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The Order 1886 Review

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Wait, what?  A modern review?!? Yes, it’s true, we will from time to time be reviewing new games.  It’s not because we got review copies, because we didn’t in this case, and it’s not because we’re changing focus from retro gaming either.  We just wanted an outlet to write reviews on the modern games that we play and frankly, some of the games that were releasing when GH101 started might now be considered retro.  Keep in mind that the site, articles, podcast, and videos will remain focused largely on retro gaming.  

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The Order 1886 is that vapid leggy blonde at the bar.  It’s gorgeous to look at and consistently takes your mind off of any other gripes you may have, but as time goes on you find yourself less and less tolerant of its flaws – keep in mind I’m referring to the game and not the blonde as “it”.  Not only that, but I’m not particularly fond of the game that The Order 1886 is, which is a cover-based shooter, and it seemed to me that Sony went aggressively out of its way to not describe the game as any more than a cinematic experience.  After its brief campaign that seems like a half-finished story you’re left not really wanting more, just hoping that the game evolves in its planned sequel, if we ever get one.  That’s not to say there aren’t aspects to like about the game, but at its core The Order 1886 can’t remain consistent in gameplay type or quality.

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This screenshot alone impresses with it’s photo-realistic nature.

Before release the big gripe was this cinematic style, including the usual nagging of the black bars that The Evil Within suffered from and didn’t ultimately matter, and the fear that it is nothing more than a series of quick-time events (QTEs).  I find none of that to be true.  This title is a technical feat that dazzled me from the onset with how great the graphics and atmosphere looked, especially since I tend to do most of my top end gaming on a stronger PC.  When you break down all the finer tech points, which I bow out to Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry who appears to be unrivaled in technical analysis and can be found here, the change from full 1080p resolution to the 1920×800 comes the shift from regular anti-aliasing (AA) to 4x multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) among other tweaks and the results are stunning.  In fact, from what I can tell some of the tricks that developer Ready At Dawn’s new engine creates can be just as taxing on the graphics processor (GPU), if not moreso, but also gives Sony a hell of a kickstart in truly impressive first-party titles.  Couple this with the aggressive attention to detail in recreating the Victorian Era of England and both the tech and aesthetics blend to what is undoubtedly one of the best looking games I have ever played.  Now if only someone in the producer’s chair had spent even a fraction of that time on the gameplay we would have a complete package.

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A common QTE in action

Other gripes I heard that to me seemed almost unnoticeable were the focus on a cinematic experience, QTEs, and the game’s length.  You are reading a review from someone who adores full motion video games (FMV) and I honestly cannot tell where that horrendous genre and this game are supposed to meet in commonality.  This game doesn’t feel like it’s particularly cinematic in the least, save for visual presentation, and unlike other titles that could easily be watched like a movie such as any Quantic Dream title or even Asura’s Wrath, this game would at times be pretty boring to watch.  Unless you prefer to watch other people play games – something I in full disclosure both watch and cater to on this site – a non-gamer mainstream watcher would never sit through it.  While there are plenty of context-sensitive button presses that I guess could quality as QTEs, they aren’t as widespread as I had imagined and definitely don’t override any attempts at gameplay in scenarios.  Sure, they come up and they are quite horrid in implementation, but the gameplay elements suffer an identical fate so there’s no need to isolate them as unique quips.  I will say that the button presses being arbitrary, never changing as you repeat sequences, and having random locations on the screen seems like a step backward from the fantastic four corner methodology used in Ready At Dawn’s previous two God of War games and are even oddly enough faithfully recreated in the final battle of this game.  Finally onto the biggest topic the web could discuss prior to the game’s release: how long it is.  I’ve heard five hours, I’ve heard six hours, and my final clock time was just over the six hour mark without any intentional rushes to the end, so it would appear that this is a game that features a single player only component with little replay value that you can beat in one or two sittings.  Whether or not that’s of value to you remains solely in the hands of the purchaser – although I feel safe in assuming most will not find the $60 price tag worthwhile – but rest assured this game gains nothing in being even one chapter longer.  That said I am also sorry to say that I see little replay value in this game, even to rope in the handful of collectibles I missed the first time through.  I heard that initially the game was broken down into 24 chapters, of which only 16 made it into the final cut and a fourth of those feature no gameplay whatsoever, but if it was going to be more blathering about with clumsy controls on an unfair battlefield then Sony and Ready At Dawn can keep them because I have no desire to play more of that.  We also had better not see them become part of the DLC unless some serious gamplay tweaks accompany these new chapters.

This is predominantly what you'll be doing.

This is predominantly what you’ll be doing.

Beyond those consistent gripes I’m shocked more people aren’t complaining about the clear and inherent flaws The Order 1886 suffers in being the game it wants to be.  Surely members of Ready At Dawn are gamers and surely they’ve played a cover-based shooter or two, like perhaps Gears At War, but you wouldn’t know it from playing the game.  When you feature cover in a cover-based shooter it implies a safe area, at least from direct oncoming gunfire, which gives way to the “stop and pop” nickname for the genre and is completely broken in this title.  You can be blasted by shotgun fire through the walls and of course the stronger and harder enemies have weapons that bypass your cover altogether.  There are destructible cover points, which are underutilized compared to the amount of time and effort spent trying to make the cover in the game useless.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  If you didn’t want a cover-based shooter then why make one?  If you did want a cover-based shooter then at least give us the tools to combat each new enemy type that nulls that cover, otherwise you’re just breaking your own rules in a futile attempt to make things seem harder as the game progresses.  Don’t even get me started on how annoying this all becomes when the game starts spawning enemies from all sides of the map and literally makes the cover useless.  These are all rules that developers like Epic identified and properly implemented over the course of an entire trilogy years ago so it’s not like Ready At Dawn didn’t have a simple road map to follow.

The brawling sequences, while rare, are some of the best implemented for this title.

The brawling sequences, while rare, are some of the best implemented for this title.

While some may consider the story to be throwaway I found it quite entertaining.  Sure, there are some interesting points, technology, and medicine used in the game that are quite simply not explained but I’m in a video game world and have decided I won’t nitpick this particular title just for the sake of doing so.  As a result the game will switch from cover-based shooter to other types of gameplay like stealth, brawling, or just plain watching a cutscene.  Cutscenes aside, this is yet another place where you would think perhaps the team had played one of the many great stealth titles available to the Playstation platform including a particularly expensive demo that released last year.  Nope, it’s all thrown away and instead of giving you a virtual sandbox to navigate in order to perform your stealthy duties, you discover after several failed attempts that the game has a blocking in mind for you to follow and if you diverge from that for even a handful of seconds it will mean your discovery and immediate death.  Just like so many other parts of this game, the developers had an idea of where you should go and how you should proceed and if you do not follow that formula you are definitely not journeying the path of least resistance.  There are also sequences where you will fight with the already revealed werewolves (half-breeds for this title) that are just terrible.  Whenever a sequence with these pesky critters ensues, and it is rare, you will be forced to journey a room while they descend upon you from all corners of the map.  What I chose to do, and what I suspect most will as well, is back myself into a corner and try to watch the 2-3 points that they could be coming from.  That’s not always how it works out and the window of opportunity to both shoot and dodge these beasts is scant at best with not the most reactionary controls and just makes for a miserable experience.  You’ll be smacked around from the sidelines on characters you don’t even see, attacked mid-animation while taking out another creature (oh yeah, those are in the brunt of the game as well in abundance), and get generally smacked around in an emulation of how unfair this fight would be if it happened to an actual human.  That may be good for capturing the essence of reality, but it’s just another example of how Ready At Dawn likes to consistently break its own rules, make you feel pathetic, and then expecting you to thank them for it.

Another amazing screenshot to show off the visuals.

Another amazing screenshot to show off the visuals.

I wish I had better things to say about The Order 1886 because the moment I saw its announce trailer at E3 2013 I could not wait to get my hands on it.  Couple that with the pedigree I had already seen from Ready At Dawn and I was sure this game would deliver a fantastic experience.  What I can say is that it is a testament to strong game engines, aesthetics, and a clear step forward for this console generation, but somewhere in there Ready At Dawn and Sony forgot they should release a game that is as fun to play as it is to look at.  It’s not the cinematic decisions, the QTEs, or even the game’s short length that makes it a disappointment, it’s the utter lack of decent gameplay.  You become desensitized to it by the end of the game and I hadn’t even noticed until my wife walked into the room and said something.  She saw me running up an empty stairwell and suddenly two guys hidden behind walls popped out as I reached the top and shot me instantly dead.  She asked me, “did you know those guys were there?”  I responded that I didn’t.  She said it didn’t seem fair.  I shrugged and said that stuff like this happens a lot in this game.  She said the way I casually discarded it proved that – this is very counter to my normal response to such a cheap death – and then asked me how that was any fun.  Good question.

Final Score: 2 out of 5   (review policy)

This game was not provided as a review copy.  A retail copy was rented and the game was completed in approximately 6 1/2 hours with an additional 90 minutes given to replay events and explore the additional content after the game concludes, which is almost nothing.  This game is a Playstation 4 exclusive available at retail and digitally on the PSN store for an MSRP of $59.99.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 23, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Posted in PS4, Reviews

Tagged with , ,

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