The Order 1886 Review (PS4)

We didn’t get (or request) a review copy of this game, we bought a copy at release. We feel this is important to know given the controversy around it.

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The Order 1886 was announced alongside the PS4 and looked to be one of the defining new AAA IPs for the system. Now it’s finally out and it might not be quite what everyone expected.

We’ll address the elephant in the room immediately – the game’s length. Regardless of what anyone else says, we completed the game on hard in around six hours getting the platinum trophy along the way. We didn’t skip any cut-scenes, we didn’t rush through any areas, we completed everything the game has to offer. Split across sixteen chapters, not all of those are even playable with a huge amount of playtime spent watching cut-scenes. Now the voice acting is great and the story is entertaining and interesting, but it still feels like thiss is a six-hour experience with nothing else to offer. There’s no multiplayer, no horde mode, no unlockables. Everything you can do in the game is contained within those six hours. You need to know that when deciding whether to buy the game or not. As we’ll go on to describe, we enjoyed it a great deal for everything it does offer, but we’ll also be trading it in at the next opportunity and are glad Game are currently offering a deal where you get back £30 (voucher) if you trade it in before the end of March.

The Order is a third-person shooter set in an alternate Victorian London. Some key landmarks are present but this world has clearly had some technological advantages over our own and electricity weapons (designed by Nikolai Tesla) and huge airships move alongside the developing London Underground and Crystal Palace. The environments are hugely detailed with high resolution textures being used for everything from posters to murals and the sense of place is excellent. Unfortunately you don’t get to explore much of the city as this is strictly a corridor-based game, with less freedom than Uncharted or Tomb Raider even. The bits you do get to see looks spectacular, but we would have liked to see more of London life than we were treated to.

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The story deals with the eponymous Order, the Knights of the Round Table who have survived for centuries thanks to some black liquid from the Holy Grail. Now a modern elite royal guard kind of force they investigate rebellions and supernatural attacks while being well known amongst the populace. During the game you fight against mostly humans with the occasional monster thrown in, but the plot twists and turns to keep your true foe out of sight until quite close to the end. While some of the reveals are expected cliches there’s enough character development to become attached to the main group and by the end you’ll care what happens to them. Unfortunately the end of the game seems incredibly rushed and cuts out before anything has really been resolved, other than a plot thread that is only revealed thirty minutes before the credits. This is clearly to set up a sequel and given the brevity of the game we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that sequel this year, or 2016 at the latest. We anticipate they’ll announced ‘The Order: 1887’ at E3 and have it ready for November as a new yearly title alongside Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. Despite the game’s flaws, we’d be in complete support of that idea, even if it was just another six hour campaign with the same assets.

Gameplay-wise it’ll feel familiar to anyone who’s played the action segments of Uncharted. There’s very little jumping and clambering but there’s a lot of hiding behind cover and taking pot shots. On hard difficulty enemies will still drop with a single shot to the head and different situations often call for different weapons from the game’s impressive arsenal. Pistols are usually accurate and ammo is plentiful, while some of the rifles give you greater range but with a slower firing rate. The shotgun is terrifying, launching a barrage of burning shot in a wide horizontal arc and then there’s more spectacular grenade launchers and even a rocket launcher at one point. More interesting are the weapons invented by Tesla for the Order. These include an electric-based weapon that needs to be charged but will kill most in a single shot and requires very little aiming. The other is an incendiary device that launches a could of volatile gas and then uses the secondary fire to ignite it, burning anyone alive, even if they’re in cover. These weapons are fun to use and every single one seems useful throughout the campaign. They could comfortably sit alongside Gears of War’s Lancer in terms of satisfying and unique weapons, we only wish there were more of them.

Other than the shooting the rest of the game consists of walking around small environments and using a pulley, pushing a cart or opening doors. There are collectables to hunt out that give you a little more backstory but the plot isn’t really that complex and there isn’t a huge amount of depth to the lore behind the main events. There is however a subplot that is only revealed in a handful of these collectables (the phonograph cylinders) that we imagine will build up towards a future game (the third in a trilogy perhaps). The voice acting really is on form throughout the game but it is far too guilty of making you walk (or stumble) slowly through areas with nothing much to do.With this in mind perhaps it’s a good thing that the game is so short, it never outstays it’s welcome or gets too dull and when you think of the ways some games pad out their running time we know what we’d prefer.

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Although the combat is good and engaging, the real star of this game is the graphics. SImply put no other game out at the moment looks anything like this. With some spectacular lighting and cloth effects, coupled with the strongest art direction we’ve seen in a game this generation, The Order 1886 is a clear showcase of what these consoles are capable of. There’s a few Unreal-Engine related hiccups (like textures popping in late, but I think we’re used to that by now) but on the whole this is an incredibly accomplished game. Screenshots are compressed video really don’t do it justice, if you’re at all obsessed with pretty games like we are, this is the best on the market right now, even compared to PC games. The cut-scenes are all rendered in-engine and the game in motion looks as good as most CGI cut scenes in other games.

Overall we enjoyed our time with The Order. We wish there was a horde mode or multiplayer to make us go back, we wish the story hadn’t fizzled out leaving so many plotlines hanging in the air, but most of all we wish we didn’t have to wait for a sequel, and that’s surely the sign of a good game. The short running time is going to be annoying to some, especially if you’ve paid £50 for a title you can happily finish in a weekend, but if you can find it at a price that’s right for you, it’s definitely an experience that’s worth your time.

Verdict 8

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