The final movie for the Harry Potter franchise is out, and as happens with big movie events, a companion game, by EA, invites us to share the…magic. Is the Harry Potter swan song game a magic carpet ride, or is it a spell of certain doom? Join me on my broomstick and find out after the jump. Apparate!
Since the Harry Potter series of books became a series of movies, EA has been making a series of Harry Potter games for just about every popular gaming platform. I recall playing the very first, very cartoony, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the very first Playstation, and then a few of the sequels on various platforms, including the RPG-style Harry Potter games on the handheld consoles. This, however, is my first go at one of the Harry Potter games on a current-gen console, barring the excellent Lego Harry Potter Years 1 to 4.
When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 starts, you are treated to a short cutscene that sets up the story of the game (which very closely follows the events of the film). The game itself starts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione under Gringott’s bank, fighting off wizard security guards. I was impressed with how closely EA managed to capture the likenesses of the actors, which lent itself quite nicely to the immersiveness of the game. Although the actors lent their likenesses to the developers, it’s a huge pity that they didn’t lend their voices too. Mind you, the chap who has been imitating Daniel Radcliffe’s voice for the last goodness-knows-how-many Harry Potter games did a good enough job that I didn’t realize at first that it wasn’t Daniel Radcliffe doing the voicework. [Ed: Seriously? Too lazy to hit up Wikipedia? His name is Adam Sopp and he’s been filling in as Harry’s voice since the Prisoner of Azkaban game. He’s so good at doing Harry’s voice, in fact, that he’s used as a voice double in the movies and at the theme park. Next time, I’m charging you for the extra research.]
I’m sure it has been said elsewhere before, but the best way to describe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is as “Harry Potter meets Gears of War”. Of course, if you’re a PS3 owner, replace “Gears of War” with “Uncharted”, and you’ll still get the gist of what I’m saying. All the signs of a classic 3rd person, over the shoulder shooter are here. Chest-high walls: check. Multiple types of ballistics offense weaponry: check (even if they’re disguised as spells). Supportive squad: check. It’s almost textbook, even down to the spells you obtain. The first spell you have, Stupefy! is the analog of a handgun, which does wonderful close-range damage, but you have to squeeze off every single shot. Expulso! is the equivalent of a rapid-fire weapon such as an Uzi or a Lancer. Confringo! is your heavy weapon such as a rocket or grenade. Petrificus Totalus! is your sniper weapon. Impedimenta! is a multiple target homing missile. It’s crazy, but it actually all works. For one thing, there is no ammo to worry about, and that suits me perfectly.
The game follows the plot of the movie fairly closely,despite that, is still fairly short. You easily finish the game in less time than it takes to spit-roast a large animal, mammal, or otherwise. On top of that, the game is structured in such a way that it is assumed you are more than just passingly familiar with the characters and plot. Not much is explained at all, and the story doesn’t string well together if you are new to the series. But then again, how many people can claim to be new to Harry Potter? And if you ARE so new to Harry Potter, would you choose to start at the end? It is probably a moot point, but it is a point that bears making nonetheless.
The graphics, while not mindblowing, were still decent. I was impressed that they’d managed to catch the likenesses of the actors so closely. In fact, it was a nice change from things that you didn’t spend the entire game playing as Harry; you got to experience life from many of the story’s characters. The only pity is that, story reasons aside, there isn’t any difference between them. The environments are fairly linear, with little hidden bits here and there that contain the game’s collectibles (why does EVERY game have to contain hidden collectibles? It’s an odd compulsion!) It was great fun playing through a Hogwarts that was in the process of being destroyed and watching the destruction happen around you. That being said, the game is not difficult at all, and even the hardest mode is barely much of a challenge. The enemy AI doesn’t change that much from mode to mode, so the tactics that got you through the easier modes will do the same for the harder ones.
Speaking of challenges, the game contains a challenge mode for every level. However, these challenge modes are not automatically available; you have to locate the collectible in-game to unlock each challenge level. Finishing the game and starting a challenge mode allows you access to all the spells and abilities during the time-based challenge. Each level has a time specifying each of the medals you can earn. An online scoreboard is the only concession the game makes to other players. I think a sort of multiplayer horde-mode might have been fun, but sadly, nothing of the sort was included.
Although the various console versions look almost identical, there are some control differences that you should be aware of if you happen to own multiple consoles and are wondering which version to get. Obviously, the Wii version uses just the Wii Remote and the Nunchuck, with the pointer on the screen used to control the camera. The PS3 version can use either the Move controller with the navigation controller, or just a Dualshock 3 controller, whichever feels more comfortable. In the case of the Move controller, it works in precisely the same way as the Wii controller. The Xbox360 version is stuck using the Xbox360 controller alone; no Kinect support. Since I played the PS3 version, I was able to try out both control mechanisms. Oddly enough, the Move version felt far more comfortable, and aiming was natural and easy. In fact, it was easier to let the enemy feel the wrath of the expulsions of my wand with the Move controller/Wii Remote. In order, I’d recommend playing the game on a PS3 with Move, followed by the Wii version, followed by either the PS3 or Xbox360 versions on standard controls. But it all boils down to what you’re most comfortable with.
Despite the length, the game is a heck of a lot of fun, and I came away from it, for the first time with a film tie-in, wishing for more. The cover-based battle system with spells is great, and works well. The aiming is fairly accurate, and although it took me a short while to get used to selecting different spells, it became second nature very quickly. I’d highly recommend Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to anyone who is either a fan of the Harry Potter franchise or third-person shooters. It isn’t highly technical, nor is it very involved, but then again, it IS a film tie-in. It’s meant to be entertaining without being overbearing. The largest strike against it is that it is way too short. But then again, the best guests never outstay their welcome, do they?
Score: 7 out of 10 prawns
RRP: R550 (PS3, 360), R350 (PC), R399 (Wii)
Release Date: 15 July 2011