Last year’s Control was one of my favorite games of the year. A return to form by Finnish developer Remedy, I wrote in my review that “Control sees Remedy’s trademark storytelling go weirder than ever before but it’s the newfound sense of focus here that sees them deliver one of 2019’s best action games rather than just another game that isn’t Alan Wake 2.”
While there’s no word yet on a sequel, Remedy’s ambitions to expand the Control experience go well beyond just cursory additions like the new Expeditions mode launched late last year. The Foundation is the first of two story-driven installments that the developer have planned for 2020, and, if you liked what the base game had to offer, I’ve got good news.
The Foundation gives you just a little bit more of everything that worked about the base game.
Set a short period of time after the ending of Control’s single-player adventure, The Foundation sees protagonist Jesse Fayden venture down to the basement of the Oldest House in pursuit of answers. In typical Control fashion, things don’t take long to get weird. The expansion’s titular locale is less of a storage room and more of a strange cave system that bleeds into the astral plane.
The Foundation itself is potentially larger and more involved than most of the other areas in the main game. The zone’s aesthetic makes for a particularly stark contrast to the rest of the game but it doesn’t feel out of place in overall tone and vibe. The Foundation is exactly the kind of bizarre underworld that you’d expect the Oldest House to have.
As with the main game, a big part of the joy of Control: The Foundation remains seeing just how surreal and uncanny the game’s visual environments become, so it’s best to refrain from giving away too many of the bigger beats and details here.
The short version here is that The Foundation evolves a lot of what the main game sets up. You get to see more of Jesse grappling with her newfound responsibilities as the director of the bureau. You get to learn a little more about the enigmatic and extradimensional Board and the history of the Oldest House. To say anything more risks giving the game away.
As a fan of what the zany storytelling in Control’s first single-player adventure delivered, I was far from disappointed by The Foundation. That being said, none of the audio diaries or documents you discover have quite the charm or personality as stuff the The Threshold Kids or the Doctor Kasper videos in the main campaign.
Although it does introduce a few extra passive upgrades to the game’s skill tree, the biggest additions that The Foundation makes to the gameplay in Control come in the form of two new abilities.
The first of these lets you destroy large crystals that protrude throughout the expansion’s area. The second of these lets you spontaneously cause said crystals to sprout into platforms that you can use to reach the inaccessible. The learning curve here isn’t particularly steep and it wasn’t long before I had integrated both into my usual wheel of abilities. These complement the unique terrain of The Foundation nicely and keep the experience of returning to a game you’ve already sunk a dozen hours into feel fresh.
What’s more, Remedy isn't afraid to push you to deliver more when it comes to combat encounters in The Foundation. Launching objects through the air, raising nearby crystals to shield yourself from incoming attacks and turning enemies against one another remains fast, furious and fun.
In some ways, The Foundation feels like a victory lap. It adds a few new ingredients into the design language of the game. Even if these additions never feel quite necessary, they work to commemorate everything that the base game achieved. If you’ve already been won over, that’s an easy recipe to like.
The Bottom Line
It’s not quite as exciting as the potential Alan Wake crossover that Remedy appears to be teasing with the next DLC for Control but The Foundation makes a compelling addition to an already-great game.
If you liked Control, The Foundation ticks every box when it comes to giving you more of what you want. It’s a stylishly-realised and efficient extension of everything that works about the core game.
The Foundation doesn’t just continue Control, it celebrates it.