The Order: 1886 sure is, uh, cinematic

Not saying we should 86 this order, but, hoping there’s more to it

I finally played The Order: 1886, Ready at Dawn’s upcoming PS4, monster-filled, alternate-London-history third-person shooter here at Paris Games Week.

I still really want to like it. I like a lot of things about it. Well, mainly its aesthetic, both the technical marvel and the filmic look. But I was kind of bored playing the game. Maybe it didn’t help I lacked story context, starting somewhere a few chapters in. There was no emotional manipulation for me to care about our squad making our way to one of our members who had been pinned downed, a feat I only realized we were doing after I did it.

And I felt no tinge of sadness for the other squad member that dies–good ole What’shisname–after a little scene where you drag his bleeding-out-body into cover, firing a pistol at a few swarms of enemies on the roof.

There’s also a strange bit of inaction in the room when cutscenes finally end and you’re asked to find a way out. I was drawn first to a paper at the bar, which had a numbered map, and, if you press to flip to the backside, names, some of them crossed out. It didn’t prompt anything, like a quest, or a cutscene. Context-less, maybe it’s just a piece of environmental story-telling referring to early events.

Maybe it’s a clue, though, an important piece of info that an interactive, attentive player can use somewhere down the line. That’d be nice, at least.

Then I walked around the small room, over the dead body, several times trying to figure out how to get out before a button prompt started a cutscene wherein we thermite burn through a giant metal stove or something that was (kind of) blocking the door (but probably could’ve just been moved by four people?).

Maybe something this cinematic and story-driven just needs is to be played in full. And only once. Maybe vertical slices aren’t helpful. I liked the weapon you’re given. It shoots out clouds of thermite which you then fire flares at to ignite. It was fun to watch the fire come to life in an instant and spread, though never out of control, because this is a tailored experience.

Sometimes judging the distance of these clouds was tough, though it didn’t matter. I don’t know if the cover-based shooting gallery was easy because it’s a public demo meant for people to have a good time with or because it is typical and easy, serving to get you to the next set piece.

Quickly I changed my tactics and fired flare first, then thermite cloud. I tried to brain people with flares and then ignite their friends. Towards the end of the short demo I gave up on the shooting gallery, left cover, and just danced circles in the courtyard spitting fire indeterminately. That isn’t what the game wants, no doubt, but I still didn’t come close to dying, and it was a bit more amusing.

Steven Hansen