Control: Ultimate Edition Xbox Series X Review — Weirder and Prettier Than Usual

Control was one of 2019's best games, with the only pervasive issue being that consoles couldn't always run the ambitious game so well. That's all changed.

When Remedy released Control in late summer 2019, it quickly captured the gaming zeitgeist. For longtime fans of the studio, it was yet another example of Remedy's often-underappreciated sense of style. Eventually, it became the first game from the Finnish team to really break through since Max Payne nearly 20 years prior.

There was one issue though: consoles struggled to run it at times. In the fast-paced third-person shooter, things were usually fine, but pause the game or go to the character menus and you'd be hit with a staggering, stuttering exit back to the action. Every time. Without fail.

The Xbox Series X|S and PS5 seem to have cleaned that up across the board, which is great news for anyone who has upgraded their console and not the game. But for the complete package, including both fascinating expansions and other enhancements, Control: Ultimate Edition on new-gen consoles is as the name suggests.

This review will largely focus on those new enhancements for Xbox Series X|S and PS5 (as played on Xbox Series X), but for the uninitiated, it's worth explaining why the rest of Control is so great too.

Control: Ultimate Edition Xbox Series X Review — Weirder and Prettier Than Usual

As Jesse Faden, newly and reluctantly awarded the role of Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, players navigate The Oldest House, a top-secret government building with a shady history and an even more mysterious blueprint. Forever shifting its dimensions and home to locked-away otherworldly threats, the brutalist Oldest House makes for one of recent gaming's most distinct settings. 

As this is a Remedy game, Control's third-person shooting is fast, frenetic, and full of flair. Whereas Max Payne had bullet time, Alan Wake fought with light, and Jack Joyce used time-distorting abilities, Jesse Faden is afforded the full gamut of paranatural abilities, such as telekinesis and mind control.

Over the course of 20+ hours in the main game, plus another five or so for each expansion, Faden's story is one that cherishes its own loose threads and collects the entire history of Remedy's storytelling prowess into one grander universe, but it can be just as easily enjoyed if this is your only window into the studio's weirdness.

As Jesse says, this is going to be weirder than usual, but it's also more impressive across the board.

Like a lot of games, Control on new consoles offers two modes: Performance Mode and Graphics Mode. The former gives players 60 frames per second in 1440p upscaled to 4K, while the latter presents things at 30 frames per second in 1440p upscaled to 4K with ray tracing. Never before have I struggled so long to choose a mode to run my game in.

While the energized gunplay of Control feels like a shoo-in for the 60 fps mode, so too do I find the ray-traced Oldest House to be dazzling. The only downside is I can't have both at once. Ultimately, I landed on playing at 60 frames per second but stopping regularly, swapping to Graphics, and admiring the sights in photo mode.

If ever there was a case for ray tracing, Control is it. The geometrically flawless Oldest House glimmers like nothing else when in Graphics mode. With so many office hallways lined by floor to ceiling windows, you do admittedly lose a lot of the vibe when you move away from Graphics. The second DLC, AWE, is an especially great showpiece as it focuses so much on light and dark contrasts. 

The good thing is at least in Performance mode, you're not getting a bad image either. It's on par with the last-gen version in terms of textures, which were already quite good looking, only now it runs smoother with the improved frame rate. That gives players two modes, each better than the old version.

While the visual enhancements look great, perhaps the best part of all is just how fast the game loads everything. From start menu to saved checkpoint, it takes about 10 seconds, while fast traveling routinely takes just a half to a third of that. All that stuttering players grew familiar with before is gone now as well. I ran the game through something like a QA trial, trying to get it to freeze, and I never could.

Conversely, I did still have some issues in the form of game crashes, which are actually a new issue, but they only cropped up when I would move back and forth between the two presentation modes several times in short succession. 

Control: Ultimate Edition Xbox Series X Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • One of the best games of the last generation made prettier
  • All the DLC packaged in despite the lower price tag
  • Ray tracing and 60 fps modes each dazzle
  • Stuttering issue is fixed

Cons

  • Game crashes can still occur, usually when swapping between presentation modes

The inherent power of the Xbox Series X (and presumably other new-gen consoles) has already fixed the last-gen version of Control's stuttering issue, so perhaps you needn't buy into this new-gen version. But few games have such a strong case for ray tracing as Control has. If you've already upgraded your console and you want to see it show off what it can do, Control: Ultimate Edition is an early showpiece for the generation.

Its upgrades are apparent and fit perfectly for the game's lightning-quick gunplay and gorgeous world. And if you missed the game or any of its DLCs until now, then you should absolutely start here for the complete, most impressive version of the best games in recent years.

[Note: 505 Games provided the copy of Control: Ultimate Edition used for this review.]

Our Rating
9
Control was one of 2019's best games, with the only pervasive issue being that consoles couldn't always run the ambitious game so well. That's all changed.
Reviewed On: Series X

Contributor

Mark is a dad, husband, bicyclist, animal rights activist, and a gamer, of course. You can find him on all platforms covering co-op, indies, horror, battle royale, or whatever else he's obsessing over right now. In addition to GameSkinny, he's been published on IGN, GamesRadar, EGM, Escapist, Official Xbox Magazine, and a bunch of other great outlets.

Published Feb. 8th 2021

Cached - article_comments_article_68234
Related
More Control Content