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Discover a world unknown.

Fair warning: This is going to be... weirder than usual.
Jesse Faden
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Control is a 2019 Action-Adventure video game created by Remedy Entertainment for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It was released on August 27, 2019.

When she was a child, Jesse Faden witnesses a strange and terrifying event that shattered her world. Aided by a mysterious presence that's been with her all her life, Jesse has been on the run in search of answers as years later she's guided to New York. There she discovers the Federal Bureau of Control, a mysterious government agency charged with suppressing knowledge of the supernatural.

Unfortunately, her timing couldn't be worse.

The Bureau is under attack, its Director is dead, and most of its agents are either the same, missing or corrupted by the malevolent, otherworldly force that's invaded the building. Appointed the new Director by a strange entity called The Board, Jesse must fight back the "Hiss" as she delves deeper into the Bureau's strange headquarters and history.

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If Jesse hopes to survive and finally get some answers to her past, she'll never need to do the one thing she never could and never had. She'll need to take control...

Previews: Gameplay TrailerNo relation to the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic.


Control contains examples of:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: While Jesse can explore most of the Oldest House as she is, the levitate ability is required to explore much of the later game. The power is the last one to be obtained as part of the main story.
  • Action Bomb: The Hiss Charged explode when they get close to you, or when you kill them.
  • Action Girl:
    • Jesse shoots, explodes and generally wrecks dozens upon dozens of Hiss soldiers to get through the Oldest House and take it back.
    • Marshall, the head of Operations, is the first person to take the fight to the Hiss, grabbing a bunch of soldiers and taking them to get more HRAs. She's still fighting when Jesse locates her, and keeps doing so.
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    • The Bureau's operatives and security personnel include numerous women, though with the protective suits they're wearing, it's impossible to distinguish them from men until they start talking.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Zig-zagged. On one hand, the one Jesse went to was Locked Out of the Loop, and you can find a recording in which she's struggling to make sense of what younger Jesse's telling her. On the other hand, the Bureau has numerous medical personnel, including psychologists, for their employees.
  • Almighty Janitor:
    • Ahti, almost quite literally, as he's a janitor Jesse encounters on the building's first floor. For one, he's still working (and alive) even though the building is in a state of lockdown; for another, he can control the elevators appearing and disappearing; he also is apparently unaffected by the Hiss Invasion despite not wearing an HRA, and finally, he reacts to Jesse's internal monologue. Later it's revealed that he's able to access parts of the Oldest House that other employees don't even know about, and can even set up makeshift Control Points. His true nature is never revealed, though he remains on Jesse's side to the very end. Some of his dialogue, such as his insistance on Jesse being his assistant, comments regarding vacation, threatening an unknown 'them' in regards to both, implies he is on the same level if not above the Board. He's also heavily implied to be the Finnish god of the same name and is apparently buddies with the Old Gods of Asgard.
    • To a lesser extent, Jesse herself. The instant she arrives, she's promoted to Director, and is everyone's boss. Despite this she's still running around fixing everything personally. Either by accident or foresight, one of the first doors you encounter right after you get the Service Weapon / Directorship is locked by a Lv.1 security clearance... which Jesse, who (again) is everyone's boss and now runs the Bureau, does not have because there are no spare keycards.
    • This is taken to absurd degrees when you reach Containment, where you can accept a side mission where a Ranger apparently has access to a Lv.9 keycard — the highest Jesse can get in the base game is Lv.6. This is like if Mulder and Scully somehow changed the password to the Cigarette Smoking Man's laptop.
  • All for Nothing: Underplayed in the Old Boys' Club mission, where Jesse and Marshall try to restart the HRA production. As soon as they fight their way to the production plant and figure out how to activate the machine, a crucial component breaks, necessiting that Jesse return to Maintenance to get more of it.
  • All Myths Are True: The AWEs - or, at least, some of them - can be created by both ancient myths and modern Urban Legends. One document even implies that the FBC is deliberately spreading more urban legends to foster creation of AWEs it desires, and they're revealed to be the secret backers of the paranormal enthusiast radio show "America Overnight".
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: Objects of Power are basically this. A person who binds one gains the same ability - more or less - as the one the OoP possesses on its own. Other than the Service Weapon, examples include:
    • A diskette that lets you use Launch.
    • A merry-go-round horse that lets you Evade.
    • A safe that lets you Shield.
    • An X-Ray light box that lets you Seize your enemies.
    • An old television that lets you Levitate.
    • An ashtray with a cigarette resting on it, which generates a winding maze which resembles a 1950's era hotel. This is the only Object of Power which Jesse doesn't bind, and instead makes up the Ashtray Maze in the Research sector.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Despite Jesse defeating Dylan and shutting down the Projector, the Oldest House is still locked down and Hiss are still present, leaving Jesse to continue the fight against the Hiss until they're completely cleared out of the FBC.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: A few side quests reward Jesse with new outfits, such as a gold suit from winning the roulette wheel in the Luck and Probability department, the Badass Longcoat Asynchronous Suit from defeating Mirror Boss esseJ in the Self-Reflection side quest, and a janitor jumpsuit from completing all of Ahti’s tasks. You also get two outfits for beating the game: the standard FBC women's outfit of short-sleeved white blouse, black slacks, and black pumps; and a "Director's outfit" that is a dark-blue version of the gold suit with Jesse having a pinned-up hairstyle.
    • The Foundation DLC has a mission where you collect 8 Maneki Neko statues. Finding them all grants you access to the club room where you are given a cat ear headband.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: There are several that this game provides.
    • Firstly, your ammo automatically reloads for you by "charging". This makes gameplay not only more convenient, but fast-paced, without having to worry about having to find ammo clips.
    • Do you have low health? Can't find any element to pick up? No problem! Simply backtrack and any element that dropped from enemies that you killed earlier will still be there until you quit the game.
    • When you prepare to Launch something, you normally grab the object you're aiming at. If you're not looking at any grabbable objects (highlighted by a white border), Jesse will simply rip a chunk of concrete from the floor or wall.
    • For people wanting to stream or Let's Play the game, there's an option to turn off copyrighted music to avoid copyright strikes.
  • Anti-Magic:
    • The HRAs, or Hedron Resonance Amplifiers, are reasonably good at protecting the wearers from Hiss corruption. Hedron resonance specifically neutralizes Hiss resonances. How and why Darling created them is pointed out by both Jesse and Pope as suspiciously well-timed. It turns out he'd figured out what Trench had done and that the Hiss invasion was imminent, but didn't have time to do more than cobbling together and distributing a few dozen without tipping his hand.
    • Polaris similarly protects Jesse from the Hiss, and is furthermore capable of driving the Hiss out of anything it corrupts (although it’s “burrowed too deep” into people to cleanse them without killing them). HRAs work because they channel Hedron - Polaris' origin source - the exact same way Jesse does.
    • Black Rock is a substance that blocks out a lot of paranormal frequencies, making it excellent material for containing OoPs. Darling calls it paranatural lead.
  • Apocalyptic Log:
    • Dr. Casper Darling leaves a very unsettling one.
    • During the Mold sidequest, you can find two recordings made by Lopes, leader of a team sent down into the Pit to investigate. In the first, she's calm and composed; in the second, she's panicking and telling anyone who can hear her to get away, before either dying trying to take out the Mold Hosts or committing suicide to avoid becoming one herself.
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: All of your psychic powers have these. With Seize, it makes sense that you need to be close by; with Levitate, it makes sense that you can't stay in the air indefinitely; with Shield, it makes sense that keeping an impenetrable barrier of debris around yourself is difficult to do for long. But when you Launch something, you simply aren't allowed to aim at something that's outside a certain range; and if you do succeed at dumb-firing the object into them, it clips through them without doing damage. Even if they can shoot at you in return. Or are shooting you in return.
  • Arc Symbol: The upside-down pyramid. It's in the game's promotional material, it's used by the game's UI to mark new documents and mods, it hangs over the first Control Point Jesse purges, it's present in the FBC's logo, and the Board is represented by it.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: Since most AWEs create objects with supernatural powers, the Bureau of Control is mostly concerned with collecting them and storing them in the Oldest House, where they can't endanger humanity at large and can be studied.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Federal Bureau of Control contains any and all extra-dimensional objects or beings that could be a threat to regular people. For instance, there's a refrigerator that, if you look away from it, will "diverge" into another dimension, or a mirror that shows not reflections, but what it wants to devour.
  • Artifact of Power: The Altered World Events that the Bureau investigates produce those. They come in two varieties, though both have supernatural abilities:
    • Objects of Power have a connection to the Astral Realm, and can be bound by people, who are then called parautilitarians, to harness their powers. The Service Weapon is the first Object of Power Jesse finds.
    • Altered Items lack this connection to the Astral Plane and cannot be bound, but still have supernatural abilities of their own. The Research Division theorizes that an Altered Item may form a connection to the Astral Realm and become an OoP over time.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In the third phase of the esseJ fight, their AI completely shuts down if you stand behind a pillar on the second floor of the arena, and they just float in place while you can take pot shots at them willy nilly.
  • Artistic Age: You can find a recording in which a young Jesse is being interrogated by a psychologist in the aftermath of the Ordinary AWE, but Courtney Hope doesn't seem to be doing anything to make her voice sound younger than the current (28 years old) Jesse. Although the tape doesn't have a date, so it's not known when it was made.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: One possibility for what happened to Dr. Darling. He disappears from the facility after exposing himself directly to Hedron's frequency, but is still able to contact Jesse on the Hotline, which is normally reserved for extra-dimensional beings. Emily even theorizes this is what happened to him, since neither he nor his body have been found and he was running quite a lot of secret projects.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Throughout the game Jesse bemoans being the Director of the FBC since the Service Weapon, a Cool Gun that can switch between five different firing modes, "picked" her at the beginning of the game without her consent, and with it she immediately shows a knack for wiping away the Hiss. Despite being a complete newcomer, she's treated with respect by almost everyone in the Oldest House. It turns out that the Service Weapon picks all Directors, but part of why she got the job was because she already had immense psychic potential due to her interaction with an OoP as a child.
  • Astral Projection: The Astral Realm is entered only with the mind, although it is a real place, and any injury or death in it can cause permanent psychological or psychic damage, up to and including death. Unlike most examples, however, you can only "dive", as the FBC calls it, by coming in contact with particular Objects of Power, such as the X-Ray Light Box.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • The Clog can only be damaged by shooting its white tendrils, which stand out very clearly against its brown texture.
    • The Anchor can only be damaged when it's about to launch an attack. Miss your chance and you will lose a good chunk of your health.
  • Auto-Save: The game auto-saves frequently, but you cannot save or load manually.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Completing the roulette Easter egg in the Luck and Probability department earns Jesse the Gold Suit, a sparkling gold variant of the Directors Suit, itself obtainable by completing the game.
  • Badass Longcoat:
    • Marshall wears what looks like a longer version of a World War II aviator jacket, in contrast to every other FBC employee, who's either in office wear or armored. Could be because she didn't have time to change after she arrived that day, could be because she's a badass.
    • The Asynchronous Suit allows Jesse to don one of these, including some uniquely-styled sleeves.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Near the entrance to the Field Training obstacle course, you find a letter from an voice actor complaining that his practice run was used as the voiceover for the course, and demanding that this be changed for a proper recording immediately. Once you enter the course and hear his confused monotone, it becomes clear why.
  • Baleful Polymorph: One of the Fadens' childhood friends was turned into a dog (or "something like one") by one of the worlds in the Slide Projector, and the FBC believes that "Codename: Dog Neil" is still out there somewhere. In an interview you can find, Dylan thinks that Neil actually prefers being a dog, as he was being bullied at school.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: At the end of the game, Jesse loses the protection of Polaris/Hedron and must fight off the Hiss by herself. While she regains her psychic powers near the end, the battle is fought mostly by mental strength instead: she must overcome the illusion of being a mere office intern at the FBC and directly confront the former director, culminating in mentally pulling the trigger of the Service Weapon that Trench had used to commit suicide.
  • Being Watched:
    • One of Darling's videos discusses rumors surrounding HRAs. He notes that no, they're not used to spy on the Bureau employees and record all their conversations - the Bureau has been spying on them and recording their conversations just fine without them.
    • Played for Drama later, when Jesse finds records of P7, the seventh Prime Candidate, which is to say herself, and realized that the Bureau has been monitoring her movements for years.
    All the times I felt paranoid... I was right.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Justified; when finding Trench's corpse and the Service Weapon next to it, Jesse wants to leave it alone and get help, but Polaris tells her to pick up the gun anyway.
  • Big Applesauce: The Oldest House is located in New York City.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: FORMER takes the form of a giant cross between a cockroach and a tardigrade, with each of its leg segments being several times longer than Jesse is tall.
  • Bigger on the Inside: On the outside, the Oldest House doesn't even take up one small block. Within, it's the size of a small town.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: Even disregarding its supernatural properties, the Oldest House is absolutely massive, and getting around it requires a complex map.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ahti occassionally slips into his native Finnish, typically for idioms and sayings. The idioms are translated literally, which means they make little to no sense in English. Many radios also play Finnish songs or broadcasts.
  • Bizarrchitecture:
    • The geometry of the Oldest House shifts as the game goes on, with new paths becoming available and doors appearing where they weren't before. This helps the Game/House guide the player towards the next goal. It's also creepy.
    • When an area has been overtaken by the Hiss, it's even crazier, with what seems to be multiple instances of the same level geometry overlaid against each other — most easily seen when Jesse purifies a Control Point and the walls recede into something logical.
    • Documentation states that the radio dishes you find scattered around the place and surrounding the Control Points are there to stabilize areas that have shifted before and hopefully prevent them from doing so again.
  • Black Boss Lady: Helen Marshall, the head of Operations division, is a no-nonsense black woman.
  • Black Speech: The Board speaks in radio noise, but has subtitles in English. After experiencing them, Jesse lampshades the fact that she somehow understood them. When she encounters FORMER, she says it sounds like the Board, but she can't understand it.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Ahti has a Pony Walkman.
    • The vending machines sell literal Bland Name Products, all in plain white packaging and names that say only what's inside, possibly to either prevent people from accidentally eating an OoP or making sure that no new Altered Items end up being created out of them since any sufficiently well-known iconography (ie. normal packaging featuring a mascot character) can end up producing one, especially due to Oldest House's strong connection to the Astral Plane.
    • Averted with Darling's presentation on the Hotline, where he uses the trademarked term "Ouija Board" as opposed to the more generic "Spirit Board".
  • Blank White Void: The Astral Plane. The only features it has are the black pyramid representing the Board and the polished marble-like blocks (also black, with golden veins) it generates for visitors to stand on. Astralnauts have supposedly noticed other native lifeforms, but the Board's specific domain is the only one you get to visit. Except for the Former's area, the setting for two Bonus Boss fights.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Ahti sometimes uses Finnish idioms translated directly into English, adding to the Cloudcuckoolander vibe he gives off.
  • Bomb Whistle: The Hiss Charged make loud whistling sounds as they get closer to exploding, which is a good cue that you need to put some distance between you and them.
  • Bonus Boss: Quite a few.
    • Tommasi, originally fought in the Mail Room as the boss of the Communications Department, can be re-fought in Containment after the game, with a massive boost in power, as well as now being armored and able to summon Hiss mooks.
    • FORMER, encountered during Fridge Duty, is an entity that seems to be similar to The Board, and is capable of linking itself to Altered Items as opposed to Objects of Power, making it very dangerous. You fight it again trying to cleanse the Pink Flamingo in Langston's Runaways.
    • The Anchor, encountered in An Enemy Within. It's a ship's anchor that is somehow spitting out thousands of clocks in the Sealed Threshold within Containment. This is especially odd, seeing as according to the FBC's reports, not even The Anchor's typical abilities as an Altered Item encompass this kind of behavior.
    • esseJ, encountered in Self-Reflection, is a mirror version of Jesse with access to the Spin and Charge modes of the Service Weapon, as well as Launch, Shield, and Levitate. Beating her gives you access to the Asynchronous Outfit.
    • MOLD-1, a tentacled mass of Mold which exists in the Pit below Central Research. You fight it as part of the Old Growth quest, and on your way, you fight level 9 enemies— by that point in the game, the highest you should have encountered is level 4 or 5. It is definitely meant to be a late/endgame boss.
  • Boring, but Practical: Launch fulfills this from a gameplay standpoint. You get it early in the game and can abuse it until the Final Battle, as it can One-Hit Kill basic mooks without much trouble. Zigzagged in that the visual spectacle of smashing foes to the floor with a cabinet, dust and splinters and loose paper flying everywhere, probably qualifies as Simple, yet Awesome instead; critics have heaped praise on just how satisfying it is to use Launch in combat.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Service Weapon regenerates ammo when not being aimed. A Justified Trope, as it is a psychically bound weapon, so it presumably regenerates ammo through the user's significant psychic prowess allowing them to believe it should be reloading, on top of the fact that it hasn’t always been a gun. Several mods have a chance to give you a bullet back every time you hit an enemy, and the secret Eternal Fire mod for Grip guarantees you a bullet back, allowing you to keep blasting away forever as long as you're accurate.
  • Brick Joke: As seen under Shout-Out, Jesse's opening monologue is built around a metaphor based in a movie whose name she can't remember. After you beat the game, the first thing she does is excitedly remember the name of that movie (The Shawshank Redemption), before declaring it's not important that she remembered it.
  • Call-Back: Early on, Jesse attempts to purge the Hiss from an employee with Polaris's help, but can't. At the end, she does the same thing with Dylan in the exact same pose. Dylan is left comatose, but is seemingly free of the Hiss.
  • The Cameo:
  • Central Theme: Control, and what it means to be in control of one's self and others.
    • Jesse is reluctant to take up her role as Director, repeatedly saying that she prefers background jobs like Ahti's role as a janitor and that she has no experience in leadership roles, feeling vastly under-qualified. Furthermore, she feels like her life's been out of control ever since Ordinary happened, and it was implied she was confined to a psych ward. Polaris, the entity inside of her, has acted as a guide for most of her life, telling her what to do, and when she seemingly dies, Jesse has a Heroic BSoD, as she feels like she has no control anymore, and starts succumbing to the Hiss. By the end of the game, Jesse realizes that Polaris was inside her all along, and she has to take control over not only the Bureau, but her own life. She asserts that she is the Director, and the Board empowers her to one-hit Level 30 enemies.
    • On the other side of the coin, Trench's need for certainty and control in all aspects of the Oldest House and the FBC led to him entering Slidescape 36, where he was exposed to The Hiss. The Hiss's manipulation made him paranoid, and he felt he was losing control over the Bureau, especially Darling, one of the few people he felt he could trust.
  • Chickification: Invoked and subverted; the final level starts with the Hiss invoking a Mind Rape on Jesse, wherein she is a shy, demure, and easily bullied new hire of the Bureau; once she breaks free of the Hiss' influence, she immediately goes back to her more forceful normal self.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Dr. Underhill diagnoses Darling with this, stating that he always feels the need to be the one who solves any trouble plaguing the Bureau.
  • The Chooser of The One: The Board is tasked with assessing if someone has what it takes to wield the Service Weapon. Or, in their own words,
    You must choose to be the chosen one.
  • The Chosen Many: The Prime Candidates are people who have psychic potential that could allow them to become the Director, and as such, FBC tries to recruit or collect them. This being said, there can only be one Director at a time.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Even though he's dead, you always see Trench smoking in Jesse's visions— given the content of his monologues, it can be assumed he's smoking one of these.
  • Classified Information: Almost all documents you find have black bars censoring out some of the information, leaving half of them as Noodle Incidents.
  • Closed Circle: Nobody can leave the Oldest House as long as lockdown is in effect, and the lockdown can't be lifted until the Hiss is all cleared — the fact that Jesse was able to enter the building at all is enough to raise eyebrows among staff. By the end of the game, the Hiss is still present, so the circle is still closed.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Ahti the janitor is quite the space cadet. This being said, a lot of what he says does make sense, from a slightly different angle.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Almost every character drops a “fuck” or “shit” throughout the game, Jesse herself has no issues dropping an f-bomb whenever the time is right. Justified though, considering when you’re having to deal with reality warping monsters and objects, how clean your language is is probably the last thing on your mind.
  • Color Motif:
    • Red. Jesse is red-headed, red is the main color of the game's logo, and the Hiss-overtaken areas are bathed in red light.
    • Blue represents Polaris, the entity accompanying Jesse. She's a calming influence against the Hiss' Mystical Plague, and considers herself to be Hiss' enemy.
    • Black and white represent the Board, with their inhuman, sterile shapes and the binary nature of their test.
  • Colour Codedforyour Convenience
    • Hiss Rangers have bright yellow straps on their harnesses and black helmets while the still sane FDC Rangers have white straps and helmets.
  • Combat Tentacles: Mold-1, the Bonus Boss in the Mold Pit, attacks Jesse with three tentacles, which can additionally fire projectiles.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Dead Letters has several documents written by them, describing outlandish scenarios from planes actually being on invisible roller coaster tracks to smoking being a way to keep aliens from taking over the world.
  • Cosmic Keystone: As the Bureau deals with reality-warping artifacts and events, many of them have the potential to cause the End of the World as We Know It if they go out of control, and even the Oldest House itself is theorized to be one throughout all of time and existence.
    • The Foundation DLC gives us a more direct example in the Nail, a massive obsidian pillar that binds the Astral Plane to the Oldest House.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Officially, the FBC is a liaison between other federal agencies.
  • Creepy Monotone: Dylan during his Hannibal Lectures.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: On consoles, Circle/B is used for exiting menus, and for dashing in the world. You turn the map on and off with Up on the D-pad. All of the movement controls remain active when the map is on, so if you try to turn it off with Circle/B, you will find yourself unexpectedly dashing.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: As children, Jesse and Dylan found an old projector in a landfill, which began to open gateways to other realities. In her words, things came through, and other than Polaris, all were hostile. Eventually, the kids managed to shut it off, but the FBC stepped in and took Dylan away. Jesse then spent seventeen years on the run, searching for a way to understand what happened.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Ahti, and it's not just because of his stilted English. He is also this when he slips to Finnish.
    • Jesse manages to keep the snark contained to her internal monologue, but she also has her moments.
  • Deflector Shields: Some Hiss units, particularly the stronger ones, are surrounded by what Pope refers to as dense Hiss resonance, which acts like a shield you have to destroy before you can start chipping away at their health pool. Launched objects, however, bypass it completely.
  • Differently Powered Individual:
    • Parautilitarians for people who bond the OoPs.
    • Astralnauts for people who Astral Project into the Astral Plane.
  • Dimensional Traveler: Both Polaris and the Hiss are this, having come into our reality through the Projector.
  • Dug Too Deep: The extradimensional version of this occurs when Darling uses the Projector to enter an alternate universe and accidentally exposes Trench, and hence the FBC, to the Hiss.
  • Ear Worm: Jesse compares the Hiss to one, saying it's like a song that runs through your head over and over until you can't help singing along.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: During your final confrontation with Dylan, the Board grants you the power to overwhelm level 30 enemies. The strongest enemies you'll see in the normal game are level 6.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • The Oldest House is...not a normal building. You can't see it unless you're specifically looking for it (despite being one of the tallest buildings in the city), it shifts constantly, rituals are required to enter certain areas, it connects to other dimensions, and it's implied to be infinite in size. No surprise that one of the game's inspirations was House of Leaves.
    • The documents and reports strewn around the House imply that there are numerous locations like that throughout the US, called Places of Power.
    • The Oceanview Motel & Casino, which can be accessed via lightswitch cords hanging in random places around the Oldest House and beyond. Every time you visit it, some new brand of weirdness is happening inside. It might be another interdimensional crossing point, being full of mysterious locked doors, but the only one people have ever been able to find the keys to is the one that leads back into House. It's suggested to be a sort of shared dream, rather than a physical location.
  • Elite Mooks: Occasionally, you'll come across a Hiss unit that's named but is also not a boss. They hit harder and have more health and armor than a typical Hiss, and they're more often than not a heavy unit.
  • Enfant Terrible: While it's uncertain how much the Bureau's mistreatment and the Hiss incursion is responsible for Dylan's current actions, you can find a recording of Darling's made when Dylan was still a kid in which he's trying to smooth over the fact that Dylan murdered one of the Bureau employees.
  • Enforced Technology Levels: The Oldest House doesn't play well with anything newer than the 1980s: anything newer than that either malfunctions or explodes violently. Smartphones aren't allowed past the lobby, computers all have green CRT monitors, Darling's presentations were made using film cameras as opposed to digital, audio is recorded with reel-to-reel recorders, all of the photographs on the containment reports are in black and white, and the Bureau uses a network of pneumatic tubes for communication as opposed to e-mail. The most modern piece of tech in the building is probably Ahti's Walkman and the cassettes it plays. Even then, there's an implication that it is an Object of Power that he lets Jesse borrow.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: The Board is responsible for assessing the new Director. What criteria they're using is completely unknown even to the Bureau employees, but whoever passes their test gets access to the Service Weapon.
  • Event Flag: The first control point in Containment can't be cleansed until the plot has progressed far enough. You just don't get the prompt to do so.
  • Everything Breaks: Basically every free-standing object can be hurled by Launch, or ping-ponged into by an object hurled by Launch. You can even pull chunks of concrete out of the walls and floor if you're out of nearby doodads. Shows Damage may not apply to the walls — the pulled-out chunk of concrete may repair itself — but when you toss it into a room full of desks and cabinets and computers and loose paper and all of it goes flying, you won't care. There are also some hidden rooms that are only accessible by ripping the wall between you and them to pieces.
  • Exact Words: According to Trench in one of his visions, one of the Director Northmoor's most important duties is to "keep the lights on". Thermal power derived from Northmoor in the NSC is what provides electricity to the Oldest House.
  • Fanservice: The PS4-exclusive Astral Dive suit is noticeably form fitting.
  • Festering Fungus: The lower levels of the Research Wing are infested with an otherdimensional fungus that came through a Threshold. It grows over everything, including people.
  • Fission Mailed: When Hedron is destroyed, Jesse is taken over by the Hiss, and the credits roll, getting more and more corrupted by the Hiss' Madness Mantra before the screen goes completely white. Then the real endgame begins.
  • Fixing the Game: In the Luck and Probability lab, Jesse can solve a puzzle where she has to make a roulette wheel land on 7 by using methods including placing a Four-Leaf Clover next to the wheel, using Feng Shui involving a fish statue, and turning on all lights in the room, something which a document notes is a gambler's superstition. Doing this puzzle will unlock the Golden Suit.
  • Flash Step:
    • Bonding the Merry-Go-Round Horse lets Jesse quickly dash in any given direction, other than up and down.
    • The Hiss Clusters compensate for not being able to fire back at you by quickly teleporting a short distance whenever they take some damage.
  • Force-Field Door: Whenever you enter a combat arena room, the passages out are barred by red blocks of Hiss resonance that documents claim are fueled by the energy of Hiss entities surrounding it. This means you have to kill all enemies in the room to open them. Later, there are also blocks held in place by Hiss structures you have to track down and destroy.
  • Foreshadowing: In Maintenance, when you first meet Arish, you can find a memo discussing a beer-and-cards night he has with several friends. These friends turn out to be his Ranger buddies from the "Old Friends" sidequest.
  • Full-Contact Magic: Jesse's melee attack is actually a telekinetic blast focused through her punch, increasing its power and range. As she winds up and collects her power, small objects nearby get pulled towards her.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The Bureau calls the supernatural happenings AWEs, or Altered World Events.
    • Some AWEs produce OoPs, or Objects of Power.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • A bug exists in the game meaning you can't pick up Corrupted Samples, a rare material used to craft the Level 2 upgrade for Spin— without unlocking that, you can't unlock the final stage of the Service Weapon upgrades, making the late game a lot harder.
    • The Pierce form of the Service Weapon literally could not be upgraded upon the game's release, meaning you gain no additional mod slots ever. This was later fixed.
    • Pausing the game during the credits on the Xbox One version may cause a glitch where you don't receive a post-game collectible (a photograph of Jesse as Director or two messages from The Board. The only fix is to play "Take Control" over again and let the credits play completely.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: During the final level, the Hiss traps Jesse in her own head, forcing her to live out the life of a low-level lackey in the Bureau until she fights against them. During this time, you're given the same menial tasks to do as objectives, over and over and over, that reset once you complete them. Blindly following them will get you nowhere until you wander around and find a certain trigger in the environment. In other words, both Jesse and the player need to refuse to do what they're told and take control of their own existence. Just don't catch on too early or you'll try to break out of the trap before you've done enough chores to make the item you need appear.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Jesse is normally a man's name. The sound-alike woman's name is Jessie. Runs in the family with her brother Dylan, who lampshades that both of them have unisex names. (This is a bit of a stretch on his part: Dylan can be given to girls, but, according to one website, they are outnumbered by boy Dylans by an order of 600 to 1.)
  • Genius Loci: The Board seems to have control over at least some of the Oldest House's appearance. Case in point, the moment Jesse is appointed as the director, all the paintings in the building that used to show Director Trench now show Director Faden instead.
  • Genki Girl: Emily Pope, the researcher you meet after clearing the Central Executive. Despite the situation surrounding her, she's extremely excited about meeting you and the work she's doing.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: In the side quest "Fridge Duty", Jesse finds a fridge that inexplicably kills people if it is not stared at constantly. When she attempts to cleanse the fridge, she enters an alternate dimension that appears to be a dark version of the Astral Plane. She is suddenly attacked by a monster named "FORMER" whose appearance is not unlike the name of the trope. The Board states that it was once a part of them, until it was "fired" for rebelling against them and is no longer part of the Board. However, it is unclear exactly what FORMER is, and its appearance is unlike anything else seen in the game.
  • Glassy Prison: After Dylan waltzes into the Executive and gives himself up, he's, locked up in one of those.
  • Go for the Eye: FORMER has a giant, glowing eye. Guess where to shoot to defeat it.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When the Hiss starts corrupting the Board itself, the Board, as a last desperate measure, imbues Jesse with enough power to wipe the floor with level 30 enemies.
  • Got Volunteered: Jesse picks up the Service Weapon unaware of what it does. The Board takes this as her application for the position of Director and accepts said application before she becomes fully aware of what's happening.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Federal Bureau of Control, an organization that seeks to understand and control supernatural phenomena currently outside human knowledge. It's basically if The X-Files was an entire organization instead of two people in a cramped office.
  • Great Offscreen War: The "Ordinary Incident," which was more than just a Noodle Incident because what happened got alluded to quite a bit, if not fully explained. A bunch of kids found an old slide projector at the local dump that turned out to be an OoP/Altered Item capable of opening up doorways to other dimensions, at least one kid got mutated by a melting dimension into a half-melted "Dog-Neil" thing, and something called the "Not-Mother" destroyed most of the adults in town with its creatures after mutating them into monsters. Polaris came from a strange, soundless dimension and became a voice in Jesse's head, keeping her safe, and Jesse ended the incident by shutting off the slide projector and destroying all the slides but the one Polaris came from. The FBC showed up late to the party and rescued/recruited Dylan while Jesse fled from them.
  • Ground Pound: Jesse can unlock a skill that lets her, while levitating, slam herself into the ground at where the player is aiming with their cursor, causing damage to the nearby enemies and objects.
  • Halloween Episode: You can find documentation in The Oldest House regarding the FBC monitoring Jesse that says she ended up in New York City on October 29th, 2019. Combine that with the fact that Langston complains about missing the opening of a movie the night the game takes place (movies in America usually open on a Thursday or Friday, and October 31st, 2019 is a Thursday) and there's a heavy implication the game takes place on Halloween.
  • Happy Ending Override: Alan Wake didn't actually escape the Dark Place at the end of American Nightmare. You find a page written by him that says he's been trying to write himself out for the past decade, and several documents list him as missing.
  • Healing Hands: The Hiss Clusters heal all the Hiss units in the area... or you, if you Seize them. They don't actually have hands, though.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: The Seize power lets Jesse turn Hiss soldiers into her allies, effectively returning them to the Bureau through Mind Control.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: When Jesse answers the Hotline for the first time, the Board mentions the collectibles menu, which is where the Hotline recordings pop up after the cutscene's over.
  • Hub Level: Central Executive becomes this after you cleanse the Control Point there. It's right next to the elevator connecting sectors, has the Control Point and all the goodies thereof, and it's where Pope - initially, your only source of information - sets up shop. Likewise, every main mission begins and ends with Jesse visiting Central Executive, and over time other quest-giving NPCs, like Arish and Marshall, can be found in the vicinity.
  • If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: The pill Dr. Underhill gives Jesse to resist the Mold has an overpowering, horrid stench that she continues to feel after she takes the pill. This is deliberate, though, as the smell is supposed to drive away the sweet odour that Mold uses to lure its victims.
  • Improbably Female Cast: In spite of taking place in a government bureaucracy, a lot of characters with high ranks are women. Jesse becomes the Director after picking up the Service Weapon, Marshall is head of Operations, Underhill is in charge of studying the Mold, and while Pope is just an assistant, she's assistant to head researcher Dr. Darling, and has taken over for him by the end of the game. Even extra-dimensional being Polaris is referred to as "she". Ironically though, all of the enemies are male.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: For some reason, FBC employees are fighting with Word War I-era Lewis guns, something that even the Oldest House's aversion to modern technology doesn't explain. Lampshaded when after Arish moves Security's operations hub into Central Executive, you hear him talking about being unable to find the FBC armory.
    • The FBC prohibits specific branded items because they can become objects of power. Perhaps the SA80s and Lewis Guns are "safe" in a way more iconic weapons like an M-16 wouldn't be.
  • Incomprehensible Entrance Exam: Jesse Faden has no idea she's even being considered for employment when she arrives at the Federal Bureau of Control in the hopes of uncovering its secrets, much less that she's being evaluated for the post of Director. It's not until she finds the previous Director dead in his office and is ordered to pick up the murder weapon that she's finally notified of her application... and is unceremoniously flung into the Astral Plane for the test. For good measure, she's belatedly warned that failing the test will result in the "murder weapon" fatally shooting her in the head.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Ahti the janitor comes and goes as he pleases, regardless the Oldest House's lockdowns or security protocols, to the point of taking a vacation at around the halfway mark. He's the only person besides the Polaris-protected Jesse to be unaffected by the Hiss without an HRA. He responds to Jesse's internal monologue. He might be telepathic. He helps Jesse get through a supposedly-impossible maze with nothing but a tape player. He appears during her Battle in the Center of the Mind to offer support. And no one, not even the Bureau, knows what's up with him. A few documents imply that the employees have just given up trying to make sense of him.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: While Courtney Hope has played a character in a Remedy game before, she was mo-capped for this role. Jesse pretty much is the actress, down to every facial detail and her red hair.
  • Inn Between the Worlds: Oceanview Motel and Casino, a strange, dreamlike hotel that people get teleported to when they pull a particular light cord. When the connection to it was first discovered, more of those cords began popping into existence in the Oldest House. The Bureau has been unable to find out where it’s actually located; for now, the only way in is through the teleporting light cords. However, one of the times you visit, you’ll hear someone knocking on the door, trying to get a room.
  • Insistent Terminology: When Jesse accuses the Bureau of kidnapping her brother, Marshall corrects her to say that they took him in, insisting that there was no other option.
  • Instant Expert: Justified. Late in the game, Pope mentions that Director Northmoor's record with the Launch diskette was to fling a bowling ball six feet — a substantial difference from the Person of Mass Destruction Jesse becomes when she binds it. Jesse, however, has a great deal of help from Polaris and was also exposed to the paranatural early in life, giving her a greater capacity than your average person for this kind of thing in both understanding and potential.
  • Insubstantial Ingredients: While some crafting materials, like Corrupted Samples, are physical objects, the list also include "items" such as Ritual Impulse or Untapped Potential.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device:
    • The Projector opens gateways into other realities through its slides. Unfortunately, like most doors, it can be used in both directions.
    • Emily theorizes that the Oceanview Motel acts as a hub between multiple parallel realities.
  • Interservice Rivalry: An extremely mundane example shows up in one of the collectibles, where the responsible for one of the science departments belittle his collegues from another and offers Dr. Darling a bottle of whiskey, because he wants an increase in his department budget.
  • Irony: Jesse's hometown is called Ordinary. It was the site of an AWE so infamous, even newer Bureau employees are familiar with it seventeen years after it happened, and so classified, Pope, the assistant to the Bureau's head researcher, has no clue what happened there, only that it was "one of the big ones".
  • It's All About Me: Dr. Underhill, who's studying the Mold within the FBC, doesn't care about the Hiss incursion or anything that isn't her current project, and doesn't even know that Jesse is the new Director, despite every other member of Bureau personnel (including the people guarding her lab) knowing on sight from seeing her with the Service Weapon.
  • Jumped at the Call:
    • Downplayed with Jesse. She's fully aware of how weird some of this crap is, and she's concerned about the pressure of Falling into the Cockpit of the Directorship. However, she also expresses enjoyment and satisfaction with the Bureau on more than one occasion. She may not (and might still not) be ready to lead, but she's definitely ready to be a member.
    • Dr. Underhill hadn't been working at the Bureau for several years when Darling called her to ask if she'd be willing to help with the Mold. Apparently, she dropped everything she was doing at the time (which included teaching a university class) and went back to the Oldest House. In her own words:
    He called me, and I booked a flight. I've never been able to say no to a man with a dangerous alien biosphere.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Dr. Underhill is horrified when Jesse tells her she's destroyed Mold-1, the source of the Mold infesting the Oldest House, bemoaning the loss of valuable research data. Jesse gives her a sample of what was left to placate her.
  • Kaizo Trap: If you stand by the elevator right before the control point in the Prime Candidate program, you'll get a Hiss Charged blowing up in your face for your trouble.
  • Kidnapped by the Call: Dylan was kidnapped by the FBC to become the Director. It went very wrong.
  • Kids Are Cruel: During the Ordinary AWE, one of the kids that apparently instigated most of it was a bully named Tom Barlow - It's heavily suggested that whatever happened to them had some supernatural component, as Tom's bullies apparently fed on the milk of something called "the Not-Mother" and became so violent that they murdered a teacher, and caused all the adults in town to disappear.
  • King Mook:
    • The boss fight against Tommasi is your first encounter with the Hiss Elevated. Future Elevated are nowhere near as hard as he is... until you fight him as a Bonus Boss.
    • Likewise, Salvador is a boss version of the Hiss Warped, though the Mook version precedes him in introduction.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Anchor, the Bonus Boss whose sole attack is to generate thousands of duplicate clocks at ballistic speeds, rotates its aim around its arena... in an unerringly clockwise motion.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • The weird janitor Ahti reacts to Jesse's internal monologue.
    • The Board mentions "the Game" several times as an alternative term for the situation Jesse found herself in. They also mention the collectibles menu. In the postgame, they refer to needing your help in the "Future / Expansion".
    • If you keep talking to Dylan after containing him, he'll mention a dream of looking at himself and Jesse talking from the corner of the room, where camera for that scene is located.
  • Legendary Weapon: The Service Weapon is an ancient weapon that has a reputation similar to this. In fact, it's implied that it used to be various other legendary weapons that choose their wielder over the centuries, including Excalibur and Mjolnir.
  • Locked Door: Many doors and secrets are locked to Jesse without the right passkeys. These go up to clearance level 6 the last of which is received from Dylan.
  • LOL, 69: Langston has a ton of fun when he finds out that an Altered Item broke out of containment in Cell 69. His guards, less so.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Jesse came to the Oldest House in search of her missing younger brother, Dylan, whom the Bureau took away when they were both little.
  • Lost in Translation: In-universe. In one of the Hotline messages, the Board attempts to explain Objects of Power as they see it. It's even more confusing than most of Board's communiques, and halfway through, they give up, declare that human language doesn't have the appropriate vocabulary, and tell you to ignore this message.
  • Lost in Transmission: The first few visions/messages you get from Trench are choppy and missing half the context, since, as Pope speculates, they're being projected into your mind via a bullet in his brain. Once you get the Hotline, you can rewatch them in whole.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The Service Weapon chooses its wielder. Whoever uses it is the Director of the FBC, no ifs, ands, or buts.
  • Madness Mantra: One of the documents in Dead Letters has this line, scrawled over and over onto a single page:
    I am a plaid suit in a pinstripe world. I am a plaid suit in a pinstripe world. I am a plaid suit in a pinstripe world.
    • There's also the Hiss, which compels anyone infected by it to endlessly repeat a lengthy, nonsensical monologue.
  • Mad Scientist: Discussed. Pope has a lot of ideas she's excited about, including numerous combat applications, prompting Jesse to think this:
    I wonder how often the phrase 'mad scientist' is used around here.
  • Magic Versus Science: The newest technology seen in the Oldest House comes from the 80s, and anything more modern tends to malfunction spectacularly - an example given is cell phones exploding in people's pockets. One document speculates that it could be because the newest technology is not yet firmly established in the public subconscious. They have a special room in communications set up just so employees can access the internet on work time, and even then, it's built in such a way that basically forces the Oldest House to let them connect.
  • Married to the Job: Director Trench's work in the FBC consumed his life and destroyed his family, including killing his young daughter.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: One Altered Item is a rubber duck that follows around whoever touches it, quacking incessantly. The last researcher who touched it eventually had a heart attack from the stress, but since he also had preexisting health issues, the Bureau doesn't know if the duck directly caused the attack or not.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Trench's dearest friend is named Darling.
    • Ahti's name means 'Water God' in Finnish, and is the name of the god of the sea and fishing in Finnish mythology, hinting at his seemingly supernatural nature.
    • The Hiss themselves might be a reference to Hiisi, the evil spirit in Finnish folklore
    • Dr. Underhill is met deep underground.
    • Helen Marshall can be considered the "marshal" of the FBC's military as well as "marshalling" an effective resistance to the Hiss invasion.
    • Dr. Darling's first name is Casper - like the ghost, he is friendly, but he never appears in person.
  • Masquerade: The FBC strives to hide the supernatural world from the public eye - and they're good at it, too, as it takes Jesse seventeen years to find evidence that the paranormal is real, despite having been at ground zero of an AWE, in fact the biggest AWE on record, as a child.
  • Medium Blending: A Remedy staple.
    • Characters on the "other side of the veil", such as Trench, Alan, and later Darling, appear as live-action silhouette projections in the game world.
    • Various videos you can find around the Oldest House are likewise all in live-action.
    • When Jesse first encounters the Hiss, there's a brief cutscene of her having a breakdown and nearly succumbing to it before Polaris protects her. The shots alternate between in-game footage of Jesse and live-action footage of her actress, Courtney Hope.
  • Mental Picture Projector: The Parapsychology department has cognitive recorders that allow for producing images by scanning a person's mind. This is how they're able to document the Astral Plane.
  • Metroidvania: Areas in the House can be revisited and explored further as you acquire new powers and higher security clearance.
  • Mighty Glacier: Mold Hosts are slow, and their attacks are extremely close-range, but they are veritable bullet sponges and if you do let them get in close, you're in for a world of hurt.
  • Mind Control: Seize, obtained by bonding the X-Ray Light Box, allows Jesse to turn low-health enemies into allies.
  • Mind over Matter: Bonding the diskette OoP grants Jesse Launch, AKA telekinetic powers, allowing her to pull objects from the environment to chuck at enemies.
  • Mirror Boss: In one side mission, Jesse finds an Altered mirror that transports her to an alternate dimension where everything is mirrored. In this dimension, she finds a clone of herself named esseJ that immediately attacks her. esseJ has the exact same powers as Jesse, gaining more as the battle goes on until she is levitating across the room. esseJ even uses a Service Weapon of her own, and is capable of transforming it.
  • Misery Poker: Several documents are from different employees comparing the worst things they've ever had to look over for Altered status. Starting with the least bad, they go through about a hundred individual human teeth, an entire airplane (and every single part in it), and a fresh dog corpse.
  • Mobile Maze:
    • The Oldest House occasionally undergoes what the staff calls Building Shifts, where the entire structure rearranges its layout. It can be somewhat stabilized by Control Points, but the FBC has entire procedures regarding how to deal with a Building Shift.
    • The elevators around the House keep appearing and disappearing.
    • The Ashtray Maze protecting Dimensional Research opens and closes routes freely to keep someone from getting to the end. When Jesse gets help from Ahti to pass through it, things go crazy.
  • More Than Mind Control: Shortly before his death, Trench began to suspect that someone was messing with his brain and making him tired and forgetful so that he could be easily manipulated. He's right: It's the Hiss, and he unleashes it onto the House because he perceived Polaris/Hedron to be a bigger threat.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    • The Board tutors you on the use of various Objects of Power you bond by pulling your mind into the Astral Plane and presenting you with a scenario that requires you to use the ability.
    • Jesse can talk to several characters representing their departments - such as Arish for Security and Pope for Research - and ask them numerous questions regarding aspects of the Oldest House.
    • Trench and Darling offer information on the setting and backstory through live-action "collectibles" that you'll acquire right as you'll start to wonder about their topics.
  • Multiple Choice Form Letter: The Board speaks like this, occasionally giving several options for some of their lines.
    Only the Director can wield the Gun/Sword/Intentionally left blank
  • My Greatest Failure: Trench alludes to something bad concerning his family in several of his Hotline monologues, but it's not unitl you reach the Prime Candidate program that he muses on what happened: he "brought work home" and something followed, infecting and eventually killing Susanna, his young daughter. His wife, Kate, left him over this. It's the reason why he decides not to involve himself in Dylan's care when the boy is brought into the Bureau, instead letting Darling handle it.
  • Myopic Architecture: Entering Maintenance Sector for the first time, Jesse comes across a door with Level 2 Clearance required to enter. While you only have Level 1 at that point, you also have Launch, which lets Jesse pick up one of half a dozen heavy objects around and slam it into the floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the door. Or you could just shoot the glass.
  • Mysterious Backer: Both Polaris and the Board are mysterious supernatural entities that provide direction and guidance to Jesse and the FBC respectively. Their actual motives for helping humanity, containing AWEs, and opposing the Hiss are completely unknown to the point where a paranoid Trench releases the Hiss into the Oldest House due to his mistrust of Hedron.
  • Mystical Plague: The Hiss possesses the people in their vicinity via some sort of telepathy - Jesse describes it as a babble that gets into your head until you can't help but repeat it.
  • Nightmare Sequence: One interrupts the final chapter, leading to the endgame. (It's more than just any nightmare, too: it's Jesse being trapped in her own mind, having succumbed to the Hiss, and having to fight her way out again.)
  • Noodle Implements:
    • The list of items forbidden within the Oldest House includes the obvious, such as advanced electronics, but also "iconic representations of archetypal concepts" (which apparently includes rubber ducks and ketchup bottles) and, for some reason, number 2 pencils.
    • A document you find early on specifies a list of words that should not be used when talking about an aftermath of a particular AWE. The list includes terms like "blood", "Alaska" and, for some reason, "scissors".
    • For some reason, all of the women's bathrooms (not the men's or the unisex ones) have, in addition to first aid kits, defibrilators.
  • Noodle Incident: The Dead Letters are filled with messages that sound like postcards from a bizarre horror movie. One letter speaks about a singing fish that "flies around the house singing Devil songs", while another talks about a man trying to build a God out of spare junk in his garage.
  • Non Sequitur Environment: Visits to the Oceanview Motel; accessible only by pulling a light switch cord hanging from random ceilings, your arrival occurs via a jumpcut so sudden you might be tempted to imagine it's only the road ahead that's changed - until you turn around, of course.
  • No Periods, Period: Played totally straight; despite the Bureau having a workforce that's roughly 40-50% women, there aren't even any feminine hygiene machines in the women's bathrooms.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Oceanview Motel is mundane and largely harmless. Too bad you don't know that when you first visit it. The fact that the game treats it as a "safe" area, similar to the Board Room where Pope resides — a place where you can't draw the Service Weapon or use your powers — can be either reassuring or worrisome. And then, every now and then, when you're walking through it, you'll hear someone scream...
  • Not Hyperbole: When you first enter the Old House and encounter Ahti, he mistakes Jesse as being there for his assistant job. Later in the game it is heavily implied that Ahti is connected to The Board, so her becoming Director is essentially her becoming his assistant.
  • Not Quite Flight:
    • The Hiss Elevated levitate. Some do so still strapped to the chairs they were in when the Hiss took them.
    • You can join them in the sky after bonding the old TV.
  • Not So Above It All: After shooting her way through a horde of Hiss while blasting Finnish heavy metal in her ears, Jesse has to admit that the entire sequence was awesome.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Jesse constantly speaks to some sort of unseen person in her internal monologue. As the game's opening act goes on, it slowly becomes apparent that the entity is very real, and even answers her at points, though nonverbablly; all we see is an odd spiral and the responses have to be inferred from Jesse's reactions to them. Jesse calls her Polaris. She manages to get Jesse inside the Oldest House despite the lockdown, and when Pope is told this, she refers to it as "like a guiding star."
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: At some point in the past, Trench and the FBC managed to investigate and bind The Ashtray Maze. Since it was far from The Oldest House, they probably didn't have help like Jesse did.
  • One-Hit Kill: The boss fight in the sixth mission marks the moment when bosses can start doing this to you, coinciding with a Difficulty Spike as the game moves into truly perfectionist territory: dodge or die. (Or, more accurately, "See or die, which is easier than it sounds when boss fights inevitably take place with screaming red lights from Hiss contamination strobing all over your screen.")
  • Ominous Mundanity: All over the place; Your shape-shifting magic gun is called "The Service Weapon", the FBC's Bigger on the Inside base is called "The Oldest House", and the psychic extra-dimensional inverted black pyramid is simply referred to as "The Board".
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Darling, while focusing mostly on OoP research, seems to know a lot about a whole bunch of different subjects relating to them. Apparently, he's considered a genius by his peers, as one of the Agents in front of the Board Room calls him "the Bureau's golden child".
  • Once More, with Clarity!:
    • Once you access the Hotline, you unlock the recordings of Trench that have previously only appeared as hazy overlays and can listen to the full versions of his previously-partial monologues.
    • Some visual collectibles - most notably Darling's presentations - are shown with some scenes or lines missing when you watch them in-world; you have to see them again in the collectibles menu for full context.
  • Only Fatal to Adults: Marshall tried to justify kidnapping Dylan by stating that all adults in Ordinary had vanished by the time FBC arrived.
  • Only Friend: In one of his monologues, Trench calls Dr. Darling this.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: The Service Weapon can only be wielded by someone with considerable psychic potential, and anyone other than the Director trying to use The Hotline will cause death by [REDACTED]. Later on, you find a document that theorizes that the [REDACTED] fate of the unchosen trying to wield those two is something actively enforced by the Board, because they are the only items where such a fate occurs. Non-worthy/-psychic people trying to bond with other Objects of Power either just does nothing, or they suffer only very minor backlash.
  • Orbiting Particle Shield: Jesse gains the ability to surround herself with hovering debris that shields her from damage.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Polaris appears as a perfect spiral pattern, and the Board is represented by a pyramid. Their enemy, the Hiss, is represented by images of chaotic fluid diffusion.
  • Perception Filter:
    • As Pope puts it, the Oldest House doesn't like attention. That's why it can only be found if someone is already aware of its existence. Jesse only manages to notice it and get inside after her supernatural companion calls her there.
    • The same thing began happening to the FBC themselves when they moved in, with the world at large, including the government that funds them, forgetting that their existence is important. As Trench puts it in one of his written memos, that means that the Bureau can demand as large a budget as they want to, since no-one can remember them long enough to realize what sum of money they've just signed over.
  • The Player Is the Most Important Resource: It's implied that Polaris, the entity guiding Jesse through the game, is the player themselves. Her expository Internal Monologue can be viewed as talking to the player directly, especially in the finale.
  • Playing with Fire: It's implied that Northmoor, the Director preceding Trench, had this ability - Trench notes Northmoor's considerable psychic power, pyrokinesis is mentioned as an existing ability, and N in the NSC, the Oldest House's heat-fuelled power plant, stands for Northmoor.
  • Pocket Dimension: The Bureau believes Tresholds to be this, small pocket dimensions that occasionally align themselves with the Oldest House. There's even an idea going about that Earth is a Threshold as well, though it's discouraged, as it tends to cause existential dread.
  • Portal Network: The Control Points work this way for Jesse, letting her teleport between various parts of the Oldest House. When she mentions this to Pope, it turns out that this is the first time they ever worked like that for anyone.
  • The Poorly Chosen One: Dylan was kidnapped by the FBC due his innate supernatural abilities, which made him a perfect candidate to be the next Director of FBC. Unfortunately, whether it was due to the FBC's mistreatment of him or the Hiss' influence, Dylan proved to be too violent and unstable and was sealed away instead.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • Trench is alive only in the opening cutscene; Jesse walks in on the aftermath of his apparent suicide. He still appears to her in visions to give you directions and clues. Pope suggests it's being projected into Jesse's mind from the Service Weapon's bullet stuck in his cooling corpse.
    • Northmoor, the Director Trench replaced, figures into several of Trench's monologues, with much of what Trench did stemming from Northmoor's actions. He's not actually dead, but being stuck inside the reactor of the electrical plant to act as its power source is hardly better.
  • Post-Modern Magik: Rather than ancient swords or rings, most Objects of Power are the kind of items you can buy at your local supermarket or Home Depot (or rather, could thirty years ago), like diskettes, boots or light cords. The Service Weapon is the only Object of Power that looks remotely fantastical, and that is implied to be over a thousand years old.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Jesse gets one after using the Hotline for the first time.
  • Public Domain Artifact: A document you pick up speculates that the Service Weapon might be only the latest form of an artifact known in the past as Mjolnir or Excalibur.
  • Random Event: The occasional Bureau Alerts, Timed Missions that come up at random points and require you to return to a previously-explored part of the house. They come in a few varieties - keep all Bureau operatives alive as you destroy the Hiss forces, face down a miniboss rush, or destroy a number of specific units.
  • Reality Ensues: One document is from a worker who can't find the bathroom after the Oldest House's latest Building Shift.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The music comes on only when you enter combat; during exploration, it's dead quiet. (It should also be pointed out that aforesaid music consists solely of percussion, lacking anything approaching intentional pitches.)
  • Reality Warper: The Oldest House itself seems to alter reality.
    • After Jesse is made the Director, all the paintings that used to show Trench now show her.
    • Shortly afterwards, she gets a document describing Hiss Guards which is signed as being made by Emily Pope, by the orders of Director Jesse Faden. Problems with that include: Jesse doesn't dub the entity the Hiss until several minutes later; Jesse has only been appointed a minute prior; Jesse and Pope don't meet until far later; and Jesse is the one who suggests the name Hiss to Pope.
  • Red Herring: As soon as he is introduced the game seems to hint heavily that Dylan's willing acceptance of the Hiss and immense power even without it means that he is largely responsible for releasing them into the Oldest House and directing their actions... but as it turns out he has no real influence over the Hiss as a whole, and it's revealed that Trench, not Dylan, was the Hiss's first victim and the one who invited it in, though Dylan may have influenced him to do so.
  • Red Shirt Army: Between responding to AWEs and containing and researching OoPs and Altered Items, the mortality rate among FBC personnel is so insanely high that almost none of them bat an eye at the fact their headquarters is being invaded by an hostile supernatural force.
    • Notably neither Jesse nor the staff appear even slightly bothered by the fact that Jesse is slaughtering Hiss possessed human staff members by the hundreds.
  • Refuge in Audacity: One of FBC's methods of maintaining the Masquerade is secretly funding a radio show that discusses AWEs in vivid detail and then blames them them on an alien invasion.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In Dead Letters and the Mail Room, several documents describe an AWE taking place at the US Embassy in Havana, in which several members of diplomatic staff experience symptoms such as eardrums popping. Tommasi's propaganda spins it to put the blame on sonic weaponry. This is based on an actual incident which occurred in late 2017.
  • The Runaway: Jesse spend most of the past seventeen years on the run after FBC captured her brother, although she was also in a mental institution for at least part of that time.
  • Rule of Three: Oceanview operates on threes - you have to pull the cord three times to enter or exit it, and most of the puzzles which grant you the keys to get back involve moving objects in all three accessible rooms, which have doors that only open when you ring the door bell (at least three times in total). And you have to go through the Dream Sequence where you're a secretary three times before you succeed.
  • Scenery Porn: The Black Rock Quarry has a gorgeous night sky. Which is a bit worrisome since it's hundreds of feet underground.
  • Schmuck Bait: In one room in the Containment Sector (and again in a small cave in the Foundation), there's an Item Chest very conspicuously placed in the center of the room. Opening it summons a horde of over a dozen flying Hiss.
  • Science Marches On: In-universe. The documentation for an Altered carnival hammer found very early in the Bureau's existence notes that it may need a rewrite to remove outdated terminology. This file is also the only one to include a magical term: "thaumaturgical".
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Langson is rather miffed about the previous Director's approach to the rules.
    Did you know that the Bureau has a no-smoking policy? It does. Just not for Trench.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: In the Mirror, all dialogue spoken by Jesse is reversed. Her internal monologue remains unaffected. An audio log also sits outside the Mirror, with the interviewer failing to get any answers to her questions out of the ranger that just left the Mirror because his speech is reversed. When you find the same audio log inside the Mirror, the interviewer's speech is reversed and the ranger's speech is forward.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Oldest House serves as a containment building for multiple supernatural and potentially dangerous items the FBC has collected.
  • Seen It All:
    • A lot of the FBC employees you encounter have a very calm attitude towards the situation they're now in; it's clear that while the Hiss is the worst incursion in the Bureau's history, this isn't exactly their first rodeo. Likewise, everybody takes the fact that Jesse is the new Director without any sort of questions or fuss.
    • Jesse grows into this by the end of the game, becoming less and less shocked by the bizarre things she encounters. Lampshaded when she defeats late-game Bonus Boss Mold-1: "I need to stop being surprised by all the weird shit in this place."
  • Sequel Hook: More of a DLC Hook. After being helped by Jesse, Marshall leaves immediately afterwards, saying that she needs to protect something the Hiss absolutely must not be allowed to find. By the end of the game, she hasn't returned, and nobody's sure where she went or what her status is. Exactly what she went to protect, and where she went, is detailed in the Foundation DLC.
  • Shoot the Dog: In the Panopticon, Jesse comes across a man who has been watching a fridge, unable to move or look away due to the fact that something bad will happen if he looks away, and has been there for over a day due to the Hiss incursion. Even Langston forgot about him. Jesse, meanwhile, is in the middle of finally tracking down her brother's location, and on top of that needs to clean up an altered item wreaking havoc on the same floor, so she can't immediately help with the fridge problem. When you do get the ability to help him, he looks away from the Fridge for long enough that he's turned into a red stain on the concrete by the time you get into the room.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Whenever a Hiss Cluster appears, it's a good idea to take it out first. However once you get Seize, getting it on your side grants you, and anyone else on your side, close to infinite health for a short time. Luckily, the Hiss don't follow this Trope when it's on your side.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jesse's opening monologue is built around the metaphor of a poster on a prison wall covering a hole, and her knowing there are things behind the poster; she specifically says that she's thinking of a prison film while explaining it.
    • An America Overnight broadcast suggests seeing colors you have no name for as a possible haunting, which sounds like a reference to The Colour Out of Space.
    • You can find a very familiar looking Crowbar in the Panopticon.
    • In one of the conversations over the Hotline, the Board will refer to Jesse as a "Holder".
    • You can find Trench's diploma hanging on the wall of the Director's Office in the Take Control Mission, with the line "One morning, when Zachariah Trench woke from troubling dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin", a reference to Kafka's The Metamorphosis.
    • The whole setting seems ripped straight from the SCP Foundation. The DLC is even named "Foundation".
    • Threshold Kids seems inspired by Creepypasta such as Candle Cove, down to having an unintentionally terrifying skeleton character.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • Threshold Kids, though it looks less like an actual show and more like someone's deranged idea of what a kids' show looks like.
    • America Overnight, a late-night show devoted to real ghost encounters.
    • Unless You, a book that the Book Club has been reading when the Hiss incident started. The genre seems hard to pinpoint - in Samson's review, it's an epic military science fiction, while in Lopez', it's a dystopian YA romance, and in Phillip's, it's a horror novel.
  • Side-Effects Include...: When obtaining the X-Ray Light Box, you can find a recording of a pre-Astral dive check. The preparer adds a disclosure listing a number of possible side effects, including normal (death, dementia) and... weirder (corporeal untangling, loss of ego...).
  • Signed Up for the Dental:
    • Fred Langston, the Panopticon Supervisor, freely admits that he took the job with the FBC because they offered better health benefits than Postal Service.
    • The Board says that it has a "Better Health Plan" as a reason you should side with it instead of FORMER. Although, considering that this is a garbled translation of The Board's true meaning, it's very likely that this is meant as a threat.
  • Silly Song: Within Jesse's mind, Jesse finds an In-Universe music video featuring the (still live-action) Darling and Trench rocking it out to a slightly reworked version of a song by UK glam rock band Mud, "Dyna Mite," even featuring a title caption and supposedly being produced by "Federal Bureau of Control Records." It's so outrageously silly and complimenting of Jesse that she has to comment that it's so weird, but then again it is in her head... so she's the weirdo.
  • Sinister Geometry:
    • Even without taking the mind-bending properties of the Oldest House into account, its Brutalist architectural style uses lots of hard lines and sharp corners for an ominous look.
    • The Board that appoints the new Director is represented by a downward-facing pyramid, and speaks in noise that's only intelligible in subtitles, with lines like "Now you/we wield the gun/you".
  • Sound-Only Death: When Jesse approaches the door to the Director's Office, a gunshot rings out from the inside. She opens the door to find Trench already dead.
  • Spear Carrier: Carla Vaughn and Hubert Tan, the two silent extras that appear in Darling's presentations, mostly as set dressing. You can find a letter from Tan to Vaughn where he wonders why Darling has them do it, and spins it into asking her out to dinner. A letter from her lets him down pretty gently, but makes it clear she's absolutely not interested.
  • Stealth Sequel: Several findable documents and other references indicate that Control takes place in the same universe as Alan Wake:
    • Late-game documents you can find detail the Bureau investigating the "Bright Falls Incident" in which writer Alan Wake's stories ended up having an AWE effect on the town, changing the local area into whatever Wake wrote. Alan's body was never found, though it's likely due to his attempts to escape the Dark Place. One of Alan's pages, pushed beneath a door in the Oceanview, is an OoP; finding it triggers a monologue of his.
    • Ahti provides Jesse with a cassette tape that plays a song produced by Old Gods of Asgard, the rock band Alan briefly encounters in Bright Falls. You can also find an album of theirs in a car in the Ordinary dump, with Jesse mentioning that she was introduced to them by her father and loved them immediately.
    • In an environmental conversation, Langston grouses about the Hiss and containment breaches forcing him to miss the opening of a movie; specifically, The Sudden Stop, based on Alan's last book. Apparently, his work got even more popular after his disappearance.
    • One document details the Bureau using mass media to present the abnormal as fictional, keeping the public in the dark about the things it studies, or to at least misdirect them about what's really going on (it's implied that America Overnight is part of this misinformation campaign). As such, they're interested in acquiring the rights to Night Springs, given its paranormal subject matter and the recent trend of classic properties being rebooted.
    • Another document found in Dead Letters talks about a man who has a dream very similar to the one Alan experiences at the start of Alan Wake, where he sees a dark town with a lake in the center, and is woken by a bright light.
    • During one of her therapy recordings, Jesse's psychologist mentions Jesse's affinity for a poem by one Thomas Zane, the poet who wrote himself out of existence decades ago. The psychologist even mentions that she has been unable to find any other trace of Zane or his work; it's left unexplained how exactly Jesse came across his poem in her youth.
    • The Title Card for the second DLC takes some obvious cues from the original cover art for Alan Wake.
    • Crossing over with a Mythology Gag, Both Control and Alan Wake have an opening monologue centered around Stephen King, with Wake outright namedropping the author, while Jesse talks about how she views the world via a metaphor involving The Shawshank Redemption, which was written by King.
    • Jesse's hometown, Ordinary, was first mentioned in Alan Wake's American Nightmare, in a backmasked message in "Balance Slays The Demon."
  • Stealth Pun: The Floppy Disk that contained Soviet nuclear codes grants the Launch power. The Board even refers to it as a "Nuke".
  • The Stoic: Helen Marshall is very matter-of-fact about the fact that Trench is dead and also speaking to Jesse from beyond the grave. In fact, very little about her current situation fazes her.
  • Subverted Kids Show: You can find various episodes of a puppet show called Threshold Kids. To get you started on the insanity, here's episode one: Topher comes to visit their friend Meg, who's sad. She tells Topher that her mom died and the Director has "blacked out everything". Topher mentions that his momma went "missing in actions" and that he wishes someone would find her. Meg seems... really into the idea of going to look for her, and then camera holds for an uncomfortable amount of time as she stares right into your soul. The thing is, this was meant to be a kid's show played straight for the purposes of educating Dylan Faden in the paranatural. The people who made the puppets and produced the show were just so bad at it that it comes off as creepy.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: Underplayed; while Jesse was in New York deliberately to search for the FBC, it's a coincidence that she just so happened to walk into the Oldest House while the Hiss invasion was ongoing. Though it's implied that Polaris may have led her there because of the Hiss incursion, after years of refusing to do so.
  • Supernatural Phone: The Hotline is a Bakelite phone that allows one to communicate with the Board (and also, in Jesse's case, with Trench's last memories). Apparently, if a non-Director tries to use it, it causes "permanent psychic damage".
  • Swiss Army Gun: The Service Weapon can shift between a range of forms, while retaining the same overall size. It's also used to activate the directorial override and remove the internal lockdown in the Oldest House.
    • Revolvers Are Just Better: Grip, the base form, resembles a basic revolver, and is a solid all-around weapon.
    • More Dakka: Spin has several parts of the gun spin around each other like a minigun, with a high rate of fire. Several Spin-specific mods are devoted to increasing its fire rate even more.
    • Shotguns Are Just Better/Sawed-Off Shotgun: Shatter is short, but different chunks of the Service Weapon spread out to allow for more shots at once, like a shotgun.
    • BFG: Pierce takes time to charge up, but its shots pass through walls and can kill most enemies with one hit. Some of its mods increase the amount the camera zooms in when aiming, letting it serve as a makeshift sniper rifle.
    • Grenade Launcher: Charge's shots are explosive and you can hold the trigger to shoot up to three at once.
  • Talking to Plants: One of Ahti's side quests has Jesse literally go around Central Research and make small talk to plants. The plants don't talk back, but they do react to her words by perking up. For added awkwardness, Jesse is self-admittedly lacking in conversation skills, leading to gems like this:
    I... hope your day has been productive, little plant.
    I wish my leaves were as pretty as yours.
  • Tennis Boss: FORMER has a variation of this where the energy orbs they throw at you can be grabbed and Launched into its weak point for a lot of damage.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted: There IS one, that Jesse has seen in the past, but she was a very bad one who kept insinuating ideas to Jesse rather than listening to her. Either the therapist was an FBC plant deliberately gaslighting her or she was very bad at her job.
  • Third-Person Person: Played for Drama when Jesse first speaks to Dylan, and he speaks about himself in third person, claiming it's because after what Trench and Marshall did to him, he's no longer Dylan. He reverts to first person after a short while, though.
  • Timed Mission: Whenever a Bureau Alert comes up, you have twenty minutes to deal with it, regardless of whether or not you've accepted the mission right away, and dying instantly fails the Alert.
  • Title In: Whenever you enter a named location for the first time, its name appears suddenly in bold white letters across the entire screen.
  • Unsafe Haven: A tape about Building Shifts mentions that the personnel caught up in them should hide in Safe Rooms, which protect them from the various supernatural influences. The first Safe Room you open contains a person possessed by the Hiss.
  • Verbal Tic: The Board has a Confusing/Annoying habit of lacing their Messages/Orders with Ambiguous/Contradictory/Absurd word associations. Do their Untranslatable/Otherworldly communications make them Obviously Evil, or just ambiguous entities from another plane? Yes/Yes.
  • Videogame Dashing: Evade lets you quickly dash across short distances. It can also be done after jumping, and while levitating. Timed right, it can be used to break long falls.
  • Voice of the Legion: Dylan speaks in half a dozen voices when the Hiss is talking through him.
  • Warp Whistle: Jesse can teleport between Control Points — and not just in the Fast Travel "She's going to make her way to the location through means we just aren't going to bother showing" way, she explicitly describes herself as teleporting when talking with Pope. According to Pope, this is an unprecedented ability.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The first fight with Tommasi is the first one you can't win simply by running around and shooting, forcing you to learn some basic strategy. His attacks hit hard and are undodgeable, forcing you to take cover to avoid them. He can't be taken down before the Service Weapon needs to recharge, so you need to keep a close eye on your ammo. The few mooks that spawn are closer to a help than a hinderance thanks to the health pickups they spawn. And because he's the first Hiss Elevated you encounter, you learn to quickly correct your aim when he dodges to one side or another.
  • Whispering Ghosts: The Hiss' non-violent victims are talking all the time, though it's difficult to decipher what they're saying, let alone understand it, because they all talk over each other and slightly out of sync. As the Oldest House is filled with them, their mumbling is a near-constant presence unless you shoot them.
  • Word-Salad Horror: The Hiss' Madness Mantra is essentially a weaponized form of this.
  • World Tree: The Board has dialog that implies the Oldest House is this, calling the Foundation of the House its "Roots". Fitting, given that part of the inspiration for this game is House of Leaves. Files from Dr. Ash corroborate this, as he finds diagrams that look like the Tree of Life and he theorizes that since New York used to be a forest, it was unlikely the Oldest House took the form of a Brutalist-style skyscraper in ancient times.
  • Wreaking Havok: The Launch ability lets you throw random objects around willy-nilly, and environments have an impressive amount of destructibility. Large-scale fights are liable to leave the room completely trashed. If you unlock Launch all the way, you will be able to throw what is described as 'large' objects, which includes propane-powered forklifts. Suffice to say you don't want to throw one of those at an enemy which is too close to you.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Downplayed. One collectible mentions that time passes differently between the Astral Plane and our world, so video taken from astralnauts' dives can last longer than the time they spent diving in the real world.
  • You Are in Command Now: Jesse is basically appointed to be the new Director of the FBC after the previous one is found dead, despite her never having been a part of the organization. She's also rather confused how all of the FBC staff seem to accept her without question, especially since they kidnapped her brother.
  • You Are Number 6: Dylan claims that Trench and Marshall told him that his only name is P6.
  • Your Head Asplode: This is how the Astral Spike first manifested in our reality, killing an astralnaut by emerging from his head — you can even find a recording of this event in the section of Containment devoted to the Ordinary AWE.

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