from him just like we did with the previous FBC director. It all feels a little referential instead of an actual expansion. There’s a lot of “Oh wouldn’t this be cool?” in AWE. To which we reply: “Yes that would be cool.” And then Remedy kind of shuffle their feet a little and admit that they didn’t finish their homework and kind of expected you to just ignore that fact.
So enough moaning and beating around the bush, what IS in AWE? Well, there’s the main objective of hunting down the new big bad known as ‘Hartman.’ In which you navigate very familiar looking levels except the lights have been turned off and there’s occasional black goop covering doorways that need to be removed by telekinetically floating a lamp in front them. (Apparently, Miss Faden is very against using her hands for anything other than holding a gun.) And then there’s five new side missions to complete. Each of which is either embarrassingly easy or literally just a copy of previous missions. Three of those new missions are from everyone’s favourite custodian Ahti! Sadly all 3 are essentially the same mission repeated in slightly different fashions. They add nothing to the extremely interesting and mysterious character of Ahti nor do they make the ‘Oldest House’ more complex either.
I know it might seem like I’m being harsh on AWE but that’s only because I loved Control so much. The base game is absolutely amazing and really brought something different to the gaming zeitgeist, in my opinion. Plus the first expansion, The Foundation was fantastic and well worth the price of entry. I may have gotten my hopes up a little too much for AWE but it really didn’t feel like a climax to such a great game, in fact it felt like a shameless plug for a previous game that wasn’t that popular and also a shameless hint at a possible sequel. Remedy, you let me down there.
The most grievous mistake, in my opinion, is that the most awesome thing given to you in AWE is not actually ‘given’ to you. For context, in order to increase her psychic powers or gain new powers Jesse must interact with Altered Items and complete a task in order to absorb their power. This could be a boss fight or simply an obstacle course. In AWE (technically in a pre-patch to AWE) you can gain access to a multi-throw ability where instead of launching one piece of debris at high speeds towards your enemy, you can launch up to three! Which would have been awesome, if it didn’t simply cost 8 ability points. Why is this an issue? Because I’d basically already completed Control up to this point and I didn’t have enough points to get that ability. Why not just let us do another boss fight? If you’re going to be that lazy then why not just give us the ability for Heaven’s sake?
There are a few good moments in AWE brought to us by the writing team. A favourite moment of mine was when a character displayed his social awkwardness by going from a very serious conversation to a long description of why his previous cat was “an a**hole.” Plus there was an arcade machine that gives you a little horde mode to play with. The name of the aforementioned arcade Jesse couldn’t pronounce properly (Shüm). However, these are things that felt more like stuff Remedy couldn’t fit into the main game rather than brand new additions.
So, overall, is AWE worth getting? Yes! If it’s on sale. Which it actually is at the time of writing. Right now you can get both expansions for the price of one (£11.99) And considering how good The Foundation is, that’s definitely worth the buy. However I honestly can’t recommend this second expansion for full price. It really misses the mark for me.