Monster Mania: Control’s Hiss Are A Workplace Nightmare
Monster Mania is a weekly column celebrating the unique and varied monster designs in horror gaming.
In anticipation of Remedy Entertainment’s upcoming continual torment of Mr. Wake with Alan Wake II, I decided to revisit their 2019 dark superhero hit Control, a game that we should all be talking about far more frequently than we are. While it was great to hover around the halls of the Oldest House once again, it took all of the brief tutorial before I was back to hurling concrete chunks in an act of destructive workplace catharsis.
Fortunately, the supernatural force, the Hiss, which has invaded the Oldest House, the Bureau of Control’s supernatural headquarters, makes for a more than adequate target for Jesse Faden’s newly acquired psychic abilities. However, the insidious nature of this occupying force is how they harness the skills of those they possess. Not to imply there are acceptable levels of possession (that would be WILD), but utilizing someone’s skill set on top of already occupying their body against their will is extra icky.
Let’s begin with the lesser of two evils: the floaters. Scattered throughout the Oldest House are the bodies of bureau employees levitating as if hanging by marionette strings. They occupy space simply enough, not reacting to Jesse’s presence, lest she were to, uh, shoot or hurl something at them. Other than being creepy set dressing, the idle possessed constantly mumble their cryptic utterances of the Hiss. Whether the purpose of this is intimidation or indoctrination, their chanting is a constant reminder that no matter how far into the facility Jesse progresses, the Hiss’ presence is ever present.
Further complicating Jesse’s hunt for her brother are the Oldest Houses’ security forces and individuals with psychic inclinations standing in her way. Encounters begin simply enough, as the Hiss-possessed guards are armed accordingly for a workplace facing unknown threats. These small arms and explosive-wielding enemies are the most fodder-like enemies that Jesse will encounter, but even here, the insidious nature of the Hiss rears its multidimensional head. Occasionally, there will be elite versions of common enemies with increased health and higher damage output. Pretty straightforward stuff. But it is their having an actual name attached to them, referencing their past life, which reminds the player that these are Jesse’s coworkers. Coworkers whose lives have been stolen from them forever.
Given the Hiss’ supernatural and ever-shifting nature, the creatures that Jesse will encounter become more varied and disturbing in manipulating their host’s bodies the further into the facility she ventures. There is the Hiss Charged, whose appearance can be best described as an impression of Regan’s spider walk from The Exorcist. Except they float. These monsters will swarm Jesse and, if they get close enough, explode (which the player can utilize to their ability when Hiss Charged cluster together, setting off a chain reaction).
An aspect of Control’s monster design that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough is how well they balance combat. Jesse’s telekinetic powers (aka ol’ reliable) seem like the obvious primary means for splattering the Hiss. Enter the Hiss Elevated. These levitating, telekinetic beings can easily dodge any object that Jesse hurls at them, forcing her to rely on her service weapon. As much of a super-powered badass as Jesse is, monsters such as the Hiss Elevated stop her from ever becoming straight-up unstoppable. Furthermore, enemies such as the Hiss Warped, a telekinetic being that not only throws objects but has not one but two special shields that must be depleted before damaging it, will keep the player on her toes.
While most of the monsters occupying the Oldest House have similar abilities to Jesse, enemies, such as the Hiss Sharpened, occasionally buck that trend. Having the ability to dash around maps erratically, these melee-focused Hiss will quickly make the player wish they had upgraded Jesse’s melee attack as much as her other telekinetic abilities. The Hiss Sharpened are a fleeting annoyance, but combining them with different particular Hiss types can quickly become a supernatural kiss of death.
Revisiting Control reinforced how Remedy Entertainment has continually grown and, more importantly, leaned into what makes their games unique within the horror genre. While the original Alan Wake‘s narrative worked for me, the combat lacked originality and variety, making that aspect a somewhat one-note affair. Control completely rectifies the monotony I associated with Alan Wake’s action by giving Jesse Faden an unprecedented sense of empowerment and combat versatility for a Remedy title. Seeing how the studio will continue this trend and refinement of their unique brand of the surreal with Alan Wake II is why I consider that to be my most anticipated game of the year.
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