It can’t be hard to create a game based on the Harry Potter series, the books (and in most cases) the films giving ample source material for anyone planning sections to use as parts of the game. Yet somehow – recent LEGO version aside – they’ve managed to become steadily worst over the years culminating in BrightLight’s baffling third person shooter that was Deathly Hallows Part One. It wasn’t well received critically, but that didn’t stop Part Two following very similar paths.[drop]Paths that are now more linear, and – somehow – less fun. I don’t know how or why the games changed from enjoyable arcade adventures last generation to boring follow the arrow Bully-esque diversions before ending up as Gears of War-lite cover based shooters, but I’m disappointed that they did. It literally doesn’t make any sense, and You-Know-Who only knows who the games are aimed at these days, because it’s surely not hardcore Potter fans, is it? Deathly Hallows Part 2, released today, is one of the oddest games this year.
Whilst I’m accepting of the need to continuously advance the games in the series, the decision to do another third person shooter in which magic wands are essentially swapped out for pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers is at best bizarre. Of course, Potter and his chums are still wielding wands, but they certainly don’t feel like wands when you’re dashing out firing at the seemingly constant stream of dumb AI enemies. The only thing missing is a weapon swap animation, instead we get our avatar occasionally shouting out the name of the spell as little coloured balls make their way down generic corridors.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh – maybe there wasn’t a way to let the player explore the various environments flitted over in the story because a) most of them have been explored, ad infinitum, in earlier games and b) there isn’t really any point: the plot rattles on at a fair pace and the funnelling down pre-set paths at least keeps the player moving. The problem is that whilst there’s a certain flow that almost works, the omnipresent threat of another bunch of bad guys to interrupt you becomes a familiar, boring one.
Deathly Hallows Part Two requires liberal use of cover in order to stop getting killed (and facing a lengthly restart screen) which means that you’ll be dashing from one carefully placed block of concrete to another whenever your opponents appear, which is all too often. Sadly, once behind cover you’re rarely threatened, and can safely pop out and take out any oncomers without much fear unless the game mechanics dictate otherwise. Battles, therefore, can play out in a rather generic, boring fashion, and are rarely that enjoyable unless you’ve just acquired a new spell.
On a positive note, at least there’s some tactics required with the magic. There’s a shield (Protego) which blocks some enemy fire and should they use it you’ll need to switch to Expelliarmus to break down their shield before switching back to an offensive spell to finish them off – all this is handled with the face buttons (with double taps for later magic) and – to some degree – works fine. The spells are taken far too liberally for fans, though, with the machine gun like Expulso one of the main early culprits of creative license.[drop2]What doesn’t work, and yet is rolled out far too often, are sections of the levels in which you have to protect your onscreen buddy. They’ll (normally) need to be watched over whilst they open a door, blindly stuck to the opening whilst they wave their wand about – and during this time you’ll need to fend off the enemy as it converges on your location. Even on the easiest level the likes of Ron seem oddly attracted to danger, and even once through the door in question they’ll still be unable to defend themselves, a life force meter draining away as you try to protect him.
A life force meter that, interestingly, isn’t there during the normal parts of the game when said partners are invulnerable to damage.
It’s things like this, along with a dramatically stunted game length and broken cut-scenes that just appear out of nowhere and then suddenly take you somewhere else, that spoil what little atmosphere there is. With only (roughly) half of the original cast doing voice overs and some visages that are nothing like the real life counterparts, it’s difficult to connect with much in this game and there’s certainly nothing that really stands out. On a technical level it’s sound enough – BrightLight certain have talent – but as a Harry Potter game it’s far from magical.