Every major third-person action game franchise has their own unique aspects. Gears of War has intense combat and the strongest shotguns in existence, Infamous has unique ability types, such as harnessing the power of neon and smoke, and Assassin’s Creed makes you feel like an actual assassin. These franchises have their idiosyncrasies, but games like Returnal and Control take it to new levels.
The debate between Returnal and Control, and which is better, has been raging in the gaming community for a while now. From forums to comparison videos, players seem to be very conflicted between both games. Returnal and Control can be compared to each other like honey and butter, respectively.
The appeal is different for every player; it just so happens that I enjoy honey a little more than butter. Returnal just stuck in my head for a long time, and for a good reason, which is why I also believe that Returnal is far better than Control and a must-try for every player.
I personally put story over everything else, and of course, gameplay matters just as much, but people tend to remember a striking story more than its gameplay. It is reasons like these that games like The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe and BioShock left such an impact on players.
When it comes to Control, the story is pretty confusing, and chances are, you did not collect all the collectibles, much less read them. The story takes a unique path with the government trying to harness other worldly powers when everything fails. Without giving any spoilers, it is a classic government control facility gone rouge type of deal.
The game also dwells in other worldly aspects, your sentient weapon, the unsettling enemies, and that significant red glare. All of these changes the overall experience from other third-person action games. Jesse Faden, who at the start of the game is chosen by the Board to replace the previous director, sets forth to find her brother and rid the hostile plague seeping into her reality.
Of course, Returnal has a pretty confusing story, too. An astronaut crashes on an abandoned alien world that does not show up on any star map. Here, we see a classic time loop trope; Selene Vassos starts from her ship after every death, oh, and she also remembers it.
The twist is that all of this is happening inside of her head. After she was rejected admission to a space program, she was filled with guilt, and one day while driving with her child, she crashed into a river. She managed to get out, but her child lost his life. This is the game, and the entire time is her getting over the loss of her child. Personally, I believe the story set out by Returnal is a heartfelt one, with something that people can relate to as well.
In terms of overall gameplay, Control takes the cake. Flying around, using telekinesis to swing around objects, or being able to switch weapons at will, is pretty action-filled. Couple this with an environment that can be manipulated to your liking, it makes the overall combat more diverse and actually makes you think before you act.
Control is story-based; once you clear an area that’s mostly it, you move on to the next sector. This system is similar to an open world but it does not give total freedom to the player. Something like a streamlined open-world narrative that points you in a general direction and tells you to go and explore.
Returnal does not fall short in gameplay aspects, though. Returnal is a dungeon crawler; go in, shoot some weird tentacle enemies, stick a few parasites in your arms, miraculously beat the first boss, die, and do it all again. Every run offers new items and synergies.
Runs in Returnal require extensive knowledge of the game and choosing the right items, taking risks, and contemplating if you want to enter a specific room. Returnal also offers an outstanding multiplayer option where you can team up with someone to take on the horrors of the world.
All in all, the gameplay experience in Control is definitely better than in Returnal, mostly because the upgrades you get stay with you. With this, you can get comfortable with them. Another problem that arises in Returnal is that you can only have one weapon at a time, while Control does not have this limitation.
Imagery & Scenery:
Now, this is a unique category in which both these titles excel. Both these games give us captivating and detailed worlds that one could stare at for hours. The shifting mazes in Control, the behemoth-sized buildings in Returnal. However, which one is better?
In Control, you see office buildings being rotated in unimaginable shapes and enemies that look like something out of a Stephen King novel. The significant red glare seen everywhere is a defining graphic feature for Control, and wow, whenever you see it, you are captivated by its presence.
However, Returnal takes its imagery to epic proportions. From a jungle filled with tentacle-like enemies to an underwater segment to a desert that transforms from sandy dunes to a blissful snowfall, the scenery does not disappoint. Not to mention, the abundant amount of detail shows that the development team put in a lot of effort to make it feel like it is an abandoned alien world.
Returnal wins in this category due to the sheer amount of detail and entities put into the world. Not the mention, the cut-scenes and the haunted house segments tell us that if the development team wanted, it could have made an amazing survival horror game.
The liking for both these unique titles is different for everyone. Returnal would appeal to those looking for something with flare or just another great dungeon crawler, while Control would appeal to those who want a narrative experience accompanied by intense combat. However, I for one, really believe that, between the two, Returnal is one experience that no player should miss, assuming they have a PlayStation 5 to play it.
By any means, this isn’t to say that Control is necessarily a flawed game. However, the ever-growing debate between Returnal and Control, and which one deserves to be the “must-try” for every player, is one that Returnal takes for the win.
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