REVIEW: Control: The Foundation DLC - More Mind-Bending Action
The world of Control is a place shrouded in mystery. The Federal Office of Control, The Board, The Oldest House, and all the quirky altered elements that inhabit it all played a role in Control’s central narrative, but many details were obscured and some things were deliberately left open.
In that sense, The Foundation, the first major DLC piece for Control, seeks to answer some of these questions and provide insight into the early days of The Oldest House. Taking everything in retrospect, I have no doubt that there are deceptive forces at play here, and not everything is as it seems.
The Foundation picks up right where Control left things. Jesse Faden, now the Official Director of the Federal Office of Control, is sent below The Oldest House to an area called The Foundation, where she discovers that the Astral Plane is bleeding into reality, which could be the end of The Office.
Throughout the four-hour expansion campaign, you’ll explore caves lined with red sand and strange crystals, frequently wondering where your loyalties really are and gaining new powers along the way. Nothing about The Foundation is particularly new or innovative, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. After all, more of Control is always a good thing.
The Foundation contrasts sharply with the office building aesthetic of the main game. It is a maze of cave tunnels, but in typical Control fashion, there are a lot of weird things going on. There are crystals coming out of the walls and the floor, criss-crossing the red sand that covers the floors of the tunnel network. Due to continued problems with the Astral Plane, there are various portions of the cave that appear to be blinding white voids.
The Foundation doesn’t even appear to be physically connected to The Oldest House in any way, as it is accessed via a strange stone pillar with carved engravings. Despite being an incredibly bland scenario on paper, Control manages to turn a mundane network of caves into a place that begs to be explored.
The name ‘The Foundation’ actually has two meanings. As you spend the entire expansion exploring the new area, most of the history and collectibles center around ‘the foundation’ of The Oldest House, giving new insight into Control’s many secrets like the Board, the Service Gun, and the first Director.
As in the main game, the story and the collectibles are infinitely more interesting than the actual plot taking place. That’s not to say the main story of the DLC is bad, it’s just that collectibles are exceptionally intriguing. New altered items appearing in the expansion are also an interesting point. In addition to the fascinating stories behind them, they also lead to some of the coolest optional encounters in all of Control, rivaling even the best pieces in the main game.
In contrast, the main plot of The Foundation does not push the story further. Instead, it looks like you’re planting the seeds for future content, setting out the next expansion and possibly more excursions to the Control universe. The first challenge with The Foundation is to establish Jesse’s first real task as Director, and as such, the expansion sees her transition to a much more confident and in-control (pun intended) leader. She begins to take personal responsibility for the welfare of the Office, and it is a natural evolution considering where we left off at the end of the main game.
Jesse begins to see through the veil through which the many entities within the game are hidden, forming her own opinions of things like the Board. Despite several questions being asked, almost none of them are answered. It all ends up feeling like the first part of a much bigger story, not giving enough time to finish things completely.
While the main story of The Foundation can be completed in four hours, the optional content is the real protagonist here. As I mentioned before, the new items absolutely steal the show, and there’s one side quest, in particular, that is so uniquely entertaining that I couldn’t help but smile all the time, but don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it. Audio logs, correspondence, and other collectibles offer some of the more fascinating elements of lore in the game, and if you’re dying to learn more about the world of Control, then The Foundation doesn’t disappoint.
A new pair of powers are central to the DLC story, but there is a twist this time. The Foundation flirts with the idea of non-linearity allowing you to choose which power it receives first. One allows you to remove crystals from the walls and floor to create platforms and covers, while the other allows you to destroy these crystals with your Service Weapon. The power you choose first will affect the first set of goals you’re given, and while you’ll eventually be given both, it’s a good way to give the player a little more agency on what’s going on.
Because these crystals only appear in the DLC area, the new powers are unfortunately not accessible anywhere else in The Oldest House. You will not be able to use the crystals at all while completing the main game missions or boarding Expedition mode. It’s a shame considering how well they integrate with Control’s combat core and exploration loop, especially once both powers are gained.
Being able to shoot to the ground from underneath certain enemies to quickly eliminate them or piercing enemies on sharp ground crystals adds an extra satisfying layer to combat, and being able to create platforms to aid in exploration takes everything to new heights, even if Crystals can only be removed from certain predetermined points. It is incredibly clear that The Foundation area was designed with these new powers in mind as they are strongly intertwined with the level design.
The Foundation retains much of what made Control great, but unfortunately it also preserves some of the issues the game had at launch. When playing on PlayStation 4 Pro, the game still has a number of technical issues, from frequent frame drops to stuttering. The final boss also escaped me, completely disappeared from the arena and forced me to restart the entire fight from the beginning. These technical issues are not an obstacle at all, but they are an unfortunate flaw in a great game.
All in all, The Foundation is more of Control. If you weren’t attracted to the game’s graphics and unique style when it launched last year, then there’s nothing particularly new or refreshing that draws you to the DLC. With that said, The Foundation provides a decent amount of great content and expands on the fantastic foundation of the base game in interesting ways. If you liked Control, then you should definitely play this expansion.