Judging from the efforts that have used this label to date, we assume they mean a game that sort of borrows the structure and language of film, and forces you to watch loads of tedious cutscenes.
It sometimes feels that certain game developers - like everyone else, depressingly - put more stock in the value of film than in games. They sometimes seem so embarrassed by their jobs that they have to pretend their games are something they're not, or are somehow elevated above the rank-and-file shoot 'em ups and platformers because, y'know... they're "cinematic, maaaan".
Presumably, this is because cinema is the single greatest thing mankind has ever achieved, and the pinnacle of all artistic endeavours since the dawn of time.
The Order: 1886 is just the latest video game to be wholly embarrassed by itself.
Thing is, why would you even want a truly cinematic video game when there are plenty of actual cinematic things in the actual cinema? Surely we play games to play games, and we go to the cinema if we want the cinematic whatevers?
Fact is, we typically end up getting bored by most so-called cinematic games. Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls can go stick their faces in a lathe, as far as we're concerned. What does a tedious shaving mini-game tell us about character or story? Who in their right mind wants to endure that for five minutes? It doesn't work as a piece of storytelling, or as a gameplay element.
What's more, you're setting yourself up for a fall if you present your game as "cinematic". If you're going to force us to sit through your story you'd better hope it's a bloody good one, with characters we care about.
Naughty Dog gets that - The Last of Us and the Uncharted franchise have "done" character better than virtually any other game. Telltale games also do a good job of emotionally investing you in their characters too, before sending you on an exciting licensed adventure with them.
The Order: 1886 does not. The Order: 1886 has seemingly pressed its characters (and gameplay) out of a mould that has been used hundreds of times before, and its chief ingredient is "bland".
So what exactly is The Order: 1886 trying to achieve?
Because - you see - it isn't cinematic, so as much as it's a thing merely pretending to be a film.
Seemingly, we're meant to believe this is "cinematic" because it presents the game in a letterbox format, and applies a bit of film grain to the picture, and runs at 30fps rather than 60fps (because that's closer to film's traditional 24fps).
Oh yes. And there's a story. You know: like you get at the cinema. And just like at the cinema, it's a story you can't skip, however dull it gets. They're screaming at you that all of this is important, and worthy of your time. Unfortunately, it is not. It's something you must endure to get to the bits that are slightly more fun.
The Order is set in an alternate, steampunk-y Victorian London, and "stars" a dull, mutton-chopped, werewolf-hunting, generic tough-guy, video game character - the member of a whole club of similar werewolf-hunting toughs, who are some sort of modern day incarnation of The Knights of the Roundtable.
You know the sort of fellow he is. You've been him a thousand times before in games. He puts his gun on his back when he's not using it, and stalks around looking at bits of paper, and acts like he cares about his teammates - including the French one (who is so much of a stereotype they might've just as well called him Pepe le Pew) - even though they give us no reason to care for any of them.
There's a conspiracy. There's some other stuff. And it looks very, very pretty. Of course, it can afford to look pretty because most of the environments are horribly dank, claustrophobic mazes, which do much to dilute the graphical achievements. But still. It's definitely one of the better looking games of this generation. It's just a shame they didn't use the steampunk setting to build a more unique sense of place, like the Bioshock games did. Even the rubbish one.
Beyond that, It's a paint-by-numbers third-person shooter, with the odd stealth bit. It cribs most shamelessly from the Gears of War playbook, with the occasional quick-time-event button-press - to lift wooden beams, or stab a monster, or shudder with involuntary pathos. And you'll probably whizz through it in about 7 - 8 hours, providing you stop to admire all the scenery.
And there's no multi-player mode.
And it'll cost you sixty quid.
We feel like there was a bandwagon heading the way of The Order: 1886, and wanted to be sure we weren't on it before writing this review. For whatever reason, after the excitement of the game's initial previews died away, it felt as though people started getting in line to give it a kicking. We wanted to be sure we were giving it a kicking for the right reasons, not because the we're-so-angry-and-we're-not-gonna-take-it-anymore mob was doing so.
"Must... attack.. this week's... gaming cause célèbre... WHY AM I SO ANGRY??! What am I really angry about?! Who cares? Hate! HATE! Hate him. Hate that thing. Hate her. HATE! Ha ha! Now loads of people hate the same thing I do! Ha ha! We are The Super Dudes!!"
Truth is, The Order is not that bad - it's perfectly entertaining, while it lasts... but there's absolutely zero replay value, and it's hobbled by being deeply cliched and unoriginal (even if the setting does have momentary flashes of inspiration and glimpses of full-frontal male nudity).
Also, it's quite easy to be irritated by it, because the developer had such lofty, pretentious ambitions. While it's occasionally a very good looking game, it has failed to deliver on those ambitions. Why developers continue to insist on telling us their games are cinematic we dunno, but we do wish they'd stop, and put some more faith in the medium of games as a storytelling tool.
You don't get, y'know, poets going "My new poem - I Rubbed My Face Across A Cat's Thighs On a Bright Spring Morn - is like, well, cinematic, man... please watch through this letterbox while I recite."
SUMMARY: It's alright. Just really unoriginal and - surprise - not a film.
OVERALL: 2.84 out of 5.5