|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, PS2, DS, PSP, GBA||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA UK||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 26, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
June 22, 2007 - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has proven to be the greatest game of the series. This game caught me off-guard, as I thought this was just another movie-based video game that tried hard but didn't get anywhere. Instead, this new installment of the Harry Potter series takes us where we had never gone before. Harry's school, Hogwarts, is almost an open-ended scenario where the unimaginable can happen. It almost seems as if those virtual barriers we often find in video games have disappeared in this game, as if magic had taken over and made this game endless.
Now, endless gameplay has its good and its bad, because at some point you may grow tired of wandering around, trying to discover one more thing and finding out that there's yet more to come! There's no real sense of accomplishment if you can't get it all done, especially if you're one of those who won't stop until it's actually one hundred percent "finito." At the same time, never-ending discoveries and side quests will give you reasons to go back to the game and continue unlocking those tasty secrets hidden in the Room of Rewards. Why not? If the game keeps you entertained, you might as well keep playing!
If you haven't read the book or seen the movie (which won't be out until July 11th), you are going to see how the story continues just by playing this game, so if you're afraid of spoilers, you might want to wait and play after you watch the movie. I won't spoil anything for you here, though. Just know that it's the end of the summer and Harry returns to Hogwarts School for his fifth year of magical studies. Here he will reunite with his friends and make a plan to defend himself and everyone else from the evil Lord Voldemort. Some people, like Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Dolores Umbridge, say Voldemort vanished and will never come back. Harry will have to be valiant and prove to everyone that he's not a liar; that's where your mission begins.
EA's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was developed with the movie in mind, more than any of the previous games were. Harry Potter is not just a book-selling phenomenon but also a ticket-selling mayhem. There are few people in this side of the world that aren't anxious to see the movie hit the big screens on July 11th, and you're probably one of them. The movies sell because they translate into images all that we've tried to imagine by reading J.K. Rowling's books. Harry is involved in a world of fantasy and magic but also goes to school, just like more than half of his fan base; this allows Potter's enthusiasts to feel identified and dive right into this inspiring fantasy world.
The actors that play the roles of the characters are now famous and stronger than they ever were; they have become the characters they represent, and they're the ones who everyone wants to see. There's no Harry without Daniel Radcliffe, Hermione without Emma Watson, or Ron Weasley without Rupert Grint. That's why this new game had to look and feel more real, because that's ultimately what will bring the game to success. Thanks to the uprising technologies developers have in hands, the character's faces are really true to reality, the environments are truly life-like and highly interactive, and the magic feels more alive than ever before.
If you top it all off with voiceovers by many of the real actors, the vibrant and mysterious soundtrack of the movie, and the addictive sound effects, you'll see that no other Harry Potter game comes even close to what this one has to offer. If you're a sucker for those movies and you love video games, you have no alternative but to play this game and jump into Harry's life one more time. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed.
Of course this game is far from flawless; you'll find many not-so-perfect things along the way. As real as the graphics are, the frame rate doesn't follow a realistic pace. Lagging effects happen frequently, and even though the game's loading times are almost inexistent, which is very positive, you'll see some strange cut-offs from one scene to another and from one room to the next. You can make Harry run through the hallways by holding a button, but sometimes he'll just slow down by himself, as if he had free will. Some of these things can drive you crazy and affect your overall gaming experience, which is why I say, this game is not ideal, although it's on its way there.