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Control is an exceptionally good game, bringing together stunning artistic design, thrilling combat, and compelling writing to make a classic game. It was our Game of the Year in 2019. So it's massively disappointing that its first DLC, The Foundation, is a relative let down.
The Foundation continues the story of Control's campaign, only unlocking once you've completed the game's main story. It sees you, playing again as Jesse Faden, heading to the basement of The Oldest House to head off an incursion that threatens to bring the entire building crashing down.
The DLC takes place in an entirely new section of the House, a sprawling set of underground caves filled with strange crystal formations and toxic gas geysers. Rust-coloured sand gives the otherwise bleak landscape a splash of colour, but this is a much darker area to explore than the upper floors of the House.
At the heart of The Foundation is a damaged pillar called The Nail, and it's your job to rebuild it before the House above comes crashing down. It's a straightforward task in theory, and you've two new powers to help you complete it. One lets you shoot shatter the ominous crystals dotted about the area, revealing hidden caves behind; while the other lets you grow crystals from certain spots, creating platforms to jump up to other areas.
On paper it's an exciting expansion for an excellent game. However, so much of my time playing the DLC has been deeply frustrating. I've sworn at my computer more times in the last few hours than I can think of happening with any other game in more than a year.
One part of the DLC that had me swearing at my computer was a mission that's one long on-rails section. Thanks to an altered object, it sees Jesse starring in an action movie set to a synth-pop track. You have to jump between moving platforms, dodging columns and barriers, and killing enemies. It has a touch of the Ashtray Maze to it - that excellent sequence in the original game, full of kaleidoscopic hallways and moving platforms - but whereas that was an invigorating mission that made you come away feeling powerful, this infuriating example makes you feel incompetent.
For a start, the platforming is straightforward and the enemies you face aren't particularly challenging, so you don't feel like what you're doing is any kind of real achievement. However, because there's little opportunity to regain any health and the section goes on for so long, your health get whittled down to the point of death. And, with no checkpoints, if you die at any point then you have to start again from the beginning. It took me four tries to get through it - 40 minutes of replaying the same joyless, frustrating mission over and over again.
Another mission sees you looking for five beige ID cards in a massive cavern and warehouse structure. I spent an hour running loops through the same section of the game, checking to see if I'd missed something. It's also not helped much by the dark environments, and while turning up the brightness helps, it also washes out the game. There were missions like this in the original campaign and they weren't much fun then either.
Then there are the new enemies, like the Hiss Sharpened, a tough melee unit that sprints towards you with its axe. They can take a stack of damage from your service weapon, teleport away from you, throw their axe at you, and attack with a long combo that can really strip your health away. If you encounter multiple Sharpened, they can cut you down extremely quickly.
They're often not alone, either, supported by aerial Hiss, firing shards of obsidian at you as you dodge around the Sharpened. They're a real challenge, and also had me swearing at the game constantly. On the one hand, git gud; but on the other, f*ck them. Especially when a group of them spawn in while you're fighting a boss that also teleports while firing a laser at you, constantly stripping away your health.
It's surprising to find so many frustrating moments in The Foundation, particularly as this came up in our new interview with Remedy as an issue with the original campaign. "We clearly know what the pain points in it are, and they're clearly the last two missions," Thomas Puha told us, speaking of the base game. "That's unfortunate, but we also see people coming back and being able to get through them with the right load-out. The painful thing from the development side is that you know what the pain points are going to be, by the time the game is going to ship, but there's nothing you can do about it."
I would like to know how many of the pain points I've encountered in The Foundation Remedy already know about.
Featured Image Credit: Remedy Entertainment / 505 Games
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