Some games don’t always receive the attention or acclaim they deserve upon launch and need some time to pass before the true narrative is written in the public consciousness. I feel that Remedy’s Control is one such game. It first debuted on PS4, Xbox One, and PC back in the summer of 2019 to some fanfare, but its true potential could only be realized by owners of the best PCs. It was a next-gen game that launched before it had console hardware that could realize its world, systems, and visual fidelity. Now it arrives on PS5 as Control: Ultimate Edition and I suspect that it will finally accrue the fanbase it deserves.
A transformative shift in performance
While Control had the setting, style, narrative, and pedigree to be one of the best games of its generation, playing it on the last-gen consoles was an ugly affair. Its visual potential was hamstrung by ancient hardware and the framerate was so mercurial that the game could feel broken. While Cyberpunk 2077’s performance on PS4 has been gathering headlines and inspiring memes the last two months, the original release of Control chugged just as poorly (and often worse). Even the PC version required stout system components to get a stable framerate, and that’s without using its fabled ray tracing options.
Fast forward to 2021 and things have changed for the better. An update to DLSS 2.0 and the launch of all-new GPUs from NVIDIA have facilitated the awakening of Control’s definitive visual presentation. Console players who were lucky enough to snag next-gen hardware are also getting a wildly different experience than what was possible even a few short months ago. While the PS5 version of the game cannot match the ray-traced PC version, players will still get to experience what is arguably the best-looking game on the PS5.
Upon loading Control: Ultimate Edition, which includes the original game and its two expansions The Foundation and AWE, players are given the option to proceed with Graphics Mode or Performance Mode. Unlike what we saw with Demon’s Souls, there are valid reasons for playing the game in either mode.
Performance Mode lacks ray tracing effects and the finer details of its souped-up counterpart but delivers a reliably solid 60 frames per second in most situations. It appears to be operating at 1440p with checkerboard upscaling to 4K and is so much more refined and eye-pleasing than even the PS4 Pro presentation. Action sequences are hectic and fast, with debris flying everywhere in the dense offices of the FBC. Encounters that stuttered, froze, and made pinpoint aiming impossible on the PS4 now play out like a chaotic symphony. Seeing the hazy, watercolor-esque discharge erupt from the Hiss at full speed is jaw-dropping compared to the PS4’s sub-20fps slideshow. Input lag from the controller is improved to the point where it nearly feels like a different game.
Opting for Graphics Mode keeps the same resolution as Performance Mode yet ups the visual ante. It is locked to 30fps though I can’t recall any specific time where I saw or felt any hitching or drops in performance. There are some ray-traced reflection effects that replace the screen-space reflections from Performance Mode and work to transform the visuals into a true next-gen affair. The office windows in the Oldest House now offer real transparency while projecting accurate reflections. Rough surfaces reflect overhead illumination and properly diffuse the light rays depending on the materials the light interacts with. It looks so good that it's easy to ignore. To your mind, it looks so “right” that it doesn’t feel like a game. You can spend hours fooling around in the various offices and hallways simply appreciating a level of fidelity never before seen on consoles.
That said, the PS5 version of Control still falls behind PC in several areas. A rather large set of the ray-traced effects available in the PC version, notably indirect light bounces, ambient occlusion, volumetric lights, and additional debris. The volumetric light quality is probably the biggest standout, with the PS5 version producing light shafts that are lower resolution and sometimes resemble the crude effect seen in the PC version of Fallout 4. The PC volumetric light is noticeably higher resolution with much cleaner diffusion at the edges. The lack of DLSS 2.0 on consoles means the PC version also looks sharper overall thanks to the ability to use higher resolutions.
According to Digital Foundry, the PS5 version’s Graphics Mode is a mashup of various graphics settings on the PC version. It is possible to match the Graphics Mode visuals on PC by setting most options to ‘Low’ or ‘Off’, save for Texture Quality, Screen-Space Reflections, and Global Reflections. Save for the aforementioned ray-traced effects, the PS5 version still manages to present itself favorably against the PC version, as some of the graphics toggles do not offer materially better image quality between the ‘Low’ and ‘High’ options. I cannot imagine any scenario where a PS5 owner plays Control for the first time and comes away disappointed.
The remedy for the lack of next-gen games to play
I was a huge fan of Control when it released in 2019 and was genuinely bummed that most people did not get to experience playing it at high frame rates with top-tier visuals. It bit off more than it could chew on PS4 and Xbox One, but can now finally stretch its wings. Control: Ultimate Edition is an easy recommendation for anyone who has yet to play the game or tossed it to the side back in 2019. I fully expect to hear lots of positive talk from this one online once it goes live on PS Plus this month.
These impressions are based on the PS5 version of the game. The game key was provided by the publisher for coverage consideration. Control: Ultimate Edition is available for PS5 and PS Plus now. It is also available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Control: Ultimate Edition PS5 impressions - Renovating the Oldest House
I have already played through Control and both DLCs but I'm sure I'm going to play this version when I manage to get a PS5 at some point, hopefully before the climate change destroys our civilization. Such a great game.
Good to see the inset pic of staff crew playing the game in one room, hope that returns soon !
I'd like a PS5 now kthx