It's the final installment in the Harry Potter series, and it's looking pretty awful, as in badly made, poorly wrought, and sloppily executed. I'm talking about the video game, of course, which lands on store shelves today--the opposite's being said of the upcoming July 15th movie.
"Conceptually ridiculous," writes GameSpot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (the game), adding that it's "exceptionally tedious," "incredibly short," offers "little replay value," and "fails to capture the tension and excitement of the novels."
GameFocus sounds similarly displeased, identifying the game as a "3rd person wand shooter" that's "lacking on the story" and essentially too short at "a disappointing 5 hours" (GameSpot claims it's merely 3.5).
But then that's publisher EA and development subsidiary EA Bright Lights' shtick with these games, or has been since the fifth in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when things tilted in a semi-intriguing Grand Theft Auto-like direction. I understand Deathly Hallows Part 1 was a total train wreck, and it actually included Kinect support, something the second part simply drops (probably a blessing).
Sure, the final installment's really a road book, but it's hardly a shooter. The books in general aren't especially action-packed (outside Quidditch or the odd eldritch sortie). They don't involve sequential boss fights, and the bad guys are usually defeated by some bit of cleverness, not crosshairs. The stories are in fact relatively sedate--punctuated by confrontations, true, but always more in the balance about sleuthing and self-discovery than pointing wands and hurling pseudo-Latin incantations. It sounds like that's lost on EA, who've apparently translated the final book as "Harry Potter Duck and Cover."
Maybe the stories aren't meant to be games (certainly not these kinds of games). Or maybe EA's more cynical than we think (or they'd care to admit), seated in marketing chambers calculating guaranteed base sales expected from diehard fans, like crafting you'll-eat-it-whether-you-like-it-or-not prison food for the shackled masses.
Like Watchmen writer Alan Moore, I think some translations should never happen. Many games and movies don't work as books. Most books don't work as games (or movies, for that matter). It takes a pretty visionary creator to craft genuinely novel tie-in games (The Chronicles of Riddick was perhaps the last). We've seen none of the latter in EA's throwaway approach to the Potter games, treated less like a series than a wring-able franchise.