Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Review

Title   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Developer  EA Bright Light Studio
Publisher  Electronic Arts
Platform  Xbox360, PS3, Wii, DS, PC (Xbox360 version reviewed)
Genre  Third Person Adventure, Action
Release Date  19th November, 2010

Potter's darkest hour...

With the latest film in the series currently showing on cinema screens worldwide, the accompanying video game instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) is sure to have many a Wizard or Muggle in a flurry of excitement. Equipping my robe and wizard’s hat, I sit down to immerse myself in a world of magic, adventure and friendship.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, despite being a bit of a mouthful, has you once again taking the role of, the now rather grown up, Harry as he sets out to defeat ‘he who shall not be named’ once and for all, joined along the way by his trusty companions, Hermione and Ron.

It’s Potter’s darkest hour and, backed up by the age rating on the box art, proudly displaying a twelve, the notion of this being a children’s game hops away quicker than a chocolate frog out of a train window. Could this be the game older fans have been waiting for? It certainly gives off the right signals but inside the tale is slightly different.

The game plays out much like any third person shooter and thankfully doesn’t really suffer from the control issues that seem, all too often, to plague the genre. Moving is just as you’d expect and the character’s response to your analogue stick twitching is good enough to keep up with even the most frantic of controller bashing.  You’d expect that a game based on one of the most prominent stories of the last few years to have a feeling of continuation, a sense of flow at least, but it is so often the case that a mission will end abruptly and the next one will begin just as quick.  It’s as if you’re stuck in a feeling of rubber banding; you keep trying to go so far but the game just pings you back to start out all over again.  Every now and then you’re presented with a choice of three missions, and the order in which you complete them is entirely up to you.  It is the game’s way of trying to derail some of that extremely linear  gameplay, but seldom does it work.  With each of the three missions being completed in no more than five to ten minutes, each the game’s attempt to mix things up again only serves as a reminder as just how disjointed it really is.

A mission that has you escaping from a Dragon’s lair has so much potential that you can almost capture the imagination of it all, but it’s over so fast that within half an hour you’ve all but forgotten about it. It does pick up towards the final third of the single player experience, with missions being considerably longer and a lot more memorable, but the sour taste from earlier on still lingers. It’s not that it’s a particularly bad campaign, but it’s not a good one either. It’s almost as if the game was subjected to two different design ideologies and the end result is a bit of a mess, lying somewhere in between.

The biggest gripe I had though is that I had literally no idea what I was doing half the time. I’m no stranger to the world of Hogwarts and Muggles, but even so, a little help regarding what the potions that I was necking back were doing would have been nice. I spent the majority of the game looking for a Horcrux, and still have no idea what it is, let alone what it does. It’s as if the game has pre-determined that I have a never-ending font of knowledge tucked away when, in reality, I don’t.  Sure, I can tell the difference between a Whomping Willow and Wingardium Leviosa, but there is a limit; a bit of information on screen would have gone a long way to assisting the player instead of leaving him stood scratching his head.

There are some things that do work well – the magic system being one. A simple spell wheel grants you access to a number of different spells, each proving to be useful depending on the situation you find yourself in and that’s the thing…there are times when you do genuinely think “this spell isn’t up to the task, I need to be using something different”, but even then those times are rare.

Again, it’s as if the game wants to sabotage itself to the point where anything remotely good is counter-acted with something twice as bad. The magic system shows promise, but then it’s completely ruined by combat that is so repetitive that, towards the end, you find yourself running through the waves of enemies just to hit the next auto-save point. After all, anything beats the constant tapping on the right trigger to cast a spell, which pretty much sums the combat up really; it is nothing but right trigger tapping with the ability to throw potions for good measure.

Dementors, perhaps the most sinister of Rowling's creations

Sure, the spells themselves are good and I can now boast of knowing half a dozen spells and their uses, but that’s where the good stuff stops; you find yourself almost pleading for the game to give you something more but it just constantly lets you down.  Even an attack by a Dementor lacks any sort of excitement and is quickly pushed aside with a quick Expecto Patronum spell – as cool as that may sound, it lacks any of the punch it has within the books or films as there’s a distinct lack of any sort of summoning of a protector going on, instead you’re left with a bit of glowing bubble, of sorts.

The addition of Kinect does little to rescue any sort of lasting enjoyment from the game, feeling more like a ‘stuck-on-at-the-end’ feature than a well thought out idea. It’s good for all of five minutes but, eventually, watching young Harry travel around maps in an FPS-on-rails style is rather boring.  More so, you are, for some baffling reason, only limited to casting two different spells per Kinect level.  Calling it a level is being generous – it’s actually more like five minute gaps of gameplay while you flick your wrist.  Casting spells actually works rather well and, from a technological stand point, Kinect does a good job at picking up what you are doing, but it never feels quite enough.  Not once did I feel like I was performing magic, never did I believe I had a wand in my hand – so what’s the point?  The premise has potential but it severely lacks any sort of lasting gameplay with every Kinect mission being completed within forty minutes and only one not achieving the full five stars on offer.

  • Good voice acting
  • Spell system is fun and works well
  • No cohesion, every time you start getting into the game it pulls you back
  • Lack of basic information on offer
  • Combat system is highly repetitive and boring
  • Kinect feature feels bolted on as an afterthought
  • World is boring and dull, not one that is full of Witchcraft and Wizardry

This may not even be one for fans of Harry Potter and certainly not for anyone without any interest in the franchise at all. It not only fails in pivotal areas, but it’s as if the game wants to fail; there’s just nothing in it to keep you going back for more and, towards the end, you’re literally tapping your foot waiting for the credits to roll.

The lack of information on display is shocking, even to the point where I had to Google certain characters to see who they were. If there’s no place within the actual story for that sort of thing then loading screens would have made the perfect place to detail any information that could be considered relevant, instead of telling me about Wingardium Leviosa time after time.

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  1. Edward Edward says:

    Sounds a bit absymal, to be honest.
    I thought they were going to at least try with this one, and I remember them claiming it was going to have two endings depending on if you used dark magic or not. Looks like they cut it out, along with any cohesion or fun.

    It’s like they’re not even trying anymore =/
    Great job though, Ben, especially for sticking through it!

  2. Ste says:

    Give this man a medal, this game sounds awful. You’d think with all the umpf behind the Harry Potter franchise they’d be able to get someone to put together a decent game. As far as I’m aware, apart from the Lego version, all the games have been a bag of shite.

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    Sounds a bit painful. I have played a few of the early Potter games and actually found them surprisingly okay, however I had to abandon one for the GameCube after getting stuck at an infernal jumpy bit which I could not get past, try as I might. From the sounds of it, these early GC titles were a lot better than this new release – shame. With the much darker subject matter of the final books, it could have ben something special. As for the shoehorning in of Kinect, it was bound to happen. While a magic themed title is ideal for the tech, perhaps it was a little too rushed to get it into this release…maybe part 2 will fare better?

  4. Ben Ben says:

    Just going to add that I watched the film the evening I finished the review and left the cinema literally shaking my head at some of the bits left out.

    The game misses out massive plot lines that are pivotal to the film, how they justified leaving them out of the game I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure the developers got given the same script as the one the film used.

  5. FC360 says:

    World is boring and dull, not one that is full of Witchcraft and Wizardry…. The film isn’t really full of witchcraft and Wizardry since the trio are on the run and try to stay away from the wizarding world untill they know where each horcrux is. This review makes me want the game even more oddly enough although I like the Series so I would have got it even if it was really bad. Did you try out the augmented reality on your computer?

  6. [...] Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 [...]

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    This made me smile – “the notion of this being a children’s game hops away quicker than a chocolate frog out of a train window” heh heh

    It’s a shame that the game falls short in so many respects. With Kinect as an option, it COULD have made everything that much more immersive but I think it’s like you said, that the Kinect aspect was merely an after thought… and not much thought at that. The only other Harry Potter game I played was Goblet Of Fire on the PSP and I also dabbled with Chamber Of Secrets on the Gamecube and I actually quite enjoyed the PSP game but never got it finished because of some Blast Ended Skroots (sp) that kept killing me in the maze. Bastards.

    The game LOOKS really pretty though, if those Dementors above and the little gallery are all from the gameplay itself then they’ve done a great job on the graphics. Not much point if the game falls to pieces around the graphics though, but it shows that at least someone on the dev team wanted to make a great game.

  8. Lauren says:

    I. HATED. That. Game. lol I am the biggest Harry Potter fan, but I hated this game. Soooooooo much. I had to quit not even halfway through and send it back to Gamefly. I had so many issues with it. And I thought the voice-acting (especially the way it was scripted) was TERRIBLE. The Half-Blood Prince game was rather fun. But this one? This game was not only an abonination to video games, but an abomination to Harry Potter. @__@

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