The Order: 1886 Hands-on Preview

The Order 1886

Like its cryptic title, The Order: 1886 has maintained an air of mystery about it since its unveiling in 2013. Many gamers, myself included, had just a general idea of what the game was about, but remained unsure of what to expect when we finally get to bring it home with us next February. Thanks to this year’s E3, however, and a hands-on session with the game, I now have a much clearer understanding. My takeaway message is this: The Order: 1886 is shaping up to be one of the most impressive titles on the PlayStation 4.

The game is visually stunning. Once I got my hands on the controller, it was impossible not to notice the consistency between what we once thought were pre-rendered cutscenes and the actual user-controlled play. The transition between the two is as smooth and seamless as I’ve ever seen, because everything to grace the screen is rendered the same, in-engine. The effect is striking. The game’s art direction only amplifies this, as the beautifully detailed streets of an alternate-history London play host to convincing 19th-century characters and their imaginative steampunk weaponry.

The Order: 1886 thermite

It’s no secret that developer Ready At Dawn fully intends for The Order: 1886 to unleash the power of the PlayStation 4. Studio co-founder Ru Weerasuriya has gone on record stating, “This was the onus at the very beginning, was to showcase what the PlayStation 4 could do through this game; visually, graphically, technologically. This was really the drive behind creating this.”

But The Order is more than just a pretty face. Lying under that gorgeous veneer is an apparently rock-solid third-person cover shooter. It feels like a more lithe, agile, and personal Gears of War. The characters don’t roadie run, they move into, along, and out of cover with precise and differentiated controls, and they feel more like living beings than wads of meat slamming into each successive defensible position.

My squad of four knights, descending from Arthurian lineage and bearing the familiar names of that era, spoke to each other throughout our battle against a throng of rebels, and the conversation wasn’t just the same old military barking heard in a multitude of other games. It was as if these people were familiar with one another and had long-standing relationships. The context was of their goals and greater circumstances, rather than the most effective way to flank, shoot, and otherwise “yee-haw” about their confrontations. Though I was still mostly just aiming and shooting, the tone felt different from what I’ve grown accustomed to.

The weaponry here is important; it also helps to define the experience. Unlike much of what was shown at E3, my guns were not made of electronics, sporting holographic ammo displays or plasma-powered ammunition. The two guns my character, Sir Galahad, wielded were mechanical in their action and made me feel grounded in my mortality and connected to the setting when I used them. One was a simple, hard-ammo pistol closely resembling a Borchardt C-93 (perhaps the father of all modern semi-automatic handguns), which felt very deliberate to use, requiring attention and care to place shots on target. The other was the thermite rifle, an invention from the minds at Ready at Dawn.

The thermite rifle didn’t steal the show, but it did leave an impression that there will be much to discover throughout The Order‘s industrial world. This particular contraption fires shots that burst into a cloud of aluminum and iron oxide around the target. The weapon’s secondary shot is a flare that ignites the ash-like cloud in spectacular fashion, much like fireworks. The secondary shot was also used to spark an explosion via a building’s gas line, and also, in a more controlled application, cut through a metal structure obstructing the squad’s path. The gun was indeed awesome and original, and it suggests that The Order will be full of such novel ideas.

The Order: 1886 beast

Outside of my short hands-on demo, Sony also showed gameplay of a very different section of The Order that leaned toward survival horror and away from squad-based combat. In this stage demo during Sony’s pre-E3 press conference, Sir Galahad walked slowly through the halls of a dark building, lantern in hand, and encountered a werewolf-like mutant — half-human, half-beast — who pursued him viciously and relentlessly, leaving Galahad with no options but to run and use the environment to impede his hunter’s progress.

What’s even more frightening is that these mutants are not dumb; this “werewolf” spoke to Galahad throughout much of the pursuit in plain English, and in a fully intelligible, though monstrous voice…which made it all the more fearsome. The sequence was a mix of direct control, on-rails suppressive fire, and button prompts that all combine to heighten the suspense and pump the adrenaline. It was, like most of what I saw of The Order, very impressive.

The Order: 1886 is one of the most exciting titles coming out of Sony’s camp for the budding console generation, and if the content shown at E3 2014 is anything to judge by, it will be a major feather in the PS4’s cap when it hits stores on February 20th, 2015.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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