A particular visual masterpiece but a masterpiece all the same.
The Order: 1886 is an amazing looking game but you probably already knew that. Think back to E3 2013 and how Ready At Dawn’s action adventure stood out among the crowd. That it could make an even bigger impact over the next few months was to be expected but over time, the game’s cinematic emphasis and its desire to blur lines between film and video games became more apparent. There were very strong reasons to having it run at 30 frames per second and employing a 1920×800 resolution, plopping black bars on the top and bottom of one’s screen.
Those aesthetic reasons are purely a matter of preference. Suffice to say, some of us found them distracting and not necessarily imbuing a greater degree of cinematography or film to the proceedings. The Order: 1886 is still currently one of the best looking games on consoles and makes a strong case for the future potential of the PS4.
What makes it stand out among the crowd? Interestingly, it extensively uses global illumination and physically based rendering to provide more volume to the environments and objects. This means that each object interacts with the lighting in natural ways and thus has its own unique property. You’ll primarily notice this in cut-scenes and it helps flesh out the world and characters of The Order: 1886 to a degree unseen in video games.
Global Illumination is used in abundance in The Order: 1886. The draw distance are detailed as well.
It should be noted that all of these technologies come at a heavy resource price. Combine that with the dynamic lighting, which has been rasterized twice for depth pre-pass, and a custom ambient occlusion solution which rivals HBAO, delivering soft shadows without any dithering, and it’s easy to see why the developer opted for some of the settings that it did. However Galahad does not cast any reflections which is weird since it’s a minor detail that should have been present.
That being said, despite running at 30 FPS, there’s nary a drop in frame rate throughout the game. Whether you’re engaged in intense gun-battles or examining objects, The Order: 1886 stays solid throughout. After many recent titles like Dying Light and Evolve skipped anisotropic filtering on the PS4 compared to the Xbox One, it’s a refreshing change to see The Order: 1886 using it. It’s not the best, which manifests in less detail for some objects throughout the game, but it’s better than nothing. The other noteworthy technology governing the game is multisample anti-aliasing with MSAA 4x.
The Order: 1886 easily boasts one of the best, if not the best, anti-aliasing solution on consoles especially compared to most titles which either utilize FXAA or a custom SMAA solution. Some of those have rather clunky implementations – the SMAA in Dying Light being a good example – but you’ll encounter no such issues with The Order: 1886. There are virtually no jaggies to be seen throughout the game.
A selection of screenshots showcasing dynamic lighting, physical based rendering, screen space reflections, alpha effects, facial capture and more.
After the initial reveal and several months before the game’s release, many were concerned about the overall look of the game. Some believed it had been downgraded, as so often has happened with many big budget games in the past year. This hasn’t really been the case with The Order: 1886 – if you check out the comparison below, which compares the final build to the older builds, it will appear to have slight modifications to the lighting as well as how physically based rendering has been implemented. Again, it’s completely subjective to the viewer but the newest build comes off as cleaner and more refined overall while maintaining a strong visual finesse.
On examining other visual flourishes, we noticed that Ready At Dawn Studios used an ample amount of screen space reflections. It’s amazing in some instances, especially when glass in the distance is capable of reflecting images in the foreground. Then there’s the cloth and material quality, with physically based rendering allowing light to naturally react to objects. Cloth movement is realistic and at times very stylish, especially as characters rush into gun fights, and the composition of cloth with various other objects of differing parameters helps to create a subtly intricate but still fascinating visual experience.
Overview of the graphics technology utilized in The Order: 1886. Please click 1080p for best visual quality.
Of course, The Order: 1886 isn’t perfect. We’ve already talked about the black bars and average AF quality but there’s another area where the game could have improved – hair. If you liked the technology used in Tomb Raider (TressFX, which saw implementation in the Xbox One, PS4 and PC versions of the game) or even Assassin’s Creed: Unity, this will feel like a step-down. Some animations also come across as stiff at times, especially in cut-scenes when characters are reacting or moving about. The animations aren’t inherently bad or clunky but they do take you out of the moment at times.
Other effects in the game like blur, bloom, cinematic depth of field, glare, lens effects and more have been used well. You’ll notice different lens effects based on different curvature and vignetting, adding further to the visual richness of the game. The way light interacts with different objects in the game is a separate study on its own. Sometimes it will bounce off of wallpaper and cast iron stone, among other objects.
Head to head comparison shots from the retail and older builds of the game. A custom AO solution and changes to Physical Based Rendering in the final build has made the game look even better.
If we’ve said it once, we’ll say it again – Ready At Dawn Studios’ The Order: 1886 is an amazing looking game. It’s perhaps the best looking console game available now and for sure one of the best looking games of all time. The Order: 1886 stands as more than just a technological showcase – it wants to deliver on its aesthetic ideals and employs the technology necessary to achieve this feat. Sure there will be complaints about the game’s basic colour scheme and its presentation, how the depth of field works in certain battle situations and whatnot. The black bars on-screen may not catch the fancy of many players and takes a while to get used to. Additionally, many have complaints as to the overall gameplay, length and mechanics employed in The Order: 1886.
Whether the overt focus on graphics is responsible for other problems or not is another issue entirely. Ready At Dawn Studios crafted a visual experience such as this within 14 months of the PlayStation 4’s launch. The scary part is that the console seems to be capable of even more, a fact corroborated by the development team. What will games look like 5 years down the line on the PS4 if The Order: 1886 looks this good today?
It’s been said that The Order: 1886 is to the PS4 what Ryse: Son of Rome was to the Xbox One. Though this is a mockery in more ways than one, it interestingly applies in terms of the visuals, as Crytek was aiming for a cinematic experience with various custom solutions to deliver a spectacular visual package, despite the restrictions of a 900p resolution at the time. Hopefully, when the dust finally settles, players can also remember The Order: 1886 for what it achieved with its visuals.
GamingBolt’s Bill Smith also contributed to this article.