No, really, this is serious. If you haven’t yet played Control — or any of Remedy’s other games, really — and you have an interest in doing so, turn back now. I’m going to get into some serious spoilers and the last thing I want to do is unwittingly ruin someone’s good time.
Here’s a buffer paragraph, just to put a little more space between the spoiler alert and the spoilers. Let’s use this opportunity to plug Mashable’s review of Control. It’s great! If you’ve played any of Remedy’s other games, this is the best version of the studio’s particular style of third-person shooter.
Anyway. Off we go. Here’s a line break, for good measure.
OK. You’re officially in the spoiler zone now. And here it is: Control is a stealth Alan Wake game.
You’re not playing as Alan or anything. He doesn’t even appear in this new game (not really, anyway). But Control is definitively set in the same universe as Remedy’s 2010 hit, Alan Wake. More importantly, it answers that game’s central questions around what was happening and (to a lesser extent) why.
We know now that there was a bigger, unseen picture to the story of Alan’s fictional creations springing to life — it wasn’t just a weird, unexplained supernatural event. We also know that Remedy has been quietly sewing together a series since the first Wake game launched. It’s not just Control, you see; Remedy’s 2016 release Quantum Break is also in this universe.
The facts of Control
Let’s talk about about the new game first. In Control, protagonist Jesse Faden finds herself unexpectedly appointed as the head of the Federal Bureau of Control, which is kind of like if the X-Files became an entire government agency. They investigate strange phenomena and conduct research on the same.
We learn a few things about their work over the course of the game. Most importantly, the so-called “paranatural” intrusions into our real world — the source or cause of which isn’t yet known — are referred to as Altered World Events (AWEs). These occur when some other dimension or parallel universe overlaps with our own inside a specific area, called Thresholds.
We also learn that AWEs are anchored to our reality by everyday “archetypal objects, [such as] a gun, a television, [or] a supposedly haunted house.” It’s also believed that having a concentration of those objects in one place can lead to the creation of more Thresholds.
The bureau has deduced that humanity influences these occurrences, seemingly on an unconscious level. As an instructional video found during the game states, “we create these archetypes through everyday life — popular culture, urban legends — but we are observing and influencing a complicated system in action.”
In other words, humanity’s collective belief in something like an urban legend can make that story or object a reality in some way. It’s not necessarily a direct copy, as there are other, unknown forces at work here. But “popularized folklore” can play a role in shaping AWEs.
Control delves into these ideas much more deeply, introducing concepts like Altered Items and Objects of Power. For the purposes of the Alan Wake connection, however, it’s enough to know what AWEs are and that these other factors exist.
What happened to Alan Wake?
In Alan Wake, the titular protagonist and his wife Alice head to the small mountain town of Bright Falls, Washington, for a break from their busy world. Alan is a writer who’s been stuck with writer’s block for two years, and Alice has secretly arranged for the trip to break that spell.
Unfortunately for them both, tragedy strikes when a mysterious force pulls Alice into the lake by their cabin. Alan sees this and tries to save her, but he blacks out underwater and wakes up in a nightmare version of Bright Falls that’s been overrun by shadowy creatures. He also starts to stumble across manuscript pages, apparently from a book Alan had intended to write but never did.
The unfolding story eventually suggests that all of Alan’s troubles stem from an entity that lives in the lake, the Dark Presence. It’s trapped down there, and we later learn that it’s been using Alan and forcing him to write in the hopes of using his creation to escape.
Alan eventually defeats the Dark Presence using a weapon known as the Clicker. It looks like an ordinary light switch, but it contains the power to influence reality. It’s not enough to save the day, though. Even after the Dark Presence is gone, Alice is nowhere to be found. The game ends with Alan giving himself over to the lake, which leaves him trapped in his cabin and working to write his own escape. It’s not quite a cliffhanger, but it’s definitely not a resolution.
All of these details are important in the context of Control‘s revelations. Late in the game, it’s possible to find a pair of documents — titled Bright Falls Summary and Bright Falls Supplement, respectively. These lightly redacted reports reveal that what happened in Bright Falls was in fact an AWE, and it discusses elements of that earlier game in the context of what the bureau’s investigation turned up.
What really happened to Alan Wake?
The first document, Bright Falls Summary, reveals that Alan found himself caught in an unconfirmed Threshold. His presence there “resulted in a fictional story … creating an AWE in which reality was altered to match that of the story, though only locally and for a limited time.”
The report goes on to mention key characters from that earlier game, including Alan’s agent Barry Wheeler and Bright Falls sheriff, Sarah Breaker — who, it turns out, is the daughter of a former bureau agent.
The report also references “an old light switch (possible Object of Power),” presumably a reference to the Clicker that Alan used against the Dark Presence. The report concludes: “Wake was not found at the scene. Reports claim he dived into the lake, but no body was recovered in the search.”
Wild, right? Hang on, we’re only getting started.
Bright Falls Summary
Bright Falls Supplement
The Bright Falls Supplement contains a major revelation: Alice Wake is alive! It’s not clear where she was found, only that it happened during the bureau’s investigation.
“She was interviewed and evaluated,” the report reads. “She showed signs of severe mental trauma in the form of [REDACTED] memory loss. She was later directed to treatment. It was concluded that she had been trapped in the Threshold during its manifestation.”
The report then goes on to say: “Bureau researchers believe this event was the result of a forceful perception of subjective reality (stemming from Mr. Wake) overlapping on our own.” In other words, the power of Alan’s beliefs, his ideas, directly influenced the makeup of the Threshold. The document also notes that Alan is a candidate to join, and perhaps run, the bureau — meaning he’s comparable to Jesse in some ways.
There’s one last Alan Wake-related detail that seems to hint at where the missing author is now. It’s another found document, though it’s not directly connected to the Bright Falls materials. Instead it references a typewritten page found in the Oceanview Motel and Casino, a mysterious location that Jesse visits multiple times over the course of Control.
(Thanks to Kirk McKeand of VG247 for reminding me about this one.)
The found document includes the text that was visible on the typewritten page, and there’s some suggestion it was written by Alan. See for yourself:
“For ten years I’ve tried to write my escape, only sinking deeper. I used to know where the fiction ends and reality begins. Here, they are all the same. It’s a hideous trap, my every thought made real. Fear. Desire. How can I ever know for sure I’ve escaped and not just lost in my own fantasy of it? That thought alone can drive you mad.”
The document goes on to detail some of the other words that are visible on the typewritten page, which features a section of scratched out writing. Some of those words seemingly refer to Bright Falls and to Alan himself. The only complete phrase in that section? “You’ve been warned.”
Ominous. It seems that Remedy isn’t quite finished with Mr. Alan Wake. How he reappears and what kind of role he’ll play is hard to say at this point, but in a truly incredible twist, Control has finally given all of Remedy’s fans an explanation for just what the hell was actually going on in Alan Wake.