THE ORDER: 1886
Publisher SCE Developer Ready At Dawn Format PS4 Release February 2015
Ah, so that’s why they did it. Much has been made of Ready At Dawn’s decision to present The Order:
1886 in a bordered 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Yet by running at what is effectively 1920x800 (the image is technically 1080p with 140 lines of black at the top and bottom of the screen), PS4 need only draw a piffling 1,536,000 pixels at once, 25 per cent fewer than if it were running at an HDTV’s native resolution. The result is that The
Order: 1886 was among the prettiest games at E3.
It was also one of the dullest. Ready At Dawn’s cinematic aspirations are plain to see in more than just this brief playable demo’s aspect ratio, or even its film grain presentation. Game director Dana Jan infamously put the studio’s priorities in stark context (“gameplay is something that... it’s a game, we make games, we can’t get around it”) and the preference for spectacle over systems is obvious.
The sight of a man getting shot, you see, is a bit boring. Someone points, and there’s a sound, and someone else falls over. That’s not good enough for Ready At Dawn, which has instead based its heavily Gears
Of War- inspired cover shooter on the sight of top-hatted steampunk Victorian bandits being burned alive.
When the demo begins, we take cover behind a pillar under attack from some enemies across the street. Play traditionally – aim down the sights, line up a headshot and squeeze R2 to fire – and your quarry falls over as you’d expect, but is soon back on his feet. All you’ve fired is a cloud of thermite dust. R1 fires a flare that sets the cloud, and those nearby, on fire. It certainly looks marvellous, a bright flare of reds and oranges fizzing with particle sparks and soundtracked by the cockney screams of the roasting, but it quickly grows repetitive and is quite brainless. It’s even more basic when you realise that by reversing the process and firing the flare before the thermite, there’s not even any need for precision aiming. Just lodge the flare in the scenery and watch the fireworks.
The demo has slightly more to offer, and all of it feels drably familiar. We drag a downed ally indoors from a cobbled street, using our free hand to fend off pursuers with a pistol. Once inside, we pointlessly pick up and rotate a map before wandering a room’s four walls in search of a QTE prompt. The technology’s there, and a short demo gives no indication of whether Ready At Dawn is the storyteller it claims to be, but the studio’s priorities are plainly, depressingly evident.
Isabeau D’Argyll made for a refreshing sight at an E3 dominated by debate over gender balance. Her role in the demo was minimal, sadly