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    The Order: 1886, Anarchy above the U.K.

    The knights of the Order are like the Men in Black of the Victorian age, hunting down lycanthropic creatures embedded into their society. Other times these dapper, well-spoken agents are fighting more conventional, gun-toting enemies, like an organized crew of rebels on an assassination mission. The latest slice of The Order: 1886 that Sony is showing off doesn’t highlight the exciting werewolf threats, but it does take place on a lavish, spectacularly designed airship sailing above the United Kingdom.

    Sir Galahad and the rest of his knights begin the mission by rappelling down the side of the airship Agamemnon, flagship of the United India Company. The dirigible’s final destination is New Jersey, but the dramatic events soon to follow will leave its fate literally up in the air. Galahad descends into the cabin of the airship after a scripted sequence that only requires a few button presses. The group steps onto an intricately detailed catwalk within the balloon, with girders and struts extending and criss crossing in every direction. The visual detail is impressive, down to the way the lighting reflects off the carefully placed rivets.

    The team splits up in an effort to faster confirm the presence of a VIP aboard the ship. Galahad and his comrade, the silver tongued Lafayette, skulk toward the cockpit on a mission to reroute the ship. My first taste of combat begins when the duo tosses a smoke grenade at the pilots and bust in. Well, it’s sort of combat. Galahad lunges at his enemies and triggers a slow motion quicktime event. He handily dodges bullets and disarms the hostiles, assuming you time your button presses correctly. If you fail, expect to watch him die a quick, brutal death before restarting the sequence. These sections are decidedly old-school, calling back memories from Resident Evil 4’s copious interactive cutscenes. Repeating these archaic segments isn’t particularly fun, so hopefully they’re rare.

    Galahad leaves the airship’s control to Lafayette and sneaks off deeper into the flying machine. He’s stopped by a pesky lock that he opens using a steam-powered device. This minigame involves rotating one analog stock to locate and release the  tumbler. It’s mundane, old-hat game design that feels out of place in The Order’s ambitious, high-concept world.

    Next, Galahad sneaks past a few patrolling guards in a brief stealth sequence. The mustachioed knight automatically adheres to walls to better hide himself, but you can also snap faster to cover Gears of War-style with a button press. These wandering sentries have awful peripheral vision, making evading and sneaking behind them for a violent contextual takedown a breeze.

    The path leads to a balcony overlooking a grand hall below, with bourgeoisie nobility mingling amidst uniformed soldiers. The knights of the Order notice a few of these guards are missing insignia patches on their arms, indicating that they must be under cover rebels with bunk disguises. Their mission aboard the Agamemnon is to assas sinate the VIP, and the knights have to stop them. I identify the rebels and quickly shoot  them  down.

    The room explodes into an all-out firefight once the assassination target flees the room to safety. Rebels come out of the airship’s ornate woodwork, spilling into the room with machine pistols blazing. Picking them off through my crosshairs feels good, but my ammo eventually runs dry and I pick up a new gun. The aforementioned comparison to Gears of Wars’ cover system is reinforced when I use the assault rifle. The cover-based shootouts and third-person aiming feels similar to Epic Games’ series, and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, my firefights never evolve into anything more than whack-a-mole with guns, though watching the skirmish eventually tear apart the gully in glorious detail is a treat. Sparks fly off steel, pots and pans go flying, and steam erupts from the pipework of the kitchen.

    The action continues to escalate from here the rebels had a far more spectacular contingency plan in store in case a precise assassination failed. I won’t spoil where the events go from here, but I’m excited to see how The Order’s mission in the sky concludes.

    We only have a few months until we find out how the rest of The Order: 1886 plays out. I’m eager to get my hands on the full game, though the by-the-numbers firefights and quick time events have me worried that the final product may be more style over substance. Fortunately, the Victorian Age setting, intriguing premise, and groundbreaking visuals may be enough to carry Sony’s new IP if all else fails to impress.

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