Tuesday, 24 February 2015

THE ORDER: 1886: Gamertroll Review - PS4 Exclusive

Pre-release Gamertroll has made no secret of his concern about The Order: 1886 and the overwhelmingly negative portents coming from previewers over the last 6 months.

On finally playing the game, the surprising news is that despite the fact that most of those criticisms have proved accurate, it doesn't really sour the experience as one would expect.

On the one hand you've got the biggest game sites issuing the worst AAA metascore in years and on the other you have complete disinformation about the game's length gaining heavy and unwarranted publicity.

Allow Gamertroll to clear some things up right now. As ever, there will be no plot spoilers in this review save that when playing on hard difficulty it took 8-10 hrs to complete. It was a worthwhile 8-10 hrs at that.
An incongruous exploding barrel because, reasons 

It's puzzling why the game should have been so unfairly labeled short in this manner. It's a special mystery when there are plenty of other tangible and demonstrable reasons why The Order can be berrated should you feel the need to do so. If you know anything about game design you'll see that The Order is deeply flawed in almost every traditional sense. Some have even dubbed it a PS2 game for the PS4 and it's hard to disagree when purely assessing it in a plain, tick-box fashion.

If you are picky or very exacting in your expectations of video games, perhaps you should pass this one by, but Gamertroll actually views The Order as a gaming touchstone, It might not be masterfully executed but there is something to see here. Something it would be a shame for gamers to miss. In fact, let's push the bloody boat out and say it's a showcase, a grandstanding spectacle borne of our extraordinary hobby.

Taken at only face value, there's
nothing new here. The Order is an incredibly linear jaunt that bounces along between sumptuous cutscene and set piece firefights.

There is an effort to add superficial variety in the form of searches, device activation, pushing carts, giving someone a legup and QTE (Quick-Time-Events) managed situations such as hand to hand combat sequences. There's no multiplayer and almost zero replayability factor.

Sounds sort of poor when you look at it like that doesn't it? This seems to be how most critics have passed judgement on the game which is odd because playing it reveals that it's not really bad at all.

Don't get Gamertroll wrong, there's so much wrong with The Order that for the longest time I was racking my brain how to explain why it's worth playing in the first place.

Before Gamertroll gets to those positives, it's traditional to detail some of the inherent flaws I would feel remiss not to warn gamers about.

Before long you'll notice the shonky 'run straight at you' Artificial Intelligence. Enemies lack anima and as a result feel more like targets on a shooting range. There are a wealth of daft movements that arise from the lack of AI too, not least in the way top-hatted cockneys are always strafing left and right as if mounted on casters. Their heads don't even bob up and down. Sometimes you'll encounter two or three of them rolling back and forth at a time and it's enough to make you sea sick. Now Gamertroll knows what journos at the Pax game show meant when they said It looked like a fairground shooting gallery. The worst thing about it is that enemies moving in this unrealistic manner are able to shoot the player with a casual breakdancing impunity; The sense of unfairness is deeply fucking vexing when they do take you down.

Then there's the much vaunted cover-system that can best be described as 'sometimish'. The traversal button used for dodging from cover to cover only works 30% of the time and gives no advantage over the standard option to just walk there. Often you can continue to receive the gift of being shot in the head when in hard cover, whilst at other times pressing the cover button doesn't actually engage with a piece of scenery because it has not been mapped as such. At best the cover system is fiddly but functional and for the most part it will serve you so long as you don't try anything fancy. There's some issues with the action buffers which allows for all sorts of confusing gaffs. Take for instance when Galahad (The protagonist throughout) goes down behind cover. Unlike in Gears of War where another teammate must revive you, The Order invites you to press triangle and then hammer the X to revive yourself. Cool yes? Not when your button mashing frenzy means you accidentally Press X once too often after your character starts to get up: because the first thing he'll do is vault over the cover you were using to finish up standing in a hail of bullets. You'll curse this occurrence as you'll rarely survive it.

It's not just the cover system that's a bit beardy, there is a seemingly endless supply of design gaffs to encounter in The Order. Perhaps for example you'll empty a gun in the middle of a firefight and have no choice but to dash for a discarded weapon lying on the floor. For the sake of argument you try for it but you die before you got a shot off. But you swore you pulled the trigger.. you might never notice that you died simply because for some reason you can pick up empty weapons lying on the ground. Empties. What the fuck would you wanna do that for?

Then there's the Hundreds of non-interactive doors. Gamertroll must have walked up to every one at length at the beginning in search of objects. It's disappointing and a waste of time at the pace Galahad strolls (i.e. too bloody slow). It's a situation compounded by the fact you can climb up or generally access pointless areas with no pick ups, nothing for your trouble. The game is linear in the extreme and time and again the player is punished by the discovery of nothing for investigating the slightest diversion from the intended path. Ultimately you'll realise that there's no reason to search because any objects or doors worth investigation have hud icons pop up over them from 15ft away.

There's a completely overkilling one-button QTE melee attack that's more effective against enemies than using a bloody gun, Hell, there's the lack of interesting guns come to that. Then you've got the clumsy sudden-death stealth sections which are less fun than drinking a pint of diarrhea.The list goes on and on, but it's never enough to piss over Gamertroll's enthusiasm for the overall experience.  

Gamertroll could put a critic hat on and chuck the fucking book at this game just like everybody else has, but that's not what's going to happen here. Sure, The Order is full of executional no-nos and by any conventional wisdom it would be usual to warn newcomers or casual players away from such games but that advice doesn't fit in this case.

Strangely enough, The Order makes for an excellent introduction to the pastime for new gamers, It's raw beauty and semblance of accessible variety makes for a game rich in mass appeal that less jaded players will enjoy all the more for the fact they won't be judging it against all that has gone before. So how does an uncharitable beast like Gamertroll, a 30yr veteran gamer enjoy this game without ruining it with Cynicism? That's an easy answer: Gamertroll is still in love with video games. 

When you love something like Gamertroll loves video games you will find beauty in the oddest of places. Pultritude they call it. When you look with the right eyes you will occaisionally glimpse the rainbow reflected in a pool of mucky oil. Could the hideous critical crucifixion of The Order be explained by professional game journos viewing their former hobby as a chore, a mere job? We can't speak for all of them, but we know It's certainly a factor for some.

Perhaps this is why so many fanboys have been tossing themselves into the breach on social media sites, attacking critics whilst professing their undying love for the game. After all, fanboyism is a kind of blind love is it not? Such people wouldn't know a bad game on their chosen platform if it flew out of the machine and slapped them in their capacious foreheads. It's lucky for them The Order is worth playing, should any of them stop trolling long enough to actually play it for themselves.

Commentators are so busy with their measuring tapes that they are overlooking The Order's obvious appeal. The game excels at providing immersion, it's got charisma in spades. At times amongst the grime and rotten brickwork there is a very real sense of being there and panning around rather than breaking the illusion, only cements the impression with more unique textures. 

Graphics that so readily provide such a sense of immersion are a powerful achievement indeed and absolutely worth the ticket price alone. In some quarters it has been suggested the game is nothing more than a jumped-up graphics demo but that is a fallacy. There might be a plenty of mechanical flaws in The Order but it would be doing the game a great disservice to suggest it isn't at all functional or fun to play.

This so-called 'Graphics demo' level of quality allows for unexpectedly compelling interactivity. Inspecting items and weapons is a real tactile delight, you will roll them around Galahad's palms as if they were the real artifact placed in your own hands. And there it is again: The sentiment that something shouldn't be fun on paper but is in practice. It's a sentiment written throughout this game like a message in a seaside stick of rock.

Er, is this a bad time sir?
It might not be great measured up against your typical video game, but The Order is a superb interactive experience, especially if you're willing to overlook it's transgressions. It's half film-half game. Whether you like the story featured in the film portion of the experience is relatively subjective so criticisms about it would be pretty uncharitable. Gamertroll thinks it's enough to say that he found it to be well made and suitably entertaining.

There seems to be a 'bigger they come, the harder they' fall mentality setting in amongst game journalists right now. The Order represents an exceptional effort and one can't help thinking that criticising it has been viewed as a tantalising gauntlet, A challenge that every game writer seemingly wants to attempt in the most sardonic way possible. Gamertroll was hugely entertained at the things he read this week about the game, nearly puked from laughing, so skillful was It's critical destruction. The Order has been to all intents and purposes commercially crucified, Just to see if it could be done.

Perhaps The Order is not a game that is superbly accomplished at being a game, but playing it is an event. A welcome diversion and a change of pace without the likes of which gaming would soon become stale and boring. Gamers play for lots of reasons. Escapism is one of the biggies. Here's a terrific place to take you away for 8-10 hrs. Once the credits had rolled Gamertroll thought it had been a good deal.

An important point to make about The Order's innate linearity is that there's little cause to condemn it when you consider the intention was clearly to produce a linear interactive experience from the first instance.

It's hard to discuss The Order without mentioning another game: The XB1 launch title, Ryse: Son of Rome. The Order is clearly a launch title that was lost at sea for 15 months and it stacks very well against Ryse: Both games are stuffed with QTE'S and feature equally stunning cinematic cutscenes. 16 months ago Ryse got almost as heavily criticised as The Order has been now. Upon review it was obvious that game too was harshly treated. In Gamertroll's view both games present a superb experience and are very much worth playing, but they are more accomplishments of visual excellence than anything else.

The Order does sometimes play like a bit of a clunker, but there's only one thing worse than enduring the game's flaws and that's missing out on the majesty of it's visual accomplishments. 


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