Spoiler Warning for Control’s Main Campaign: The Foundation DLC requires players to have completed the main campaign of Control. In discussing The Foundation’s story, certain elements from Control’s main game will come up. If you haven’t played Control itself, I recommend you go do that first before reading this review. If you want the short spoiler-free version, The Foundation is a great add-on that is “more Control” at its core, even if it’s missing some of the driving personality and mystery that propped up the main game.
The Foundation doesn’t sit as some external experience to be launched from Control’s main menu. It’s a deeply integrated DLC that adds to the main game. Loading up my existing save, left off right where I had earned my Platinum for the game, a new mission popped up on the screen asking me to visit the Hotline Chamber to speak to The Board. There’s a problem in The Foundation that needs addressing, and I, in my new position as Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, need to tackle it head-on.
Deep beneath the Oldest House lies a network of caverns that don’t experience the same shifting if the building above. Beckoned by The Board, Jesse Faden ventures to a mysterious place only visited once in the main game: Ahti’s vacation spot in the hall of endless pillars. There, a mysterious etching transports her to The Foundation, which has been sealed off and untouched since explorations by the Bureau in the ’60s.
The Foundation is a pretty big contrast to the concrete corporate aesthetic we’re used to. Jesse is now basically a spelunker, venturing through tunnels of red sand and jagged crystals. That’s not to say there aren’t those classic Control vibes. There’s some pretty interesting environmental storytelling in the decades-old tech that was lost down here when The Bureau sealed off The Foundation. The big problem The Board needs solved is what gets referred to as the Astral Bleed, the Astral Plane physically manifesting within the Foundation and slowly consuming it. Periodically the cave walls give way to the bright white void and obsidian monoliths of the Astral Plane, a bizarre contrast between claustrophobic darkness and bright empty nothingness. It’s that contrast that makes the experience feel uniquely… Control.
There are a few other pleasant surprises I won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say that the lore and world design of The Foundation extends beyond just a network of caves, and there are some really cool things to discover about the history of the Oldest House and the Bureau itself. Each time I began to grow tired of red sand and rock walls, The Foundation would smirk and throw me something just a little bit different. Its pacing is superb in that fashion.
While The Foundation initially doesn’t seem to progress Jesse’s personal story, instead focusing on the wider lore of the Oldest House, the Board, and a few other secrets that were only briefly touched on in the main game, I realized that this story is key to cementing Jesse’s position as the Director; building that foundation, if you will. For much of Control’s main game, she spends time pushing off her newly acquired title, using the position to further her own goals and interests. The Foundation is the first real opportunity for Jesse to take action as the Director, and despite not seeming to be directly about her, she has a lot of underlying character growth due to this event. For the first time, I felt like my actions were truly for the better of what remains of The Bureau. And now that she’s not so worried about finding Dylan and uncovering the mystery of what she’s stumbled into, some of Jesse’s humor shines through in this DLC a little more.
Control The Foundation DLC Review – New Powers to Control
To assist with repairing The Nail (a monolithic object sitting at the center of the leylines in the Foundation) and preventing the spread of the Astral Plane into the Oldest House, The Board offers Jesse a couple of new powers to navigate the Foundation and fight the incessant Hiss that have somehow found there way down here. One ability is to create, growing crystal formations at certain predetermined points to either reach new areas or kill enemies. The other is to destroy, adding power to the Service Weapon that allows it to break crystal formations that might be blocking your path (and send Hiss plummeting to their death if they are standing on any).
The story is a bit dynamic in regards to the new powers. Players can only choose one, which will determine the paths that they can initially take. Eventually, things do loop around, so don’t worry, there’s nothing actually missable by picking one power over the other, but the handling of these new powers did give me as the player a bit of… shall we say “control,” over how I was playing the game. Regardless of knowing that the game was unlikely to lock me out of anything, that crucial moment of decision making extends the game’s themes of control beyond the screen and into the player’s hands.
There’s also an added “Shield Charge” ability that lets Jesse hold her shield while charging through enemies to damage them. It was just enough of an addition that it prompted me to use the Shield a lot more than I did in the main game, especially once I unlocked the perk that allowed energy to recharge while holding the Shield up.
Coming after the end of the main game, The Foundation makes excellent use of the existing abilities, evolving off of what you already know. The new melee-focused Hiss provide a twist to combat scenarios, though don’t think floating out of range will save you. They can hurl a pickaxe like nobody’s business, and they hurt. For the most part, none of the DLC encounters really present too much of a challenge to those unfamiliar with the main game, though the final boss can take quite a beating before they finally go down.
Control The Foundation DLC Review – Spelunking
You can probably push through The Foundation’s main story missions in a few hours, though there are plenty of distractions hiding beneath the surface of the Oldest House. A few side missions task Jesse with cleansing some Altered Items, presenting some of the more unique and bizarre gameplay segments in the DLC. It’s missions like these when Control does what Control does best: throwing players for a bit of an unexpected loop thanks to the bizarre effects of paranatural objects. There is a bunch of new lore to uncover and read through, and yes, there’s also a rejected episode of Threshold Kids for you to watch if you can find it, though it might actually make you insane just for viewing it.
A fresh set of trophies will give trophy hunters a few new tasks to chase and ensure players delve into the dark corners of every tunnel and use every new ability granted. All said and done, I’d estimate it will take players about five hours or so to complete everything The Foundation has to offer, depending on if they use a guide or choose to go it alone.
While the setting of The Foundation is aptly enough the Foundation, I had kind of hoped that the requirements of beating the main game meant it would weave into the rest of the game’s world a little bit more. While its beginning does feel handwoven right into your existing save file, you won’t be leaving The Foundation at all for the duration of the DLC (unless you want to rush off to take care of Bureau Alerts or side missions from the main game that you didn’t complete). Everything added within The Foundation is self-contained, and even the new abilities you get are only useful down there, deep below the darkest depths of the Oldest House.
I also had a very odd issue with some of Jesse’s animations where the left side of her face (her right, my left when facing her) almost seemed… numb… while she was talking to people? Like she’d just gotten finished at the dentist and was having a bit of a hard time moving that slightly swollen side of her face. Yes, I am playing on a launch model PS4, but it’s an animation issue that wasn’t present in the main game at all, so it stuck out to me every time she’d talk to somebody in this expansion. Perhaps it’s a side effect of the weird powers at work down here beneath the Oldest House; partial paralysis on one side of the face? It wasn’t a big enough problem to ruin the experience but did present a bit of a distraction at times. My wife also noticed it while watching me play through, so it’s not just me being overly critical of the animations.
As an add on, The Foundation is a wonderful way to bring players back to the world of Control, even if it doesn’t quite match the weird mystique and bizarre mystery of the main game. It gives Jesse a chance to flex her control over The Director position she’d inherited by the end of the campaign, tackling problems as a responsible figure on the inside rather than an interloping outsider. It gives fascinating insight into the history of the Oldest House and the FBC, constantly throwing weird curveballs—in a good way—in regards to both gameplay and lore. It also pays off a couple of hanging enigmas from the main game, while setting up what is expected to come in the AWE expansion later this year. And at the end of the shift, more Control is never a bad thing.
Control: The Foundation review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on a launch PS4. For more information, please read our Review Policy.