Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 Review
Written : Wednesday, December 08, 2010
By: Aleksander Gjengsto (GT: RoutineX)
Perhaps Mr Potter’s latest Deathly Hallow chapter of the long going saga should have been titled, Harry Potter and the Major Cash In, as quite how a book that was shorter than the two preceding it can be turned into two films and two games just boggles the mind. Still, the pocket lining tactics of distributors and authors aside, the last two Potter games have been decent if rather unspectacular. There was something inherently charming about wandering the halls of Hogwarts while solving quests and the like, although with the shift in tone of the last volume, such merriment is now a thing of the past. That is really the issue here, as EA Bright Light have taken that darker twist and turned the game into something of an abomination. Welcome to Harry Potter and the Third Person Shooter... say what?
"Zap! Now just repeat on the next thousand enemies."
Contrary to popular belief, the Harry Potter series went rapidly downhill after book four, when JK Rowling suddenly thought she was writing a Lord of the Rings style epic – only without any of the skill. While the first four books were a perfect blend of childhood mishaps and magic, the latter three strayed into darker territory and struggled because of it. The final book was more a tying up of loose ends (and a reckless murder spree amongst most of the backup characters) than a satisfying conclusion. Harry still has to finish off that pesky Voldemort by finding the various bits of his soul that are scattered around, however, he also has to put up with an increasing number of Death Eaters and a rather moody Ron. Blimey Harry indeed.
In truth, the thread bare plot is the least of this game’s worries, as the decision to turn it into a cover based Gears of War style shooter must surely rank as one of the most bizarre development choices in history. What next? Batman as a dating simulator or maybe Call of Duty as a turn based RPG. Actually they both sound pretty awesome, but I digress. What was previously a franchise aimed mainly at kids and interested adults has now gone to ruin, and the gameplay fails to justify the decision in any way.
You take control of Harry, as you would expect, and then the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 essentially tasks you with running through levels in search of Horcruxes while blasting apart all of the villainous scum that stands in your way. The fact that Death Eaters only have three different outfits is less of a concern when you factor in the terrible A.I and cover mechanics itself. Apparently you can take cover on thin air according to this game, but that’s ok as spells will somehow not be able to hit you either. Perhaps that is some kind of development magic that I was not aware of? To be honest, the cover mechanics are archaic at best and barely functional, but it turns out that all you need to do to succeed is to run around zapping your foes to kill them anyway, so taking cover is never a priority.
As you progress, you (apparently) earn experience which helps you to unlock new spells, increase your health and power up your shots even more. Unfortunately none of that seems to make a discernable difference and what use is more health when it recharges anyway? Most of the spells you get are pretty rubbish too, as they take time to charge up and often won’t finish off your foes. Instead, you’ll probably just spam the Stupefy spell as fast as you possibly can in order to blitz through whoever stands in your way. You can also lock onto your opponents with the left trigger, but the lock on fails if you get knocked over, if your foes strafe or if your foes move too far away from where you are aiming – a lock on feature that people can easily move away from is... not great, to say the least.
"No wonder Harry is concerned. This game is awful."
It doesn’t help matters when the graphics are so shoddy either, with Harry looking like he has been brutally beaten rather than faithfully recreated. The lip syncing is truly appalling too, and the fact you will traipse back and forth over the same few landscapes is frankly just lazy game design. The backdrops are bland, and the enemies only seem to come in about five varieties. A superb representation of an intriguing world of wizardry this is not. Plus, the camera seems to be on a mission to confuse and irritate you in equal measure as it stutters around the screen, especially when you are in narrow corridors.
All of the main story missions follow the same pattern, as you batter foes to the side in order to save the day, but at times you may also have to suffer some of the worst stealth missions known to man, where enemies can seemingly spot you through walls, rocks and even when looking in the complete opposite direction. A very neat trick, but also one that is incredibly frustrating. Plus, the collision detection means that Harry seems to become the fattest man in England once under the cloak, bumping into people you thought you had avoided with alarming regularity. Oh, and whoever thought that having stealth missions where enemies could appear on top of you from thin air was a good idea, was clearly not thinking straight that day. Luckily for you, the A.I is so bad that if you run about twenty feet away from someone that has spotted you, then they will forget you ever existed and you can try again. Top stuff.
Fortunately the game is also painfully short, and is only fleshed out by a series of pointless side missions that have no bearing on the story whatsoever. Escaping from a cave full of dragons or helping Muggle-born wizards is hardly the stuff of legend and the levels are often just a rehash of what has come before. Still, at least it gives you yet another chance to spam that Stupefy spell until your finger bleeds. A few hours later and you are left with an abrupt ending and no real desire to play the sequel, such is the poor quality on show here.
If you get bored of the single player experience, if that is even possible given its stellar nature, then you can play some of the challenges or Kinect missions. The challenges come in three flavours: kill everything in sight, get from one point to another as quickly as possible or make it through a level without being spotted. They are all pretty basic and simple, and provide pretty much no entertainment at all, so at least they fit in with the rest of the game then.
"Nothing says ‘gritty epic’ like some cooling towers. Wait..."
As far as the Kinect challenges go: utter tripe and tacked on rubbish is probably a fair judgment, and if you can stomach it past the fourth of twelve challenges, then you have much more resolve and patience than us. In a nutshell, the Kinect challenges have you move on-rails for a short period of time while waving your hands around like a windmill. There's no skill involved – it pretty much auto aims for most of the four spells – and there's no fun involved either – you literally just swing your arms around for a couple of minutes at a time – so what their purpose is, I don’t know. It's just a load of tacked on pointless garbage that I'm not sure anyone in their right mind could enjoy: kids or parents alike. The last time I waved my wand around like this in public, I was called in on a public order offence...
Death Hallows – Part 1 is pretty easy to blitz through and snag most of the points on in one simple playthrough, although the horror of multiple collectables does rear its head and with no option to replay levels you will have to redo the entire game should you miss one. That will be the least of your concerns though, as the difficulty achievements do not stack so you will have to play through the game three times in any case. Plus, you will need a rather pricey bit of Kinect equipment to get the full thousand regardless. All in all, this game is a time and investment sink in terms of points, although at least it’s easy once you get through all of that fuss.
As far as we’re concerned, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is one of the worst movie tie-in games there has ever been, and the style of gameplay simply doesn’t match the source material in any way, shape or form. Fans of the series will be disappointed with a game that feels far too short and amazingly rushed, and the fact that a few Kinect missions have been tacked on as an afterthought doesn’t do much to help matters. If you need some quick points then give this a rent, but everyone else should steer well clear.
The voice-work is shocking and the lip syncing even worse. It doesn’t really help when the story is pretty shoddy to begin with either.
Some of the character models and textures look amazing, but they’re the exception rather than the rule, and the facial animations and backdrops are shoddy to say the least.
Tap the right trigger until everyone is dead, then repeat. Drop in some terrible stealth sections and you have a real gaming turd.
Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows tries to follow the Potter story to some extent, but branches off randomly and the action fails to drag you into the world (other than kicking and screaming).
A boring list that is made worse by the need to have Kinect and the fact you have to endure the game three times for the full one thousand.
Trying something new with a series is usually to be applauded, but when a game like Deathly Hallows – Part 1 has been put together so badly that it’s tough to find any kind of merit, you have to question what they were thinking. From the woeful story to the tacked on Kinect missions and challenges, this all feels like a money making exercise at work. Outsmart them and keep hold of your cash... and your sanity!