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The Order: 1886 Hands-On: The Most Impressive Game at Sony’s PSX

by Brandon Russell | December 17, 2014December 17, 2014 3:30 pm PDT

We’re more than a year into the new cycle of consoles, and in that time, we’ve seen very few games that can be classified as truly “next generation.” I often see people refer to Shadow of Mordor as a rare example; others, such as Infamous: Second Son, Sunset Overdrive, Destiny, and even Assassin’s Creed: Unity are all business as usual. There hasn’t necessarily been a system seller just yet, is what I’m getting at, but Sony just might have the first sure thing.

I got to spend a good 45 minutes playing through a brand new section of The Order: 1886, and it’s clear to me that Ready at Dawn’s PlayStation 4 exclusive could be that game. The developer has been relatively secretive about its alternate history tale, mostly showing off the same section since the game was officially unveiled last year. If you haven’t kept up, The Order takes on a distinct Steam Punk vibe, featuring an order of knights who attempt to rid the world of half breed monsters. This is perhaps the game’s most famous showing.

I briefly saw The Order at E3 earlier this year, but PSX provided a much more intimate atmosphere, an opportunity to really sit down and see what the game was about. Before PSX, The Order had been in my periphery; it seemed to me like it was attempting to mimic Resident Evil 4 with British accents. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The thing that impressed me most about The Order is its incredibly polished presentation, how absolutely realized and immersive the world is; you believe that the alternate reality London exists the way The Order says it does. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself, and it’s always fun to see games tackle a bit of history, even if it does take some creative liberties with the source material.

On that note, the world Ready at Dawn created is one of the most cinematic experiences I’ve seen in gaming. The direction, though, still left a little to be desired. In the demo, I took a stroll through the game’s fifth chapter as the Knights attempt to infiltrate an airborne zeppelin. The atmosphere from the outset is beyond comparison and the characters animate realistically, adding more depth to the experience overall.

However, Ready at Dawn hands control over to players at odd times; once I landed on the side of the zeppelin, a cutscene took over to introduce the chapter. Without warning (after a few minutes of just sitting there), I realized I had control over the character, but all I did was monotonously repel down the side of the aircraft. That kind of gameplay doesn’t really add to the experience much. Still, the presentation is phenomenal.

Beyond that, The Order quickly develops into a corridor shooter, with rafters to walk through and other hallways to explore. It’s definitely a linear experience, which I didn’t really mind, but it was difficult to find the right path from time to time, so I often spent time just wandering around. A lot of the early part of Chapter V has you stealthily walking around the zeppelin, taking out guards along the way. It’s an easy enough experience and, again, graphics look beautiful. But miss a QTE moment and it’s back to an earlier checkpoint. From this perspective, the gameplay isn’t particularly groundbreaking, and in fact it still holds on to some of the more frustrating trial and error elements we’ve dealt with for years.

But once the action does pick up, The Order begins to really ramp up the excitement. This is where The Order is like a lot of the best third-person shooters, forcing the player to take cover and advance only when waves of enemies have been taken out. As typical as the experience sounds, I found it to be incredibly enjoyable, and I especially liked how realistic The Order’s combat is; when enemies are shot, they react convincingly, and the environmental damage is impressive.

The guns were fun to use as well—I especially liked the sniper rifle, and there was also a shotgun that made taking out baddies morbidly entertaining. Taking cover and popping back up was easy and intuitive, and aiming at enemies was easy; sound direction was top notch as well so, again, the atmosphere created by Ready at Dawn is very believable. There was a stretch in the demo through a kitchen that I particularly enjoyed. As enemies lay dead on the tiled floors, the environment looked like an intense gunfight had definitely taken place. That helps to immerse you in the world.

Although some of The Order’s gameplay elements are familiar, the demo was tight and engrossing, and the graphics are absolutely phenomenal. Environments are detailed, voice acting is top notch, and the cinematic presentation makes for a movie-like experience. This was only a brief slice of what the overall game has to offer, which we’ll have the opportunity to see in full on Feb. 20 exclusively for the PlayStation 4. Based on what’s there right now, The Order definitely has the potential to be Sony’s ace in the hole.

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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