Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part1 is EA’s most recent cashing in on the ubiquitously popular Harry Potter series. As much as I hate to sound so vulgar, one can only be left with negative feelings after playing a game that is so unimpressive, so boring and so content poor that it seems intentional. While I know that Harry Potter games have only ever really appealed to fans of the movies and or books, this iteration seems to make absolutely no strides in order to capture fans of fun and innovative games. If you’ve been thinking about picking this game up for yourself or for someone else, you should definitely read this review.
I always get so upset when harry potter games come out. It is because in my mind, I can imagine an amazing Harry Potter game with tons of things to do and excellent ways to utilize the property. But the same thing happens every time; I play the games and the fact that I love the books is clearly the only reason I stay longer than twenty minutes. This game does little to distinguish itself. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the Goblet of Fire for the PS2 is a much better game; not to imply I’m recommending you go get that. I’m not really sure where to start with this. For me to have so many complaints about it there isn’t really much game here.
How about the visuals, the obvious high point of the title? This is easily the best looking Harry Potter game ever made. The visuals are crisp and luminous, with our main characters being wonderfully detailed. Most of the environments are colorful and sharp, particularly the green, flora filled ones. The water effects are nice, the facial expressions are passable and the general rendering is pretty tight. The graphics are without doubt the best thing about this game. It’s actually kind of sad because, they do give you the impression that you are about to embark on an enjoyable and exciting quest in this wonderfully captured world, but that isn’t quite how the cookie crumbles.
The environments have the ability to become monotonous in an ugly way. They basically reuse different parts of the same area through a huge portion of the game, and this easily docks some of the points the graphics had gained. However, this is softened by the fact that the environments themselves look pretty decent, unlike another game I played a while ago. The enemies vanish in to attack you with an awesome black smoke effect that they copied nicely from the films. Similar little flourishes look bright and flashy and some of the spell effects are awesome.
Now let’s talk about the story, which is directly and a little lazily copied from the film and book of the same name. Oh, and just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, the next few lines may contain spoilers. This is the point at which Harry and co. learn exactly what the master plan is and what they need to do to put a stop to the tyrannical Voldermort once and for all. A number of horcruxes or, fragments of He-who-must-not-be-named’s soul must be destroyed in order to fell the dark lord. If you’ve seen the movie, and judging by the ticket sales you probably have, then you have already seen everything the game offers in the way of story. If you’ve read the book, then you’ll probably laugh at how palely and incompletely the story is conveyed. Thank God I already know about how the romance between Ron and Hermione forms, because the handful of corny and laughable scenes in which the game tries to convey this will probably leave you in stitches.
You revisit a few key places: the wedding, Xeno’s house, the forest where they set up camp. Sometimes the immersion is a little better than the movie. For example, when Harry is attacked by Nagini in Godric’s Hollow in the movie, you just feel afraid for Harry. When it’s coiling above your head trying to kill you in the game, you feel afraid for yourself. However, in the end, if the story interests you, I’d have to recommend the book if you have the time, or the movie. It is also quite notable how little of an introduction is made to those who aren’t familiar with the series or its lore. If you’ve never heard of Harry Potter before now, which I’d wager is something next to impossible, then good luck comprehending the story.
The game’s sounds are passable. I couldn’t pick out any tracks reused from the movie, but then again I’ve only seen it once. The orchestral compositions sometime feel a little lazy as they lean on the violin too much. The music wasn’t bad, but it isn’t memorable and I doubt I’d pursue the soundtrack. The acting is very boring sometimes and while I know getting the movie voice actors was out of the question, they could have done much better with the voicing. The sounds of the creatures and the enemies are noticeably good so the bottom line is that the sound is passable.
Now comes the absolute worst part of the game: the game play. It is almost frightening as I remember the time I spent playing it. Basically, you run around zapping the randomly appearing death eaters until the game is over. That’s practically it. Sometimes you run into monsters or some kind of enemy that isn’t a death eater, and then you zap it until it’s gone. The game is built in the style of a third person shooter, and it is done pretty well. The aiming kind of sucks but the auto-lock makes up for it. Does it make playing it rather easy? Yes. Would I have bothered to finish it if it were hard? Probably not. Not that I don’t love a challenge, I mean I’m almost done with Bayonetta on Climax Mode, but there was no way I would have played this absolute shamble of a game if It took any serious effort to endlessly defeat death eaters.
The AI is competent sometimes and cheap other times. Sometimes big groups of death eaters will appear and attack you, but once you learn to exploit the two or three good spells, it won’t be a problem. What I find interesting about the decent enemy AI is that Ron and Hermione, your allies, are absolutely and completely worthless. They can’t aim past their hand it appears and even in the most heated scuffles you can find them angrily and pointlessly blasting a rock. It’s really very funny, because sometimes they even talk trash to the inanimate objects.
Folks, I know you probably think I’m over-exaggerating, but I promise you there isn’t much more game to be played than this. Run around, blast things, repeat endlessly. There are a few collectibles scattered throughout the world to be discovered, but why would I do this? To say I collected them all? For an achievement? The incentives to peruse the lands for these collectibles are few and far between. In Zelda games collecting heart pieces raises your health. In Devil May Cry, collecting proud souls unlocks better attacks. In this game, collecting newspapers and similar stupid things do nothing except waste even more of your time. At least the audio tapes try to provide a deeper look into the world of HP, but these too aren’t much to speak of. It’s funny how the first level in the game is a chase and lures you into believing you are about to embark on a thrilling quest.
The spells are particularly disappointing, largely in part because they all claim to do something different when very few do. You’ve basically got a bunch of different spells that have different colors and visual effects, but the only real difference between them is the amount of damage they take, even when they suggest that they do something else. For example, Stupefy, the first spell you get, claims to stun enemies but it only takes damage. Expeliarmus claims to disarm your foe, but it only does damage. Infrigo (or something like that) claims to incapacitate the enemy, but it only does damage. The spells, with the exception of a few, are basically just a collection of lies. Very few spells do what they claim. Confundo actually does make enemies fight for you and Wingardium Leviosa actually does lift stuff, (though that particular spell is largely a waste of time). The spells that work make combat kind of fun, while the ones that don’t bring the whole game down. It is even more saddening because when you finally experience that moment of fun, you’ll see all the potential the game had. Spamming Confundo and Expeliarmus will get you through everything the game has to offer. Even the last enemy in the game, because I am reluctant to call it the final boss, is no match for spam. It is so bad that it has become something of a joke.
Speaking of bosses, they are thoroughly unremarkable and nothing to be afraid of or excited by. There are a handful of stealth sequences scattered into the game, and these enjoyable if short and unrewarding tidbits try to soften the repetitive and absurdly boring nature of the game, but they were simply not enough. They needed more ideas. Maybe we could have ridden our broomstick sometimes, or used weapons and armor, or played mini-games with certain spells like in the past HP games. Anything besides the core game play would have made this a better game.
Harry gains levels as you endlessly spam your spells, and sometimes they increase his attack power or his amount of health, but generally speaking, gaining levels is not very rewarding. This is mainly due to the fact that nothing seems to really progress as you level up. There is no health meter, so it isn’t easy to gauge that Harry can actually take more damage.
Occasionally you get another spell, but it’s never really a big deal because again, they all do the same thing. You will collect potions, though I am not sure why. The important ones force you to drink them right then and not collect them, so you won’t actually have to use a potion throughout the duration of the game. For example, in a level where you must escape a dragon’s fire breath, you will be prompted to drink a potion which renders you temporarily invulnerable to it. Therefore, you don’t really need to collect anything. You may want to use a potion eventually, for something, but it is absolutely not an integral part of game play and its inclusion will have little bearing on the score.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was almost a passable game. However, its refusal to implement any kind of game play depth or variety is almost insulting. Which kind of gamer did the developer imagine could enjoy this game? You do absolutely nothing but run around and spam Stupefy until the death eaters are gone. You do that for about five hours and then the game is over. Where is the depth of game play? Where are the breaks from the monotonous running and gunning? Why would I ever play this game again when this review is finished?
Any of this year’s best downloadable games such as Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Shank and DeathSpank offer tons more content than this full on, $60, disk-based HD console game. I know that games based on movies are typically garbage; I mean it’s nothing new. But EA made it a point to try and sell this as a good Harry Potter based game, and they were either A.) Lying through their teeth or B.) Truly under the impression that two game play components could please gamers who weren’t absolute Harry Potter fanboys.
Other than the graphics and the occasional stealth sequences, I have very little positive to say about this title. Its fatal flaw was a dire lack of substance or any kind of variety, or re-playability. This kind of game at the end of 2010 is unacceptable. Hopefully, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 comes out, and since there will be a movie there will be a part two, they can come up with something other than shooting death eaters for players to do.
- Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: EA Bright Light
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Release Date: November 16th
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of the title was was provided to DualShockers Inc, by the publisher for purposes of this review.