If you’ve played a video game shooter recently, you probably locked and loaded behind the bullet-spraying skills of a super-soldier, space marine, or some zombie-hating hero tasked with saving the world, galaxy, or suburbs. And while The Order: 1886 – the hotly-anticipated PlayStation 4 exclusive – also packs plenty of opportunities to empty ammo clips and pile corpses high, its fresh take on the genre aims to engage the imagination as much as the trigger finger.
Crazy-ambitious and highly cinematic, The Order presents an intriguing mash-up of alternate history, Arthurian legend, and Victorian-era London; toss in some supernatural baddies, an arsenal of steampunk-y weapons, charming Brit accents, and lots of epic facial hair, and the interactive action-adventure almost looks like a better fit for a summer blockbuster or high concept TV drama than a video game.
Based on my recent hands-on demonstration, however, I’m happy it’s landed in the latter category. (Not that I wouldn’t love to see J.J. Abrams adapt The Order into something all-kinds-of-awesome at a later date.) Unfolding in the game’s third chapter – set in London’s Whitechapel district – my demo put me in the boots of Galahad, one of the titular organization’s “knights” and the title’s main protagonist.
More importantly, the brief play session placed me behind the hero’s Thermite Rifle. Sporting a primary and secondary fire mode, the hand-cannon follows a blast of aluminum iron oxide pellets with a well-placed flare; the latter ignites the former, allowing players to cook their enemies extra crispy. When not directly barbecuing bad guys, more strategy-minded marksman can use the dual-shot death-dealer to draw targets from cover by shooting above them and letting a literal firestorm rain down on their hiding spot. On top of reducing targets to soot, Galahad’s weapon of choice features some slick effects; from the cough-inducing cloud triggered by the initial blast of pellets to the realistic sparks-to-fireball transformation of the payload, it’s clear The Order’s presentation takes full advantage of all those horses beneath the PS4’s hood.
In addition to introducing me to my new favorite fictional weapon, the game gave me a taste of the alt-universe’s fabled “Blackwater;” called a “blessing and a curse” by the game’s Creative Director Ru Weerasuriya, the mysterious substance hangs in vials around the heroes’ necks. During my demo, one of Galahad’s men took a bullet to the neck before healing the nasty gash with a swig of the murky nectar. While clearly better than a Band-Aid and a squirt of Bactine, the Blackwater – which can also trigger a time-slowing sixth sense – apparently robs its users of their humanity even as it extends their lives.
This mystery and many others were left unaddressed during my time behind the controller. I was able to unleash hell on plenty of human “rebels,” but the title’s werewolf-like “half-breeds” – last seen in the game’s reveal trailer nearly a year ago – were nowhere in sight. Beyond the basic set-up, deep-diving details on story, characters, and setting are as scarce as that life-giving liquid carried by Galahad’s crew.
Still, based on my short-but-sweet play time and the project’s promising, story-focused, character-driven, history-meets-mythology take, The Order has the potential to join the ranks of other PlayStation-exclsuive properties such as Uncharted and God of War when it hits in early 2015.