Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – part 1
In this game you play as Harry who, together with Ron and Hermione, leaves the famous Hogwarts to remove evil Lord Voldemort’s immortality and get rid of the dark lord once and for all. To achieve this the trio goes on a quest to find the Horcruxes, a quest that of course is made difficult by Death Eaters and Snatchers. Unfortunately you quickly find out that you don’t need to count on your companions to come to your rescue. Except for a few sequences here and there the AI rather works against you as Ron and Hermione seem to have made it their goal in life to get in your way.
Contrary to previous Harry Potter games you now get a third person perspective. Another difference is that the sandbox principle had to make way for tightly following the storyline of the movies. Unfortunately this makes the game quite linear and reminded me of games from the year 2001.
The promised innovation is in the use of the cover system where the idea is that you take cover when being attacked (duh!, ed.). Unfortunately this is done quite badly as the game hardly ever requires you to take cover. Guess this is an attempt to keep things accessible. Also you don’t really need to hide behind pilars or other objects: you’ve got the “Protego” spell that temporarily (or: as long as you hold the button of your controller) invulnerable for hostile attacks.
Remarkable are the side-missions that appear out of nowhere and completely disrupt the storyline, but need to be completed nonetheless if you want to progress the main story. These are probably added to prolong the total playing time as after all, you can finish the entire game in about six hours, depending on the difficulty degree.
What some may see as a downpoint, but we tend to see as a positive thing, is that the auto-aim works only rudimentary. When the Death Eater starts strafing, the auto-aim quickly gives up. Because of this you have to aim more often with your left thumbs and as such a downpoint becomes a small positive note as it does manage to interrupt the boring and repetitive nature of the gameplay a bit.
The longer you play, the stronger Harry’s spells become and the more you have at your disposal. Also here the game unfortunately feels like a rush job. Except for a few moments here and there you can easily finish the entire game with the most simple “Stupify” spell. Too bad the makers did put more time and effort in developing scenarios that would require the entire library of spells.
In the end Harry Potter is a game where in reasonable well worked out surroundings you have to look for some hidden collectables and get rid of really stupid enemies who don’t take cover, stand still waiting for their death, or do nothing more than strafe left or right for a few meters.
So is it such a bad game? Not quite. It’s a lot of fun that the characters for once look like real actors instead of wax statues that have spent a long hot Summer behind the window of Madame Tussauds. A big plus is also the the original cast participated in the game for the voices.
Visually the game is also quite good. The surroundings are well worked out, but especially the spells and lighting effects of these are of high level. Complementary to the visuals is the soundtrack that supports the game well and at times manages to really add to the atmosphere. There are parts where you need to use an “invisibility” cloak to sneak around the Ministery and these are quite enjoyable thanks to the accompanying music.
Next to the main game we also get some extra bonus features. There’s the Challenges where you get guided through parts of the game as Harry like you’re on some invisible train. Death Eaters, Snatchers and other vermin then suddenly appear and you have to successfully survive their attacks. Do this within a certain time and you get a star score and can share your accomplishments online. Despite the truly antique on-rails gameplay it’s still quite fun.
Finally there’s 22 Kinect missions: 12 singleplayer and 10 duo missions. We get put on rails again but the different spells have to be summoned with the correct hand movements. In no-time you’re standing in your living room, waving your arms around in all directions from the moment you need to cast your first spell. Just think of for instance having to handle an invisible hammer and hit an invisible nail with it. Cool!
You still don’t need any real skills here thanks to the fact that the bad guys are good enough to just keep standing still for you, ready for slaughter. Still Kinect takes the direction in which you cast a spell into account and everything is registered with the necessary accuracy. These Kinect missions will keep you busy for about an hour and a half and when you get a Harry Potter fan to come over, you can play together a bit and have some more fun.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 is an average game that might be liked by real Harry Potter fans. This is clearly the result of an assignment that needed to be released alongside the movie, but if you don’t mind the linear and repepitive nature of the game, you get what you pay for. The Kinect missions deliver some additional value but for part 2 we hope that the Death Eaters get a brain and Harry a bit more freedom of movement and more varied missions