Name: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Genre: Third-person action adventure/shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Image Gallery: Click here
The Harry Potter wizarding saga is brought to a close this weekend with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in cinemas. As with every other Harry Potter movie, there’s a game to accompany it too. But can the game conjure the same magic that its silver screen and paperback counterparts can?
Like the summer Hollywood blockbuster that has spawned it, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for games consoles follows the events of the second half of the final book in JK Rowling’s magical series. Harry and friends Ron and Hermione are in a race against time to destroy the remaining Horcruxes within which the evil dark wizard Lord Voldemort stores parts of his soul before he assumes complete destructive control over the world. Taking in many of the book and movie’s key scenes, the game sees you travel through the underground caverns of Gringott’s wizarding bank, fight Death Eaters and Snatchers through the streets of Hogsmeade and eventually reach a final showdown against Lord Voldemort himself amidst the chaos of a gigantic battle at Hogwarts school.
The incongruous problem is that, just like the game that accompanied Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a 3rd person cover based shooter of the most un-magical kind, one that plays so liberally with the conventions of the Potter universe that it is a Harry Potter-inspired title merely by stitching its gameplay to the story’s key plot points.
It’s as much “Gears of War with Wands” as it is a game about teenage wizards and witches. Each level will see you take on wave after wave of dark wizards and snatchers by blasting them with spells. The aim of the game here is to fell wizards by matching Harry and his pal’s many spells to the defences of those out to get you. However, in what is sure to infuriate fans, these spells bear little resemblance to those described in the book or captured on film.
For instance “Stupefy” acts more like a handgun than a stunning spell, and “Expelliarmus” as a way to take down shields rather than disarming bad guys’ wands. Pretty much all the spells in the game can be sat next to corresponding guns and weaponry from similar 3rd person shooters, lacking the distinct magical qualities you’d imagine they’d have. In fact, in order to shoehorn shooter conventions into Part 2’s gameplay, developers EA BrightLight have in many cases totally undermined the magic they’re attempting to replicate. You’ll scream at the screen the tenth time Hermione takes 5 minutes to perform an unlocking charm on a door that in the Potter universe should be instantaneous, just for the sake of forcing another “Protect and Escort” sequence into the game.
While the cover and shooting mechanics do handle well, it quickly becomes tiresome as you realise nearly all you’ll be doing throughout Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is shooting. That’s fine in a series like Gears of War that runs with the many possibilities blasting foes has within that game’s universe, but that’s never what Harry Potter was about. Exploring the magical world, learning the secrets of Hogwarts’ every nook and cranny has here been replaced with linear blasting through corridors.
As well as Harry, Ron and Hermione, several of the series’ minor stars are also playable in the game, including Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley. These moments are usually reserved for boss battles (such as one between McGonagall and Snape that mimics the fight scene between Yoda and Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode 2), or to slightly spice things up with a new gameplay mechanic. These sequences however are often again at odds with the Potter universe; who, for instance, remembers Seamus’s skills as an explosives expert, using a C4-like spell to quell attackers on a bridge. Though it’s nice to see elements of the climactic Battle of Hogwarts from a point of view that isn’t Harry’s, BrightLight’s vision is likely to be at odds with what your own.
In fact, many of the game’s most memorable moments are unplayable cut scenes, such as a thrilling escape from Gringott’s on the back of a blind dragon. It looks great, and the extra variety that could have been brought to the game by having had control over these show-stopping moments makes them merely teasing. With so many dramatic, epic moments to draw upon with the final instalment in the series, Part 2’s video game totally squanders its potential. Adding insult to injury is the game’s length; you’ll easily finish the game within one extended sitting of 4 hours or so, adding an extra hour or two if you go for every collectible hidden away.
The game’s few saving graces then come from its sounds and visuals. Here BrightLight have managed to capture the essence of the films marvellously, with recognisable-if-stiff character models and many environments that look as if they’ve been lifted straight from the film itself. Likewise, good use is made of the stirring score of the movie, and while the majority of voice actors are not the same as their silver-screen counterparts, for the most part they are indistinguishable, particularly the Emma Watson soundalike.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a particularly frustrating movie-tie in. Visually it manages to bring the magic of the movies onto home consoles, even if a little roughly around the edges. And though the game is maddeningly repetitive in its action, not to mention being built upon a gameplay style that is totally at odds with the source material, the underlying gameplay mechanics work fine. It’s just once you put all the elements into the potions pot and mix them together, your left with a taste worse than Polyjuice potion. The charm and warmth of Harry’s tale is completely sidestepped in favour of bog-standard shooter conventions that have no place in Hogwarts, shoehorned into a game you can finish in a sitting. TT Games Lego Harry Potter titles do a much better job of pulling you into JK Rowling’s universe, and come heartily recommended over this puddle of Snape spittle.