The world of Control is one shrouded in mystery. The Federal Bureau of Control, the Board, the Oldest House, and all the peculiar altered items that inhabit it all played a role in Control’s central narrative, but many details were obscured and some things were deliberately left open-ended. The Foundation, the first major piece of DLC for Control, seeks to answer some of these questions and provide insight into the earliest days of the Oldest House. Devious forces are at play here, and all is not as it seems.
The Foundation picks up right where Control left off. Jesse Faden, now the official Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, is sent underneath the Oldest House to an area called the Foundation, where she finds that the Astral Plane is bleeding into reality, which could spell doom for the Bureau. Throughout the expansion’s roughly four hour campaign, you’ll explore caverns lined with red sand and strange crystals, questioning where your allegiances lie and earning new powers along the way. None of The Foundation is particularly new or innovative, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. After all, more Control is always a good thing.
The Foundation contrasts heavily with the office building aesthetic of the main game. It’s a labyrinth of cave tunnels, but in typical Control fashion, there are tons of odd things going on. There are crystals jetting out of the walls and floor, piercing through the red sand that lines the network of tunnels. Because of the ongoing problems with the Astral Plane, there are several portions of the cave that appear to be blinding white voids. The Foundation doesn’t even appear to be physically connected to the Oldest House in any way, either, as it’s accessed via a strange stone pillar with etchings carved into it. Despite being an incredibly bland setting on paper, Control manages to turn a mundane cave network into an otherworldly locale just begging to be explored.
The name “The Foundation” actually has two meanings. While you spend the entirety of the expansion exploring the new Foundation area, most of the story and collectibles are centered around the foundation of the Oldest House, giving new lore regarding Control’s many secrets like the Board, the Service Weapon, and the first Director. Like the main game, the lore and collectibles are infinitely more interesting than the actual plot taking place. That’s not to say The Foundation’s main story is bad, it’s just that the collectibles are exceptionally enticing. The new altered items featured in the expansion are also a highlight. On top of the fascinating stories behind them, they also lead to some of the coolest optional encounters in all of Control, rivaling even the best setpieces from the base game.
In contrast, the main plot of The Foundation doesn’t propel the story much further at all. It instead feels like it’s planting the seeds for future content, setting up the next expansion and possibly even more excursions into the Control universe. The Foundation problem is Jesse’s first real task as Director, and as such, the expansion sees her transition into a much more confident and assured leader. She starts to take personal responsibility for the well being of the Bureau, and it’s a natural evolution considering where the base story left off. She begins to see through the veil that so many of Control’s entities hide behind, forming her own opinions of things like the Board. Although several questions are raised, almost none of them are answered. It ends up feeling like the first part of a much larger story, not providing enough time to wrap things up in a satisfying manner.
While the main story of The Foundation can be completed in four hours, the optional content is the real draw here. As I mentioned before, the new altered items absolutely steal the show, and there’s one side quest in particular that is so uniquely Control that I couldn’t help but smile the entire way through, although I won’t spoil it for you here. The audio logs, correspondences, and other collectibles offer some of the most fascinating lore in the entire game, and if you’re dying to know more about the world of Control, then The Foundation does not disappoint.
A new pair of powers is central to The Foundation’s story, but there’s a twist this time around. The Foundation flirts with the idea of nonlinearity by allowing you to choose which power you receive first. One allows you to pull crystals out of the walls and floor to create platforms and cover, while the other allows you to destroy said crystals with your Service Weapon. The power you choose first will affect the first set of objectives you’re given, and while you’re eventually given both, it’s a nice way to give the player just a little more agency over what’s going on.
Because these crystals only appear in the Foundation area, the new powers are unfortunately not accessible anywhere else in the Oldest House. You won’t be able to utilize the crystals at all while cleaning up main game side missions or tackling the endgame Expeditions mode. It’s a shame considering how seamlessly they integrate with Control’s core combat and exploration loop, especially once you obtain both powers. Being able to shoot the floor out from under certain enemies for a quick kill or pierce foes that foolishly walk over sharp crystals on the floor adds a satisfying extra layer to combat, and being able to create platforms to aid in platforming brings exploration to new heights, even if crystals can only be pulled out from certain predetermined spots. It’s incredibly apparent that the Foundation area was designed with these new powers in mind, and they’re so expertly intertwined with the level design.
The Foundation retains so much of what made Control great in the first place, but unfortunately, it also retains some of the problems the game had at launch as well. Playing on PlayStation 4 Pro, the game still has a number of technical issues, from frequent framerate dips to stutters and hitches anytime the game is paused or a menu is opened. The final boss also glitched out on me, disappearing from the arena entirely and forcing me to restart the entire fight from the beginning. These technical problems aren’t dealbreakers in the slightest, but they’re an unfortunate blemish on a great game.
All in all, The Foundation is just more Control. If you weren’t drawn in by the game’s distinct visuals and unique style when it launched last year, then there’s nothing particularly new or refreshing here that will entice you. That being said, The Foundation provides a decent amount of great content and expands upon the base game’s fantastic foundation in interesting, albeit safe, ways. If you loved Control, then you should absolutely play this expansion. Just don’t expect it to blow your mind.