Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a video game adaptation of the Hollywood film for PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.
In theory, making a Harry Potter game shouldn't be difficult. With the magical world and gripping story already crafted by JK Rowling's novels and the adapted films, all that's really left for a video game developer to do is essentially fill in the blanks. Unfortunately, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a new low for cash-in titles timed at upcoming Christmas blockbuster schedules. From start to finish, the results are absolutely dreadful.
While I'd like to say that enjoying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 depends on the kind of Harry Potter fan you are, that's simply not the case. Even if you only partake in the film releases and genuinely don't know how the story ends, the first half of Deathly Hallows' engrossing narrative feels haphazardly edited within the actual game.
Several cut-scenes are heavily rushed, smashing plot points together without giving them space to flow or develop. Major turns in the story are either glossed over with hurried dialogue, or in some cases, completely ignored. It's more than the game missing important minor characters from the source material - at the very least, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 would have benefited from some smartly altered exposition. Here, there's only the barest skeleton of a story.
While the environments are mostly faithful to the set design of the movies, several areas are often recycled with various levels and side-quests that have nothing to do with the story.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Gameplay
Even worse is the gameplay, which I can only describe as a tedious, glitch-ridden mess. Rather than the usual Harry Potter method of puzzles and mini-games, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is focused on combat, as several levels are structured around battling legions of Death Eaters and corrupt wizards.
Although Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1's action-oriented focus initially looks like a breath of fresh air for the series, it's hampered by noticeable glitches and lazy design. Non-player characters will frequently walk though solid objects (and not as a result of Apparition), various invisible walls will block what look like open paths, and sometimes the enemy AI will blatantly fail to see you unless you cross a certain trigger point on the map.
Moreover, the combat is extremely repetitive, despite the wide amount of spells that the game unlocks as Harry levels up through the cookie-cutter missions. Every encounter boils down to spamming the Stunning Spell while ducking behind cover - and even that becomes a chore early on in the game.
When Deathly Hallows gets really glitchy, AI partners Ron and Hermione will attack enemies they can't even see on the map, blasting "Expulso" spells at the side of a building. Stealth missions with the Invisibility Cloak aren't much better, as the lack of a proper camera makes it nigh impossible to move around dangerous areas without being spotted. Poor controls make it difficult to dodge foes, and the inability to anticipate erratic random movements of unseen bystanders is counter-intuitive.
As made evident by Deathly Hallows' visuals, the game could've used a lot more polish. Bland, static environments are riddled with invisible walls and poorly designed layouts that will cause various mid-combat hiccups in NPC behaviour.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Xbox 360 Kinect
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 also comes with a handful of single-player and two-player Kinect for Xbox 360 missions, each of which are little more than on-rails shooting galleries pasted over environments from the main campaign. Each mission restricts you to two offensive spells and the Shield Charm, although the Kinect will often misread your hand gestures, no matter how wide and deliberate they are. Eventually, you'll give up trying to cast anything but the Stunning Spell and Disarming Charm, and the repetitive motions of spamming the same attacks will destroy the muscles in your arms.
Personally, I consider myself a gamer in very decent shape, and my forearm went numb after just the third Kinect level. It's simply not fun - mimicking repetitive spell motions legitimately hurts, and joining up with a second player doesn't do very much to relieve the amount of spell casting needed to survive each level, let alone achieve a high score.
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Specs
- PC, Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Xbox 360
- PC, Sony PS3, Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Xbox 360
To put it bluntly, I'm not a developer, and if I'm able to easily point out loads of programming errors and AI glitches, it's obvious that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 needed more time in production and a heavy amount of polish. Being able to see so many obvious errors in what's supposed to be a finished product is particularly disturbing, as this isn't even EA Bright Light's first time with the series. If you're looking for a decent adapted Harry Potter experience, try any of the movies, Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, or the Order of the Phoenix game. It doesn't matter if you're a hardcore or casual fan: there's no magic to be seen here.