You know, I could swear I was just talking about this, and yet here we are again with the massive f***ing borders at the top and bottom of the screen? Seriously, developers, what the hell? Our screens are already wide, you don’t need to make them wider!
Sorry. I came a little unglued there, but this has happened too soon after The Evil Within, another highly-anticipated game with massive borders cutting off the top and bottom of the viewable area. And while I don’t think two incidents equal a trend, I’m worried that a third offense from another AAA title could give all developers the deviant notion that they can get away with it too and… you know where it will lead.
You think I’m making too much of it? Just look at the several types of cancers that have spread through modern gaming: quick-time events, regenerating health, fiddly cover mechanics, two weapon slots… all of which are in this game too, come to think of it. By now you’re probably thinking I’ve basically staked The Order‘s bollocks to the block and am in the process of sharpening my axe to do what needs to be done – but hold your horses there, I’ve actually got a fair bit to say about this one.
I’ll admit, I had low expectations for The Order, based on the few moments of preview footage I glimpsed while shooting the breeze with my friends in my local game store. It looked like it would be nothing more than a straightforward scripted-shooter sightseeing tour – and the game is exactly that. But having completed it on the hardest difficulty setting, I find myself less indifferent to it than I expected to be.
“Despite having such a creative setting, the weapons are a bit disappointing…”
Almost everything good I have to say about it relates to the story and the setting, which is very interesting and appealing to me. As the title suggests, the game’s story is set in 1886 London, but with some alternate history differences in play. Turns out that King Arthur founded an order of knights to protect humanity from werewolves, vampires and other beasties, and they used a mysterious elixir called Blackwater to recover from deadly wounds. This Blackwater also makes them incredibly long-lived – in fact, you actually play as Sir Galahad, who occasionally mentions how things were in the ancient past without going into too much detail.
Anyway, Galahad and his companions start out investigating some rebel activity in the notorious area of Whitechapel, which leads them to discover dark intrigues and conspiracies and stuff. It turns out that, shock-gasp, someone at the head of the Order is involved and the government is corrupt – oh come on! That’s not a spoiler. I’d be more surprised if the Order and the British government didn’t turn out to be crooked.
The story also does something very naughty, in that it doesn’t resolve the main story thread. It’s almost like the game’s writer got overly involved in a subplot and forgot to go back. When the credits roll, you’ll be wondering, “Um, yeah, what about the big bad guy – you know, Jack the Ripper? We took down one of his henchmen, which is cool and all, but weren’t we after Jack?” Yes, Jack the Ripper, he’s mentioned in the game too. In fact, a great deal of events and people from the late 1800s are referenced in this story, including the technology of Nikola Tesla, because which game doesn’t he appear in these days? And yes, I know it’s weird that I’m bashing the story when I just said it was one of the better things about the game, but the setting and the characters are really cool. I do hope we get to see more of them, provided that the developers fix the game’s problems, which I’ll get into now.
The game is basically a linear succession of shooting galleries broken up by walky-talky bits and cut-scenes. The stages themselves are linear as hell and you can only hold two weapons and a few grenades at a time – but there’s usually only a couple of weapon types available in an area anyway. That aside, there’s really nothing wrong with the mechanics. It’s a highly polished stop-‘n’-pop shooter at least, and very, very challenging on the higher difficulties. Most of the time you’ll be fighting stock standard gunmen, but occasionally an armoured bastard carrying heavy weapons will come out, and they can be a problem if you don’t deal with them straight away. There are also some bits where you fight werewolf-y foes, who’re quite quick and difficult to shoot – and you have to finish them off with your knife when they’re down, or they’ll regenerate.
“…a great deal of events and people from the late 1800s are referenced in this story, including the technology of Nikola Tesla…”
Despite having such a creative setting, the weapons are a bit disappointing. Pistols, machine pistols, assault rifles and sniper rifles seem to be the mainstays, although there are two weapons that stand out. The first is the clichéd Tesla Cannon, which damn-near vaporises enemies with an electric arc, and the second is a Thermite Cannon, which sprays flammable chaff which you then ignite with the secondary trigger. The game’s grenades are particularly crappy. You have to equip them, which takes a few seconds, and they take way too long to detonate for the small radius they have. It’s odd the developers left out the one good modern-shooter trope: the dedicated “throw grenade” button.
Occasionally you get to play with two other toys Tesla provides you, a lock-picking device and an electronics disruptor, which would be really great if they gave players any agency, like choosing a stealthy approach and unlocking doors or disabling security systems – but no, each must be used exactly when the game says so.
On the plus side, the visuals are without doubt the best I’ve ever seen – by which I mean the graphics sandwiched between those horrible and unnecessary big black borders. I’m not even kidding. Look at The Order‘s visuals and tell me that it doesn’t pain you that it doesn’t run full-screen.
So, bottom line, it’s a challenging cover-based shooter with spectacular set pieces let down by its draconian linearity and MASSIVE borders. The characters and the setting might kick it up a notch or two for gamers who care about such things.