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

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