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The Order 1886 Should Have Been a Launch Title

It’s got the looks, but not the brains

The Order 1886 Screen (3)

To look at The Order 1886 it’s understandable to think that this is the next-generation torch-bearer for the PlayStation 4. While Killzone: Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son both looked utterly gorgeous and blew Xbox One games out of the water in terms of their visual fidelity, they look old and dated next to what Ready At Dawn has managed to achieve with The Order. 

However, things aren’t that simple any more. The next-generation isn’t just something defined by how games look and the fancy particle effects they bring into play, it’s about the whole experience of playing it. Last generation saw developers starting to dabble with motion controllers and Kinect – albeit not overly successfully beyond the Wii. This generation we could quite easily see virtual reality becoming a believable addition to households, and second screen functionality is more often than not becoming the norm. Even the DualShock 4 pad is built for trying out something new, and that’s why both Second Son and Shadow Fall made use of those features. But this is where The Order falls down rather spectacularly: it plays like it’s stuck in the last generation.

Don’t get me wrong, the cover-based shooting mechanics are solid. It’s smooth and works wonderfully, but it’s just a by-the-book shooter that hasn’t – in my time with it or in any footage shown of it – attempted to do anything different. The Blackwatch bullet-time mode is just that, and it’s honestly quite disorientating to use as you just shoot where you’re pointed without aiming at all. Couple this with the rather dull Thermite Rifle – which allows you to fire clouds of flammable iron oxide that can be set alight with a flare – repetition sets in rather quickly.

I’m sure as we see more we’ll get to fully experience a broader vision of what The Order 1886 is about, but so far things aren’t looking great in the gameplay department. I’m sure there will be some inventive weaponry, and I’m sure it’ll venture into the realms of deepest steampunk sci-fi in the process. But this seems like little more than a showcase of what the PlayStation 4 can do, rather than a system seller.

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But, heck, it’s super beautiful to look at. I can quite honestly say that I’ve never seen a game look so good. It might not be completely lifelike, but it’s like watching a CGI action film except the cutscenes merge seamlessly into gameplay and you’re never quite sure when the video has stopped and the fire-fights have started. This might be due, in part, to the decision to frame the game with 16:9 borders, but it certainly has the filmic effect that Ready At Dawn were aiming for.

Firing the Thermite Rifle and then igniting it results in beautiful explosions, with charred remains of hidden enemies burning up left behind. And one section where I had to drag a downed enemy through the streets showed how beautiful the gritty Victorian environments were as enemies spilled out of windows and doors in chase. It also all ran rather smoothly, which is expected of a demo intended for public use, but there were instances where characters had clearly just dropped in off screen before the camera panned to them. A couple of your companions’ animations were also a little janky, but it’s all easily dealt with before the February 2015 release date.

But, going back to my earlier point and the title of this very preview, this doesn’t feel like a game that should be releasing on the PlayStation 4 over a year after its release. We can excuse beautiful games that play like the previous generation when a new generation launches – it’s why Infamous and Shadow Fall got off lightly. But the launch games of this generation seem to have far more depth to them than The Order 1886, and that’s launching well over a year after this generation came to market.

That said, it’ll sell on looks alone, and Sony will be content. But perhaps Ready At Dawn has something hidden away that we don’t all know about.

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