Well that took a little while didn’t it? Sony’s current-gen console has now finally gotten its very own Ryse: Son of Rome, for better or worse. An eye-searingly extravagant showcase of the console’s graphical processing muscle, The Order: 1886 paints a deliciously detailed world that is simply deserving of a far better and more ambitious game. As it is, the whole affair is terribly hobbled by archaic cover shooter gameplay, poor AI, a baffling over-reliance on QTE’s and a staggering lack of replayability.
Simply put, developer Ready at Dawn’s inaugural foray on Sony’s muscular PlayStation 4 hardware is a no-frills cover shooter with visual style to spare. A special mention though must go to the setting; an atmospheric combination of late 19th century Victorian London permeated with steampunk overtones, the world that The Order: 1886 fashions around the player proves to be an enticingly attractive place to stumble about in.
When the developer isn’t trying to sex up your eyes with hyper-detailed depictions of cobbled Whitechapel streets, photo-realistic shopfronts and ornately decorated halls, it attempts to caress your ocular nerves with massively intricate and intimate inspections of the many items contained within the gameworld. From firearms to incidental objects such as bottles and newspapers that can be maneuvered about the screen for perusal, it’s abundantly clear that Ready at Dawn want you to look at and drown in your drool over their meticulous rendering of such creations.
The character models look absolutely exceptional also, with masses of detail giving way to realistic looking scars, textured wrinkles, non-crap looking hair and a whole host of other minor inflections that beg the player to soak in each and every little detail. The various levels provide immense spectacle too; from a catastrophic firefight aboard a huge airship to a running gun battle through the streets of Mayfair, it’s fair to say that The Order: 1886 doesn’t skimp on cinematic extravagance.
Basically, if after an hour of play you don’t believe that The Order: 1886 is easily one of the best looking videogames available. console, PC or otherwise, then you need your sort your eyes out and kick your fanboyism problem in the balls.
Elsewhere in terms of plot, The Order: 1886 actually spins a fairly decent, if somewhat predictable yarn with players thrown into the game’s titular Illuminati-style faction as it comes into conflict with rebels and Half-Breed monsters while dealing with treachery within. Along the way there are betrayals, cloaked figures, unexpected alliances and token plot-twists, yet while most of it is quite easy to see coming a mile off, it still remains entertaining all the same and trundles along at a briskly satisfying pace.
Away from the sumptuous setting and involving plot however, the game sadly fails to replicate such creative vigor in its gameplay systems.
A third-person cover-shooter that is remarkably ho-hum in its execution and which adds nothing new to the formula, The Order: 1886 just feels painfully dated and seems to have largely ignored the strides made in the genre since Microsoft’s Gears of War stomped onto the last-gen console scene back in 2006. There’s no active reload, characters can feel sluggish in battle and perhaps most egregious of all, the enemy are all as dumb as a bag of bricks. Quite happy to lurk around cover with appendages blatantly poking out which beg to be blasted, the majority of enemy goons can be dispatched with little effort as they utterly lack the intelligence to switch cover effectively while flanking the player.
Another area where the game fails to inspire is in the fact that it feels the need to stuff crappy token stealth, QTE-loving sections into the experience.
See, I get the fact that QTE’s are typically put in place to allow the player to participate in events in ways that the game engine wouldn’t normally allow and in most cases I can tolerate them, but to see such contrivances in regular gameplay tropes that really doesn’t require them is simply baffling. For instance, rather than just sneaking up behind a chap and gutting him with a single button, you enter a QTE sequence each time which requires you to time a button press to trigger the requisite ‘you win’ canned animation. If you fail though, he simply turns around and insta-kills you and that’s that.
There’s just no need for it when other games just sidestep all that QTE bollocks in the first place and let you do all that with regular command inputs.
Speaking of QTE’s, it seems that the developer has cut a rather noticeable corner in one instance. Duplicating the animations from a QTE fight glimpsed in chapter four for use in the game’s final battle, the practice is damningly indicative of a game that needed longer in the oven. A lot longer.
Where the game does one thing properly right however, is in the weapons themselves. A satisfying mix of regular period firearms and more exotic steampunk creations, each of the guns available to the player feels meaty when employed in combat with the goon-immolating Thermite Gun proving to be a particular favorite early on.
As to other stuff to get up into The Order: 1886, there really isn’t much at all to distract you from the game’s modus operandi. When you’re not firing hot lead into people’s cakeholes, you’re either walking about picking up audio recordings that provide a little bit of plot exposition or just trotting about soaking in all the pretty pixels. That’s it. There’s no multiplayer, no horde-type mode, no DLC, nothing, nada, zlich. Literally, the only reason you might return once you’ve put in your eight to ten hours and beaten the main game, is to pick up the trophies that you might have missed the first time through.
As it is, The Order: 1886 fills that base need to play something pretty and dumb, much like how watching 80’s Arnie action movies fulfills a similar desire for movie aficionados and if you’re of that persuasion, then feel free to add one or two points to the score below. Outside of that, Ready At Dawn’s inaugural PlayStation 4 effort proves to be an ostensibly shallow one that otherwise fails to parlay its awe-inspiring veneer into something greater than an orgy of pixel shaders.
The Order: 1886 is available to purchase right now exclusively on PlayStation 4.
A copy of this game was independently purchased by the reviewer.