Control marks a change for Remedy. It’s a game that shows thoroughly what the Finnish studio has learned throughout the years when it comes to storytelling, gameplay, visuals, making their most recent game a grasping, hypnotizing experience that never slows down.
It’s an entire soundscape consisting of eerie noises, menacing sounds and howling echoes that encompass the player in the hellish depths of the Oldest House.
The story of journey inside the Oldest House, a shape-shifting and reality-defying brutalist headquarters to the Federal Bureau of Control, is a surreal experience that only benefits from the strong sound design and all the unsettling noises of Hiss creatures, what cannot be fully said about music made by a Remedy veteran Petri Alanko and Martin Stig Andersen.
Considering their experience, we could expect a pulsating, energetic with some of the best ambient designs that a game can get. From the opening track on the album Ex Ratio Principalis, it’s clear that the twisted and immersive nature of this noisy masterpiece will follow on, squeezing everything out of the duo. And so it does by introducing a main theme of sorts, slowly submerging us in the Oldest House and all of its paranatural rooms.
As Counterfeit appears, you can clearly hear Stig Andersen’s touch of hypnotic ambience, which later returns in Vantage or Vapour, bearing welcome similarities to his music for Limbo and Inside. On the ambience level, tracks live Nihil Est Simplex or Portam Ad Inferno are long-lasting soundscapes full of eerie noises and most importantly, space and sense of dread, which cannot be overrated for a game that takes part in a place such as the Oldest House. The score excels here by making you feel lost in an endless place of no limits, gently crawling under your skin.
The action score part takes significantly less running time on the album, appearing at the end of Counterfeit and for a moment in Summon and Sorror et Frater. Those pieces’ structures are quite minimal, concentrating solely on electronic beat and percussion section. In game, I found myself hearing the same (but still good) track over and over again, which was nevertheless fitting towards the fast-paced shoot-outs and edge-of-the-seat bossfights. However, some variety here would have been welcome. Speaking of Sorror et Frater, Alanko’s synthwork pieces are a dramatic highlight of the score. Mentioned track calls back to Quantum Break, featuring a slow intro, poetic heights and intense action in quite a short span. It’s only a teaser for Finis Est Principium Alterius, a Vangelis-esque epic heard on the final act of the game that breathes some life and emotion into Jesse’s story.
It’s outweighed by the Hiss’s victims chants filling the corridors, video collectibles and voice over clips.
Moving on, I can’t skip Sankarin Tango, an unofficial main theme of the game, I’d say. It’s a tango associated with Ahti The Janitor, a peculiar fellow, played by a Finnish actor Martti Suosalo, who also provided vocals for the song. Alanko’s composition and Suosalo’s phenomenal voice (with Finnish lyrics) immediately gave me the impression of it being some sort of classic, a re-recorded old piece that begins a second life. It’s an absolute hit.
Poets of the Fall returned too, and recorded a great, heavy song titled Take Control, which can be heard during a late-game combat sequence (similarly to Alan Wake) in a really weird place. The song provided a much needed tone change for the game after a dozen or so hours in dark corridors. Catchy riffs, great chorus and Marko Saaresto’s voice in an 8 minute ballad only made me wish the that sequence was way longer, because it was as fun as it gets. It’s another classic in the band’s cooperation with the studio.
Despite the soundtrack being great, although admittedly dark and demanding, and the songs being even better, the game really doesn’t benefit fully from it. The score is criminally underused, limited to feeling in empty spaces with ambience and combat elements, not really getting a lot of moments to properly shine in the game’s cut-up, transmedia narration and long running sessions through vast, empty areas. It’s outweighed by the Hiss’s victims chants filling the corridors, video collectibles and voice over clips. The amazing title sequence gave me hope for the score playing a major role, but the game’s fast-paced narrative didn’t leave much place for it. That and some questions unanswered are my two main gripes with what is otherwise an exceptional game.
Patri Alanko and Martin Stig Andersen provided a really good score for Control. It’s an entire soundscape consisting of eerie noises, menacing sounds and howling echoes that encompass the player in the hellish depths of the Oldest House. It also knows where to take a break for those few moments that demand more lyrical music, too. Balancing the remarkable ambient and twisted electronics with great synth pieces and two amazing songs results in quite an interesting album that did not receive an implementation that would highlight all of its noisy strengths.
Despite wishing for the score to take much bigger part of this great game, it nonetheless remains on my 2019’s best list.
For what’s in the game, the score works well but in quite a limited matter, tailored to short narrative pieces and many sounds of the Oldest House. Despite wishing for the score to take much bigger part of this great game, it nonetheless remains on my 2019’s best list and I can’t wait to dive in again to listen to all that Control has to offer.