Friday, 9 January 2015

The Order 1886: Hands on PS4 Preview

The Order 1886: Hands on PS4 Preview

Platform: PS4
Released by Santa Monica Studios

It's a risky move showcasing out of context just one portion of a game that's hotly anticipated.

But The Order 1886 is one of the big titles for the first quarter of 2014 (due out in February) and it's fair to say there's a degree of expectation on the game.

Set in an alternate Victorian London where knights keep a watchful eye over the world, this preview runs for about an hour and sees the knights storming an airship, as well as showcasing some of the other gameplay elements.

Firstly, when the preview starts, the thing you notice most is how incredibly cinematic it looks. Running at 30FPS, the game looks like a HD movie and feels dramatic and more like a film than anything else you've seen recently. It's a trait that runs through the preview with cut scenes looking more incredible than anything else recently on the PS4 - proof if needed that visually this game will strike more than a chord when it's played.

The airship takeover and setting makes The Order 1886 feel like it's from Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow, with steampunk ethos sloshed deeply into the mix. Certainly as you rappel down the side of the airship, it becomes clear that the game's out to impress with the visuals. Definition of the Knights is more than clear; with the whole thing looking like a performance capture piece of acting rather than a game design element.

Which is perhaps a good thing, as the rest of the game so far, doesn't exactly look to offer anything more than we've seen before.

Once you're in the airship, it's about stealth as you negotiate your way to the cockpit. Smartly the game didn't offer a map to help on this task - and while that's fun to negotiate your way through the labyrinthine corridors below (there's not too many, so don't panic) I did like the idea that this was new territory so wouldn't be mapped. Less successful though is the stealth side, with taking cover (done by pressing the X button) being a bit hit and miss, leading to occasionally being spotted and having to restart. It's a frustration, and perhaps in the full game, there will be some tweaking or some indication of when cover is available and when not.

When into the cockpit, it's a series of Quick Time Events to deal with combat; again with the cutscenes and animation taking precedence over the gaming itself (Beyond Two Souls suffered quite heavily from this last year, with the over-reliance crippling the gameplay to a degree). Having dispatched those guys, it's back to a ballroom for a shoot-out.

On the way over to this location, I was struck by how constrained you are to head into other areas; leaving the cockpit, I wanted to negotiate the empty seats of the passengers and look out of the windows, but couldn't stray from the marked path. It's not exactly open world here.

In the final section, you had access to some of the more normal guns you'd associate with a shooter, which is perhaps a shame given that half of the hook of The Order 1886 is a steampunk alt- London where tech is more prevalent. The section concentrates on you needing to identify rebels on the airship through the cross hairs of a sniper gun and to liaise with your colleagues before taking them out and erupting into all guns blazing. The idea of liaising is a clever one, a touch that gives it more of a feel of a world within and that you're part of a team, although when push comes to shove, you're still on your own taking them down.

As an overall experience, The Order 1886 preview level has left me relatively muted; there are elements that I really loved (the look being the major one) and others which didn't (the constraints); but as I say, taking one section from the game, out of context, with no rapport or relationship built with your character is always a major risk. I'm still intrigued to see what The Order 1886 will do in February to allay my fears - it's more a case of piqued curiosity but I'm confident that Santa Monica Studio will be able to present something that proves to be one of 2015's major first quarter highlights for the PS4.

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