|System: X360, PS3, Wii|
|Dev: Bright Light|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
When I played last year's Harry Potter movie tie-in, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I was pleasantly surprised at how decent the game was. With movie tie-ins, it's difficult not to be cynical about a game's quality, but last year's Potter game gave me hope that movie games didn't have to be utter rubbish. As I started up Deathly Hallows, I was excited to see if any improvements had been made to the already-solid formula presented last year. However, what I got was a horribly linear experience with poor mechanics that didn't even try to represent the experience of the movie, the book, or even a halfway-decent game.
The game starts with Harry and Hagrid escaping from some Death Eaters who have taken to the skies to try and exterminate the boy wizard. As you are flying through the air, you are quickly introduced to what will become the game's central mechanic: wand fighting. And no, this is not the casual wand-fighting we saw in the last game that involved speed and coordination. This is a completely different beast more akin to first person shooting. We'll call it "wanding". Sure, this sounds a little out there, but the mechanics are almost identical to that you would find in a shooting game: you can aim through a reticule using the left stick, lock on with the L2 button, and then fire with R2. I will admit that this mechanic intrigued me at first: who would have thought Harry Potter would try to blend in with the shooter crowd? But I quickly realized that this experiment is a failed one, as first-person wanding just isn't interesting enough to give this game any staying power.
One of the biggest flaws with the combat system is that it is far too shallow. The game does give you a handful of spells to use, but all you ever really need is the default spell, which dispatches enemies quickly and efficiently. Sure, you CAN cast protection spells over your friends, but they are never in real peril, so it is sort of a waste. And Harry Potter is never in any real danger either, as the game gets rid of life meters in favor of peril screens (similar to what you would find in Call of Duty or Halo) that last only a few seconds. As long as you can find some cover to duck behind once you notice everything around you slowing down, you won't have a problem staying alive.
The actual spellcasting mechanics are also so ridiculously simple that wielding your wand feels more like wielding a shotgun than a magical apparatus. Continuously hammering on the fire button is the only way to really excel in the game, and blasting through levels like you're Marcus Fenix becomes monotonous quickly. Shooters add gameplay variety by including different guns and new enemy types, but there is no variety in Deathly Hallows, which makes the experience that much duller.
Combat in Deathly Hallows may be the most overt misstep in the game, but there are other areas where the game falters as well. One of the biggest praises I had for Half-Blood Prince was the open world aspect of the game. Sure, the game had an underlying linearity to it, but there were collection quests and chatty NPCs dotting the landscape, which made exploration worthwhile for those wanting more from the game than simple story-based quests. However, Deathly Hallows gets rid of the open world aspects and substitutes it with tiny claustrophobic levels that are often simple enclosed areas or even straight lines. There is no inspiration at all behind the design of the world of Deathly Hallows, which is just a shame.