Preview: The Order: 1886

Developed by Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, The Order: 1886 is a new IP coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4. First announced at least year’s E3, I had the chance to go hands on with the demo for this upcoming third person shooter.

The back alleys of Central London. I duck into cover behind a stone pillar and begin readying my weapon. It bears a striking resemblance to the World War I era Lewis automatic machine gun; a rifle best known for its distinctive top-mounted drum-pan magazine. But this is no ordinary rifle. As shots ring out from across street I spot enemy movement on the rooftops above – rebels. I take aim and fire; a fine, white colored mist enshrouds my enemies, momentarily disorienting them. I use this opportunity to fire again, only this time I fire off a single short range flare. Upon contact, my missile ignites the white cloud in a 2500°C ball of flame, reducing my attackers to cinders. This is the Essex M86 “Thermite Rifle” and this… is the world of The Order: 1886.

After concluding the introductory skirmish, my avatar and a team of three others were forced to seek refuge in an abandoned building as rebel reinforcements began to arrive. I was given very little introduction to these characters outside of their names: there was my player character, Galahad; an older, grey-haired gentleman, Sebastian; a female character, Isabeau; and a Frenchman by the name of Lafayette. Set in an alternate history London where technology has far surpassed that of its real world historical counterpart, my teammates carried all manner of exotic weaponry and were even dressed in analogous era-appropriate fashions. Who we were fighting and why was kept unknown to me.

A short search of the abandoned premises revealed a blocked path to the outside, and following an unobtrusive quick time event to remove the obstruction we were on our way. My cohorts and I emerged out onto small walkway overlooking the River Thames where my character made mention of needing to reach the hospital on the other side (St. Thomas’ perhaps?) and so off I continued, but not before picking my jaw up from the floor. So much has already been said about this game’s visuals that I’m not even sure if there is anything left for me to add, other than it really has to be seen to be believed. The Order: 1886 was without a doubt the prettiest looking console game at this year’s E3; Galahad and company are rendered in exquisite detail and environments are wonderfully lit and modeled. A fine layer of film grain coupled with a tinge of chromatic aberration also helps give the overall presentation a very filmic look.

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As I made my way down a narrow corridor of tightly packed buildings, I was ambushed yet again by another group of enemies. I began dispatching these foes with my Thermite Rifle – the only weapon available for use in the demo – getting a better feel for the game’s combat. It implements a regenerating health system popular in modern game design and like other contemporary third person shooters it also features a simple to use cover system that gives combat a so called ‘stop and pop’ feel. It hardly moves the genre forward in this regard but where the game might potentially differentiate itself from other third person shooters is in its weaponry, as the alternate history setting allows for no end of creative twists on the usual assortment of pistols and rifles.

My very brief time with the The Order came to an end as gameplay flowed into an in-engine cinematic that left Galahad and his team pinned down by enemy fire. Trapped and needing to reach his destination at the hospital, Galahad readied his team to destroy a wooden bridge immediately above the enemy position when the image cut to black and the game’s logo and title came into view. I grabbed my belongings and made my way out of the game booth impressed with what I had seen. With its already immaculate audiovisual presentation and unique setting, The Order: 1886 is absolutely deserving of everyone’s attention as the next big thing for the PlayStation 4.

I have no doubt in my mind that the very talented people over at Ready at Dawn are set on releasing one huge blockbuster game when it is released on February 20, 2015.