Preview: The Order: 1886

Sony put up a handful of titles for the public at their booths in Sony, and Ready At Dawn, the studio behind Sony’s handheld God of War titles was there to show off their console debut: The Order 1886.

The Order: 1886 is a third-person shooter set in an alternative 19th century in which werewolves and other beasts haunt London and Nikola Tesla creates weapons for its protectors. A very intriguing idea, but does the game itself have the guts and power to make itself more than just a well-themed third-person shooter? A quick look and hands on of the shooter may prove it to be more than just that.

In Sony’s booth we were given hands-on with a short sequence from the game, which was also released on YouTube as a walkthrough earlier this week. The demo started pretty straightforward, and I was told to hold the position and fend off incoming enemies. For this level I was given a simple handgun and Nikola Tesla’s Thermite Rifle, which is used by launching Thermite at the enemy and with a secondary shot the player is able to ignite it and set their enemies ablaze. Both weapons functioned as expected, but the Thermite Rifle proved to be extremely useful in hectic situations, and seemed to be my weapon of choice during the sequence we got to play through.

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But of course when you talk guns, you also need to discuss the accompanied gunplay. Initially The Order looks similar to Gears of War when viewed on video, but during gameplay the gameplay is a lot less precise and harder to handle. Aiming and firing feels a lot more like The Last of Us, and whilst it isn’t incredibly hard, it’s unlikely we’ll be playing through the game at a pace like Gears of War for example. There is an amount of weigth to the controls that may be jarring for some, though I personally had no problem with it. Of course this problem varies player by player. It may not be what a lot of shooter players are accustomed to, but fans of games like The Last of Us and such may find it nice to have familiar ground in the substance of The Order: 1886.

The demo proved to be pretty linear, and basically all I had to do throughout the entire thing was take out enemies and move forward, which is problematically the point of many shooters nowadays. The only variation we got on this was a short interval in the middle of the mission where we were trapped inside a room and had to find a way out. Here we got to inspect a book we found on the counter, but ultimately all we had to do was use thermite to burn a way out of the room. The full game itself may prove to give players more variety gameplay-wise, but unfortunately the segment we got to play through was a little simplistic to my liking.

The demo also gave us a new mechanic to play with, which was Blackslight, a Splinter Cell-esque feature where we can slow down gameplay and take down target after target with our pistol. Here the player can use R2 to fire as always and the right stick is used to flick between enemies rather than aiming at every enemy by hand. I personally didn’t make much use of it, but its use definitely showed its merits and isn’t overpowered as it requires the player to fill a meter before it can be used.

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Visually The Order: 1886 is a much more interesting story, and this cinematic third-person shooter simply blew my mind with its visuals. The Order: 1886 is presented in a rather strange format not often seen in videogames, but is a standard in movie-making. The Order is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio in which the game will be presented with black bars like most films out there, and whilst many are divided on their choice of format I was very impressed with how well the game pulled off this form of presentation. The game for most part has no HUD, with the exception of the ammo meter, but other than that the screen is perfectly clear or any cluttering by information and such, which is a great design choice as it makes up for the amount of screen used.

The Order: 1886 is one of the most visually impressive games I’ve seen for the PlayStation 4 so far, and its seamless transitions from cutscenes to gameplay are presented in a quality that I found to be near-CGI quality. Characters are presented in an incredibly life-like fashion and the lighting accencuates both characters and enviorments, which together create an incredibly atmospheric depiction of London, and the visual tone seems to fit in with the storyline perfectly. The framerate seemed to be constant, and during gameplay I noticed no noticeable drops in performance, which is impressive considering the visual fidelity of this title.

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Fire and explosions in The Order look magnificent, adn the fluidity of the game along with the flames and sparks ignited by the Thermite Rifle created a great contrast to the enviorment and its animations seemed to be very well thought out. As amazing as the enviorments and characters look, the particles seem to be just as big of a highlight as the rest.

Of course next to every solid piece of visuals and gameplay a game like The Order needs a solid tone and form of storytelling, and it does seem to deliver on that front. The characters seem lifelike, and their vocal performances seen to fit their surroundings and characters perfectly. You truely feel like you’re walking through a 19th century version of London, and its eary bleak tone seems to be very well executed. If the final game offers more variety in gameplay, The Order may very well be a must-have for every PS4 owner, and if not we’ll at least get a solid third-person shooter with a well executed storyline and tone.

The Order: 1886 will be released on February 20th, 2015 exclusively on PlayStation 4.

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