The Order: 1886, A third-person shooter set in a steampunk vision of Victorian England

The word ‘cinematic’ has had an awkward relationship with videogames since it was first used as an adjective in relation to them.  Any kind of videogame description that relies on language developed for another medium is doomed to failure, particularly when trying to translate it universally across both passive and interactive entertainment forms. Videogames are not movies and, therefore, can never hope to be truly ‘cinematic’ in the truest sense of the word.

Sadly, predictably, tragically, The Order: 1886 shows little sign of disproving this reality. By concentrating so heavily on mimicking the beats and communication techniques of film, it feels as though developer Ready At Dawn would rather be working out of Universal Studio’s famed film sets than their own Californian studio. This filmic focus leaves The Order in something of a land of limbo; the interaction prevents it from flowing like a movie, while the fiercely unidirectional design prevents it from playing like much of a game.

Our latest demo starts enjoyably enough, though, our grey/blue-jacketed heroes abseiling down the side of a Zeppelin in what is a visual feast of gluttonous proportions. Genuinely, the quality of the graphics is beyond reproach this is one of the most impressive games ever conceived at a visual level, such effort presumably being the result of its cinematic ambitions.

Crucially, this abseiling moment is not a simple cut-scene. It’s interactive… somewhat. Holding down on the analogue stick moves Galahad, the hero, slowly down the canvassed side of the airship. When you reach a certain point along its hull you need to press X to jump to a lower level, thereafter embarking on another session of holding the analogue stick as Galahad chats to his companions.

It’s shallow, but this slight interaction does act to draw you into the world and engage you more snugly in the characters’ actions. The problem is that the ‘real’ game is not all that muchmore interactive, and when it tries to be it tends to fall embarrassingly flat.
“ We don’t want to recreate history with The Order, we want  to  twist  it
A stealth section some minutes later is so rigid that it feels as though you’re playing on rails, the movements of enemies meaning 1) it’s seemingly impossible to fail and 2) there’s never any choice about where to move. This might not be trying to be an open-world, choice-heavy experience, but to control your every action in such a heavy-handed manner immediately makes you question what, if any, impact you’re having on the onscreen events.

When you’re given freer rein in a gallery shooting section later in the demo Galahad shooting down on enemies from a balcony the AI is currently so inept that you feel guilty for hurting them. In their current state, they have no chance whatsoever of being able to defeat anyone that’s ever held a water pistol, let alone shot one.

Enemies run blindly, making them an easy target. Enemies pop out of cover and stay there for agonisingly long periods of time, making them an easy target. They can’t even aim well enough to shoot you when you yourself leave the safety of cover, meaning it’s okay to become an easy target yourself. The last point might be designed as some clever parody on evil movie grunts always being a terrible shot (a la James Bond), but such references don’t work when you’re supposed to feel challenged.

Generally this is where we’d point out that The Order is a work in progress and that we hope things will be different come launch day, but with launch day fast approaching there’s little time left to fix things.

Despite that, we’ve still got out fingers crossed that our dislike of the demo was merely the result of Sony/Ready At Dawn making a bad decision in selecting which part of the game to show us. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it would be a genuine shame to see these gorgeous visuals wasted on something so apparently superficial.

Tightly Controlled Moments of melee action are common, playing out using quick-time events in which you must hit the relevant button within a short time limit. It’s possible to miss a button input without failing during longer QTE scenes, the action simply playing out differently from if you’d perfected every test of your reactions.

Less welcome is the fact that stealth kills require you to engage in a short QTE. When you approach an enemy from behind, you must quickly hit the button that pops up on the screen. Failing to do so results in instant death, further cementing the fact that there really is only one way to succeed in each of The Order’s moments.

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