Xbox 360 Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - P1

Has the magic gone?

Making video games out of the Harry Potter series was really a bit of a no-brainer. The magical themes and the near-universal appeal of the series as a whole meant that it was a guaranteed seller no matter how the games turned out. Unfortunately this meant that EA Bright Light seems to have put no thought whatsoever into the production of the latest Harry Potter game.

As you would expect, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 follows the young bespectacled wizard as he attempts to escape Voldemort's Death Eaters on his way to the final showdown with the evil wizard who murdered his parents so long ago.

The game sticks fairly rigidly to the plot of the film although it does give the option to complete certain levels in any order you choose giving a certain amount of freedom to experience the story in your own way.

Our story begins with Harry and Hagrid being chased through the sky on Hagrid's magic flying motorcycle and sidecar by a horde of Death Eaters. As introductions go this has a lot of potential but it has been limited to a rather unsatisfying rail-shooter sequence. Part of this is down to Harry's bizarre ability to rotate his hips through 720 degrees which just seems unnatural. The rest of this is down to his inability to hit targets with any level of accuracy and some irritating positioning of the enemies requiring Harry to fire his Stupefy spells through Hagrid's rather large form.

After that kind of introduction to the game most gamers would probably be forgiven for turning the game off, putting it back in the box and taking it to the store to trade it in however the game does change tone. The next sequence sees Harry, Hermione and Ron at a wedding at Hogwarts which is rapidly interrupted by the Death Eaters again as they hunt for Harry to kill him.

Here the game turns into a cover-based third-person shooter and again Harry's dreadful aim rears its ugly head. This is marginally more passable than the rail-shooter section but the cover dynamic where you enter cover using the X button is nowhere near as smooth as it should be and leaves this section of the game feeling very clunky and lacklustre.

After battling through the Death Eaters Hermione uses her magic to help the trio escape to London to avoid the Death Eaters. In London the game dynamic changes again to a first-person stealth style of play. Harry has to use a magic cloak to sneak around the streets of London to check out various newspaper vendors to see if they are Death Eaters in disguise or not. You have to sneak around the streets under the cloak without bumping into anyone on the way, then get close to the target, watch a quick in-engine cutscene and then back to Ron and Hermione and complete this a couple of times before heading to a cafe which initiates another cover-shooter sequence as the staff of the cafe turn out to be Death Eaters waiting to ambush the trio.

The next sequence in the game shifts again to a haunted mansion where Harry, Ron and Hermione are searching for the house-elf in order to get information to help them stop Voldemort. Yet again the game introduces another gameplay dynamic. This time it's a first-person exploration shooter dynamic. Harry has also to fight off small flying imps by throwing potions like grenades and then zapping them with his wand. Queue the terrible aiming again which will see you running out of potions too before killing all the imps. On the first instance of play the game actually jammed some of the imps behind an open door making them impossible to kill prompting the need for a reload and replay of that particular sequence.

From here on in the game keeps throwing these different gameplay dynamics in an almost schizophrenic manner refusing point blank to settle on a dynamic that works well enough for the whole game. This leaves the game feeling like it has a severe identity crisis and potentially confusing a lot of players into the bargain.

The problems are compounded by some very unnatural-looking character models. Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter has an odd five o'clock shadow which the actor does have in real life and the facial animations and lip-synching don't really seem to match up to the dialogue very well at all. The absence of some of the film's big names in the voice-acting department as well makes the game feel a bit more detached from its silver screen counterparts as well and almost make you feel cheated when the faces are the same but the voices aren't.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a disappointing effort from EA. It feels rushed and poorly thought through and a distinct lack of identity is coursing through the game from start to finish. It is clear to see that EA has lost faith and commitment towards creating film licenses after the mess of the Godfather II but that should be no excuse for the poor quality that this latest Harry Potter game demonstrates. This is so bad even die-hard Harry Potter fans may have trouble getting through this game.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is also enhanced for Kinect although we couldn't test that feature out.

E3 Trailer