As a major fan of the Harry Potter books and films, it has always been a source of frustration that the games have never risen above just mediocre. While the open world environment of many of the past titles have been appreciated, and some of the Wii motion spell waving has been fun, nothing has ever been particularly outstanding.
So maybe it is for the best that EA and EA Bright Light Studio is going in a much different direction for the franchise with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1. Keeping pace with the books, Harry and co. are no longer at Hogwarts, traveling through England in a race to stop Voldemort from being the evil douche he is. It's a much darker plot than many of the earlier books and films, and the game is no different. However, now that I've had time with the game, I'm a little worried that this might not be the Harry Potter game I was hoping for.
I mean, crap, it's now a third person over the shoulder shooter. This isn't the wizarding world we grew up with, that's for sure.
Hit the jump for my hands-on.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PC)
Developer: EA Bright Light Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
To be released: November 16, 2010
If you were coming into the title as someone who did not know who Harry Potter was, what we are presented with is a Gears of War-lite, a somewhat dark title where a teenage dude is running around the English countryside shooting spells at bad wizards. Nothing too outlandish, on that news alone there would be some major interest in the title. However, fans of the franchise know that this is a very gutsy change to the franchise.
Unfortunately, as a major fan, I'm really torn. And who would play this game but a major fan? EA and Warner Bros. Have to strike a balance between good gameplay and remaining true to the nature of the franchise. From the few minutes I was given with the title, there are some things to be concerned about. As a third person, cover-based shooter, it's a little wonky. The reticule was a little too jerky, the camera was a little too close to Harry, and aiming was a little more difficult than it should be. It's still early, but for EA to take such a huge risk in changing the Harry Potter game franchise, they need to tighten this stuff up.
Thankfully, the spells functioned as different weapons would. Winguardium Leviosa would lift up objects as a mobile shield, Expelliarmus was a chargeable blast, and there were others that cause explosions, did generic blasts and more. One odd addition was the common usage of the cruciatus curse, which, bear with me as I nerd out, is one of the unforgivable curses and used precisely three times in the books. Yes, Harry uses the spell, but it's not just something he would just bust out at a moment's notice. Thankfully, I was told that the team is reconsidering the spell and how it will be implemented.
Also, the level that I was shown was also very drab and gray. Taking place in a run-down industrial site, the only sign of color was a muted red from Harry's sweater and the spell effects he would throw out. I know that the film is going to be filmed in the same sort of environments, however when a level for the game not only plays like a level from Gears of War, but looks like a level from Gears of War, something is a little...weird.
Of course, this is all being a nitpicky fan of the franchise. The game certainly looks like a teen-rated version of Gears of War that, with a few months of polish could be a decent alternative for those who feel that franchise is too violent or inappropriate. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1 has some promise for being such a divergent take on the franchise, but needs a lot of special attention. I'm hoping that the development team is willing to work hard in making sure this is the mature take on the Harry Potter franchise, and with Part 2 coming in the future, there is a chance that this over-the-shoulder shooter approach could be great. Keep an eye on this one, and hopefully EA can make this one surprise their fans when it launches with the movie.