All too often, gamers seem to get hung up on the minutiae of a game’s graphics, with the rendering resolution and the frame rate latched onto, often as a way of discerning which console is better than another. It’s a point which all too often obscures the fantastic artwork and design which goes into so many games these days.
It’s only right that we try to recognise those efforts, whether it’s the wonderful yarn aesthetic from Yoshi’s Woolly World, the ink splattered vibrancy of Splatoon – it’s no coincidence that two Nintendo games made the shortlist here – or the stunningly authentic feel that photogrammetric techniques lent DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront.
If there’s one word with which to describe Ready at Dawn’s work in The Order: 1886, it’s ‘cinematic’. On the surface level, that’s aided by the letterboxed image, but this masks the technical masterpiece in other areas. Ready at Dawn’s own engine made use of state of the art physically-based rendering techniques, lighting effects, motion blur and comprehensive anti-aliasing which produces some of the most flawless imagery so far this generation.
However, there’s a lot more to a game’s art direction that its technical accomplishments, and The Order: 1886 features a world that blends reality with fantasy. The London setting within the game has a number of real world hallmarks and locations, but the fiction sees it blended with fairly subtle and very well realised anachronistic technologies. From the cobbled streets and period architecture to the realistic feeling uniforms of the knights and extraordinary weaponry, it all comes together into a cohesive whole.
The Order: 1886 might not be blessed with the longest of single player experiences, nor the most enthralling and satisfying blend of cover-based shooting and quick time events, but it’s one hell of a looker. Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica Studios ably demonstrates what the PlayStation 4 is capable of and gives us a glimpse of how rapidly videogames are approaching the quality that can be demanded of modern TV and film.
Runners up in alphabetical order:
- Star Wars Battlefront
- Tearaway Unfolded
- Yoshi’s Woolly World