It's that time of year again. A blockbuster movie gets the usual game tie in, which is more often than not a half hearted attempt, doing nothing new and giving the industry a bad name. Now and then, a gem gets through, restoring faith in movie games. Is Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 one of those? In a word, no. In many words...
The game starts with you riding on Hagrid's motorcycle, flying through the night sky and battling Death Eaters. When I say the game starts with this, it literally starts with this. There is no back story whatsoever. If you haven't read the book or seen the film, you will be completely lost. Anyway, you have limited movement, as you are in a sidecar, so you basically turn, shoot, turn, shoot, etc. You may think that it doesn't matter, it's just the intro to the game. If you're giving it a chance and hoping for a great improvement, you're in for a big disappointment. It literally happens again and again. From one location to the next with no real sense of what is going on. When the storytelling does happen, it is so uninteresting that it's easy to zone out and skip the cut scenes.
The game takes place primarily in third person, and the controls are fairly simple to get to grips with. Take a stroll around Bill and Fleur's wedding to get used to the movement, camera and eventually combat. The combat is quite dull. It is hard to differentiate majorly between spells, so it usually comes down to using the same spell over and over, which leads to some pretty annoying voice overs and sound effects. What makes this even worse is that not all of the actors voice their respective characters. A large number do, but for such a big franchise it is a shame that all were not present.
HP&TDH P1 allows you to play certain missions in whatever order you like. An odd decision, as this is no RPG and the order you choose has no effect on any outcomes whatsoever. Still, it gives the illusion of freedom. There are certain hints of RPG, like the ability to level up and upgrade Harry and his spells, but they aren't so great. They don't detract from the experience, but don't seem essential.
There are some locations which automatically switch you to first person view. There is no explanation for it, but presumedly it is for easier navigation of the slightly more claustrophobic settings. The game also switches to first person when you activate the invisibility cloak. Again, it's hard to see why this happens. Unfortunately, when in first person view, the controls don't work quite as well. The sense of scale and distance is completely thrown out of sync by the sudden change and it's easy to fail missions repeatedly because of it. The fact that the invisibility cloak runs out of power if you walk for too long is another incredibly annoying feature. It's funny, I don't remember this happening in the film.
The game lacks variety. Missions consist of running between battles, collecting items and sneaking by enemies. Considering that the combat and sneaking with the invisibility cloak are both subpar, the game doesn't really have much going for it.
This game is disappointing. It's a movie tie in, so it's always expected, but with some past Harry Potter games being decent, this one had potential. Unfortunately it does not live up to the standards set by the early games in the series. Pretty graphics are not enough to save the game from failure. The game will undoubtedly sell well, as it has the Harry Potter name on it. If you're after a quality Potter fix this year, stick with the film.
by Louis Gardner