Recently I had an opportunity to go hands-on with an exclusive preview of The Order:1886. Up until this point having been dubious about the title, my latest encounter has allayed some concerns but reinforced others.
Firstly, it must be said that the presentation is incredibly striking.
There is certainly a distinct feel of polish and meticulous detail attributed to the visuals. Textures are sharp and surfaces react in a realistic way to light, creating a very moody and atmospheric sense.
The visual epicness has received a ‘cinematic’ treatment by way of a subtle film grain and, more noticeably, narrower aspect ratio resulting in letterbox format black bars top and bottom.
This never distracted from the gameplay though, which had a few issues of its own to contend with. More on that later.
The preview demo kicks off at Chapter 5, (sorry; Chapter V), entitled “Agamemnon” which just so happens to be the name of the zeppelin in which the demo is set within.
You take control of one of the knights of the Order “Galahad” and are required to rappel down the side of the zeppelin to breach.
It’s right here the first issue is revealed. It’s not apparently obvious that the player has control once the cutscene ends (a testament to the impeccable visuals) but also an arbitrary and banal exercise which could’ve easily been handled in an extended cutscene.
You can almost hear a Ready at Dawn PR spokesperson whispering from the cosmos, “See, these are in game graphics” like we were all skeptics…
This aside, the first real section of the playable demo is stealth focused and has Galahad skulking through the belly of the beast plucking off unsuspecting guards one by one. All very “paint by numbers”, but still enjoyable.
I’m sure many will draw ire from the “fail-QTE-insta-death” upon being spotted, but for me, I was happy being encouraged to take a more cautious approach.
It is however a bit jarring to be so close to an enemy, second nature dictating a melee stealth kill, only to fail the button prompt and subsequently receive a bullet to the temple at point blank…
There is a QTE (Quick Time Event) brawl that occurs a little later, again which I didn’t mind as long as it doesn’t constitute the lions-share of the game and is handled only at appropriate moments (such as frenzied close quarters combat).
A couple of lock-picking and electrics-shorting mini games find their way in also. Not terribly exciting, but certainly not unwelcome.
Second major issue has the player attempt to identify and mark ‘fake guards’ through the scope of a rifle by recognising those without the proper uniform insignia.
All fine and good, however the game holds the players hand like an infant throughout this entire sequence, telling you exactly when and where to “hit the button” and then only allowing you to shoot at a very specific moment, removing any judgment the player might otherwise be required to make. It creates a minimal effort, minimal payoff situation which is detrimental to gameplay enjoyment.
The rest of this demo is effectively an action cover based shootout, mostly through corridors but is actually quite enjoyable.
The AI is smart enough to be challenging, and there is enough feedback and resistance in the controls to feel brutal and threatening. Gameplay definitely picked up at this point.
Yes, nothing particularly revolutionary gameplay wise (akin to any number of cover-based shooters) but the slick visuals provide added definition to an already well-trodden landscape.
It will be interesting to see how all of this incorporates the supernatural elements demonstrated elsewhere and how that effects the pacing and dynamism of gameplay but that’s for another time.
The official verdict is still out, as this was one chapter within the throws of an entire and impending story driven action title, but what is certain is that The Order 1886 is set to be the new visual benchmark for the PlayStation 4 and will no doubt generate some excitement amongst gamers as to what to expect from future titles.
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