by Rob Spadafore
A lot of attention is on Sony’s new cinematic third-person shooter, “The Order: 1886.” After early disappointments like “Watchdogs” and “Destiny” failed to give validity to the new generation of console hardware, expectations heightened for the first party offering, with some anticipating the game since the announcement trailer at Sony’s E3 2013 Press Conference.
Developer Ready at Dawn crafted a beautifully detailed and gritty world to satisfy gamers who are looking for a visual stunner but failed to implement gameplay mechanics that engage the player with their dystopian vision of London.
Visually, it is the best looking console game on the market. Settings and textures are meticulously detailed and expertly rendered. Cut scenes run so seamlessly into game play that, at times, I forgot I was playing a game until an onscreen prompt reminded me to press a button.
While I marveled at the visual feat, the interactions are sometimes unnecessary or jarring. After a brief cut scene that showed the main character repel down a zeppelin, he idled along a set of metallic rafters, waiting for my queue, and leaving me with no option but to press forward on the analog stick. After a few steps along the structure, the cut scene resumed. Other times, quick-time events appear mid scene, as if the player needs to be reminded that he or she is still playing a game.
The best elements of The Order are polished, like the shooting mechanics that are simplistic but satisfying. Cover mechanics are mostly fine-tuned, and I never got bored with the array of weaponry. The game’s main character, Galahad, is gruff and a bit generic, but the supporting characters are well-crafted, and the central plot entertains despite a predictable late-act twist.
Ultimately, peculiar design choices block the player from truly inhabiting a role in the game’s universe and act as reminders of the screen and controller. During the quieter moments, items are scattered about for you to pick up and view. Reading newspaper headlines can be informative, and looking at photos evokes something deeper about the alternate history, but rolling objects like an apple or iron statue around with your virtual hand provides no satisfying feedback. Annoyingly, collectible audio logs don’t start playing over the game when picked up and force the player to access and listen to them through the main menu.
Whether because of graphical limitations or a desire for a more cinematic effect, two large black bars constantly frame the top and bottom of the screen. It limits the field of view considerably, denying players full-screened scopes of the landscapes. Button prompts appear both in and out of cut scenes, pulling attention away from the wonderful action and placing it on the controller.
Gamers were hoping for an experience that truly felt ‘next-gen.’ What “The Order” delivers is a graphical powerhouse whose design and vision were rooted in the past: the ideal game a decade too late. Despite an engaging story and wondrous graphics, “The Order: 1886,” at full price, is hard to recommend.