The start of 2015 has been pretty quite in the world of blockbuster game releases and to be honest it’s not the worst thing in the world as I’ve finally had a bit of time to catch up on all those indie games that have been cluttering up my PS4 home screen. As I jump to my final clone in ‘The Swapper’ and finally understand what all the fuss has been about with ‘Grim Fandango’, my itch to dive into something that really pushes my PS4 to the limit has become nigh on unbearable. Fortunately The Order: 1886, a game which PS4 fans have been waiting for for the best part of a year, is about to drop and I was lucky enough to attend a preview event Friday and play through a few sections of the final product.
The event, held in Shoreditch’s Rich Mix cinema (I had to fight my way past many a hipster beard to get there) started with a Q&A session with the game’s creative director Ru Weerasuriya who showed off 1886’s visuals and spoke at length about the plot. Let me tell you now that if I were a developer at Ready At Dawn, I would send Ru to personally meet every potential customer because the man’s passion for his game is infectious and he spoke so earnestly about the creative process that you want to buy the game just to support his artistry (plus he said one of his biggest gaming inspirations was Metal Gear Solid which is an immediate win for me). The Order is undoubtedly an absolute graphical feast and i’d go so far to say it’s the prettiest thing I’ve seen on a console so far. Ru talked about how important it was to get the cinematic atmosphere of the game just right and with that in mind he didn’t want there to be a graphical difference between cutscene and gameplay and it’s an ambition the dev team has very much achieved. You slip in and out of physically playing the game seamlessly and are constantly made to feel involved in what’s happening.
Another big point to come out of the Q&A was the game’s lack of multiplayer. Ru was keen to stress just how important the story of the game was to the team at Ready At Dawn, the entire mythology of The Order‘s universe having evolved over the last eight years. The developers wanted to give the player a pure, carefully crafted, story driven experience; something they felt they wouldn’t be able to achieve through mulitplayer so they focused purely on the single player campaign. It is a bit of a shame as the game seems such a natural fit for co-op multiplayer (something that is sorely lacking in gaming these days) but I’d rather they spend time and resources making the campaign as polished as possible rather than tack on a second rate multiplayer for the sake of it. Maybe it’s something to look forward to in the sequels.
The story itself, though it seems vapid and silly initially (modern day Arthurian knights fighting werewolves in a broody Victorian London) actually has a bit of depth to it. Ru was at pains to point out the amount of research that went into creating an authentic Victorian London that felt realistic to wander through before adding the layers of fantasy and mythology. The effort put into this aspect of the game seems to have paid off royally because the demos on display were permeated by a murky, palpable atmosphere…I could almost smell the sewers of Victorian London. It should be stressed that this game is a corridor-style cover-based shooter so we won’t be getting expansive environments to explore. This will hopefully mean that the level of detail on the sections we do work our way through is especially intricate throughout the campaign. From what I saw, the visuals are complimented by excellent motion capture and voice acting and the bits of the story that were revealed were enticing enough to make me want to explore the world further. This is clearly going to be the first step on a much longer journey and fortunately the setting is broad enough to keep adding new, and more interesting elements. Just imagine competing against Jack The Ripper or calling on Sherlock Holmes to help you out in future instalments.
So the big question is how does the game actually play? Well, after the lengthy Q&A I was allowed into the test room where two levels were available to try out: a battle along the length of Westminster Bridge and a fight on a floating airship. The good news is the game’s solid and I had a lot of fun getting lost in the levels I was allowed to try out. The cover based shooting reminds me of Uncharted or Gears Of War (which is no bad thing) and after a shaky start getting used to the controls they were intuitive enough to really start to get stuck into waves of bad guys. The enemies are clever enough to pose a challenge and you do have to approach each battle with a plan of action rather than go in all guns blazing. A nice addition is a sort of ‘bullet’ time button that you can use once a meter charges up and which slows time allowing you to execute stylish take downs. Timing the press of this button as an enemy draws a grenade and precisely shooting it out of your antagonists’ hand, blowing him and all his mates up is satisfying to say the least.
A slight issue with the game lies with the much hyped Tesla weaponry, an electrical arsenal based on the experiments of Nicola Tesla. The Arc Gun has been anticipated for a long time and I got to wield it on Westminster bridge but was ultimately disappointed about how it felt to use. The game lacks a certain tangible feedback with its weaponry that titles such as Call of Duty or Killzone achieve so well. Sure, those are FPSs so we’re talking about a different kettle of fish but I really did expect a bit more pomp and pageantry when I fired my Arc Gun. This disappointment meant that the bridge level felt a bit flat to me but I found the airship a lot more satisfying as I had a rifle I was far more comfortable with. Your character’s load out will be important here. Another worry is that the graphics are so good, down to the way clothing realistically wraps around the characters’s limbs, that one is left to wonder if any gameplay elements have been sacrificed to keep the game looking so good. Certain sections of the levels I played felt a bit empty of enemies (and I did experience a teeny bit of slowdown) particularly on Westminster Bridge. Hopefully this was an anomaly of the demos rather than a constant throughout the game.
In the end, this was a solid, very fun game to get lost in and one I’ll definitely be buying on the 20th of February when it’s released. From what I tried it may not be as genre defining as Gears of War, but it’s a still a very fun play and a story that will captivate a large audience. The Order: 1886 is the first step of a new franchise, and a worthy one at that. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the series.
The Order: 1886 will be released on Playstation 4 come February 20th 2015