Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Review for Nintendo Wii (Wii)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Review for Nintendo Wii (Wii)

Gears of Potter

There’s really not a whole lot to say about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the Wii game adapted from the blockbuster movie of the same name. To put it briefly, it’s a third-party shooter/stealth title that’s so unpolished it feels like a preliminary build, and therefore it’s not worth your time.

The basic idea here isn’t a bad one. As they did with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which abandoned earlier games’ generic action formula for the Grand Theft Auto/sandbox model), EA decided to try a whole different type of gameplay for Deathly Hallows Part 1. This is a Gears of War-style third-person shooter — complete with a cover system, though unfortunately lacking a machine gun with a chainsaw bayonet for Harry to wield.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Screenshot

In most of the action sequences, you hide behind various barriers, popping out to shoot enemies with spells from your wand. As you progress, you unlock new spells, become stronger, and advance the plot (which is drawn from the movie, obviously). You also unlock special challenges, which you can attempt in your time away from the main game. While you’ll spend most of your time with a few basic spells, you eventually have a full Bioshock-style wheel of them to work with, including Wingardium Leviosa, which allows you to manipulate objects magically.

Sounds good, right? Only until you actually try it. “Unplayable” is a little too harsh a word, but “unenjoyable” certainly describes the experience you’ll have as you try to work your way through the Death Eater-strewn battlefields. While you can adjust the sensitivity and dead zone of the Wii-mote controls, they never feel quite right. Harry turns a little too slowly, the auto-aim is far too forgiving (though you can turn it off), and we still haven’t figured out whether it’s possible to de-select a potion if you equip it but decide not to throw it (they work like grenades). The game consistently fails to explain the basic mechanics, leaving you frustrated as you wonder how to perform basic tasks. Also, it’s hard to tell the enemies from the friendly characters in the middle of a spell-fight.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Screenshot

Meanwhile, the cover system is obnoxious. If you’re near the right edge of a wall but facing toward the left, Harry will try to look out to the left if you press the button that pops out to shoot. Some objects that obviously should provide cover don’t. Further, the camera is a wonky mess when you duck into a tight space, failing to show you what you intuitively want to see and sometimes spazzing out completely. Fortunately, Harry takes very little damage from most enemies, and his health regenerates, so it’s usually possible to just ignore the cover system entirely.

Things get even worse when the developers try to mix it up with some stealth, sending you to investigate the suspicious happenings around you without getting caught. A quick button press turns on your invisibility cloak and changes your view to first-person. There’s a triangular meter on the bottom-left, and you become visible when it runs out. You also become visible if anyone bumps into you, which makes it a real pain to sneak through crowded areas, especially given the wonky camera and how slowly Harry turns. Sometimes, being seen results in an immediate mission fail, and other times, countless enemies will turn on you. They don’t do enough damage to kill you most of the time, but it’s too difficult to sneak back away into invisibility, and half the time you wish the game would just start you over and be done with it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Screenshot

Other parts of Deathly Hallows Part 1 aren’t quite so bad. The on-rails shooting sequence that begins the story is tolerable, and there are a few interesting levels, including one that has you hiding from a fire-breathing dragon. These features are few and far between, however, and they often drag on for too long.

The story elements are handled competently as well. Cutscenes and dialogue with Harry’s friends break up the action sequences, and despite the weird jargon, even those who aren’t familiar with the Potter tale will find the basic outline of the story easy to follow. It’s not as vivid or detailed as the movie or books, of course, and purists will be annoyed at the loose way the plot follows J.K. Rowling’s original, but the developers managed to make the story not feel like an afterthought.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Screenshot

The prerendered graphics in the cutscenes are good for the Wii, but the in-game visuals are sparse, with bare-bones textures, too little detail, and mediocre animations. Also, the level design can be repetitive — for example, in the aforementioned dragon level, you have to avoid the dragon in one cave after another by hiding behind columns — and the lack of detail can make it easy to get turned around. Worst of all, the slowdown is absolutely horrific when lots of enemies are on the screen; one time, we actually thought our Wii was malfunctioning.

The sound has its good and bad points. The voice acting is good (especially if you find English accents as amusing as we do), but the repetitive dialogue samples can get irritating, especially when you have a whole group of people yelling out “Stupefy!” at random intervals. However, the sound effects make you feel like you’re in the movie, and the music evokes the mood of the franchise.

Developers Bright Light deserves some credit for taking on a daunting project; one can only imagine how hard it is to turn Harry Potter into a third-person shooter. Unfortunately, while they succeeded in putting out a product with the Harry Potter name on it in time for Christmas, they failed to make that product a good buy. The gameplay here is just too awkward, too glitchy, and too bland to make this a good use of money or time.

The prerendered cutscenes look all right, but the in-game visuals aren’t impressive, and there’s some of the worst slowdown we’ve ever seen. 2.2 Control
The Wii-mote controls are very clunky, with slow turning, an awful camera, and a wonky cover system. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some voice samples play too many times, but otherwise the sound is fine. 2.5 Play Value
This game feels like a preliminary build rather than a finished game, and it’s unenjoyable as a result. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The wand is the ultimate weapon. Hold nothing back! Unleash an arsenal of formidable magic to defeat attackers, protect yourself from harm, and evade capture.
  • Deadly enemies lurk around every corner. Fight Voldemort’s minions, including Death Eaters, Snatchers, and Dementors. Overcome a host of fierce creatures attacking on instinct alone. No other Harry Potter game has had this level of action!
  • Become a master in stealth. Use the Invisibility Cloak, Polyjuice Potion, and Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder to avoid detection and sneak past adversaries.
  • Unique cover mechanics. Use magic to create and wield cover. Throw your cover at enemies, turning defense into attack.
  • Powerful potions. Find potions that can be used to attack, escape, restore health, or increase your luck.

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