How The Order: 1886’s Airship Infiltration Mixes Old With New

If there was one early example of the graphical prowess of the PlayStation 4, prior to its release, it was The Order: 1886’s stunning visuals. Yet it was shrouded in an air of mystery that has largely remained, despite a release set for just a few months from now. It’s long been known that this is a third person shooter that also leans onto the crutch of quick time events, but actual hands on time with the game for any real length has been few and far between.

The game is gorgeously detailed, as ably demonstrated by the gameplay trailer above. The section that was playable at PlayStation Experience – and at a separate event prior to the show – showed off an aerial infiltration of the airship Agamemnon, to thwart some rebel plot or another. Rappelling down the side of the balloon, the sights below are astonishing, as the alternate reality Victorian London sits in the hazy sunlight below, but there are subtle details on show like the depression of the balloon’s material beneath your feet and the way that parts of the rather ceremonial uniforms flap in motion.

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The letterboxing cuts the image down to an aspect ratio more commonly associated with film, and that film-like quality is quite evident elsewhere too, such as with the subtle film grain filter and the quite superb depth of field effects. There’s also not an aliased edge in sight, with some rather impressive anti-aliasing that did quite well during action, but absolutely excelled as soon as I stopped to look at the environment around me.

At its heart, this is a third person cover-based shooter and a fairly accomplished on at that. There’s some pleasing invention to the weaponry, which is clearly far more advanced for the times than they should be. One section has you wielding a suppressed rifle, as you hunt through the scope for the tell tale signs of conspirators, but this quickly makes way for full automatic pistols and more.

Admittedly, they’re not the wackiest and most outlandish weapons you’ll see in a shooter, but a number do have a secondary fire, such as a kind of smoke-blast from an under slung shotgun or the previously revealed Thermite rifle. Though anachronistically advanced, representing the leaps and bounds that science can make during protracted periods of war, these do still feel like they’re rather raw and unrefined in the way they sound and the way they handle.

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Of course, Ready At Dawn are trying their utmost to blur the lines between film and game, paring back the HUD as far as possible and turning to on screen button prompts in all sorts of situations. It could something relatively standard like pushing on the analogue stick and pressing X to rappel to cinematic camera angles and brawling that’s laced with quick time event prompts. There are a handful of interesting twists during a fight, such as needing to move a cursor over to an interactive point before pressing a button, and there’s also the branching decisions and light failures that were talked about long ago – though not apparent in my play though.

Sadly, the stealth sections in particular felt like they were taking a step back to a previous generation. Trying to sneak through an area and killing two guards could end in instant failure and being sent back to a checkpoint before, and very often as a consequence of the stealth kill button prompt. Rather than a simple press of a button when it pops up on screen, I had to time it based on a contracting circle, with success or failure resulting in one of a wide variety rather brutal kill animation. Except that there was no leeway for the player to recover from an errant button press and it would simply resulted in the guard managing to whip out a pistol and gun you down.

This really felt quite regressive to me, in relation to how far QTEs and stealth gameplay have come over the last decade, and we’ll have to see if this is merely an isolated pitfall rather than something more systemic in the final game. Certainly other aspects of the stealth segment felt more progressive and intriguing, as my decision on whether to follow a guard’s patrol route around a corner or wait for him to strike from cover saw him teleported whilst out of sight so that I wouldn’t have to wait umpteen seconds for him to wander down a corridor for my attempt at stabbing him with my ludicrously large knife.

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With more nuance throughout the rest of the game than was shown during the stealth section, The Order could be onto a winner though. In aiming for a more cinematic presentation though, they’ve naturally turned to QTEs, but the real heart of the game will surely be with the third person shooting, with some solid gunplay and inventive twists on old weaponry providing the foundations on which the story of mystical beasts, ancient warriors and rebellion can play out. Oh, and let’s not forget it looks bloody gorgeous too.

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4 Comments

  1. Needs co-op :( Will probably buy it anyway as it looks a visual treat and I haven’t played a cover shooter for a while (hard to count The Last of Us).

  2. looks better every time i see this.
    was it me or was that one big kitchen?

  3. Unless they remove those borders i wont be buying. I couldnt play more than two levels of the Evil within because of those annoying black things filling half the screen. Why do they do this!!!

    • Then you won’t be buying, I’m afraid. The letterboxing has a dual effect of lowering the game resolution and using much, much stronger anti-aliasing, and also ties into that cinematic feeling that they want.

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