Developer: EA Bright Light
Harry Potter games used to be quite good. No, really. Offering up Hogwarts as a kind of open world sandbox was an excellent idea. For tie-in games, they were actually fun to play, offered up a fair amount of different gameplay styles and truly rewarded exploration. I'll readily admit to buying Order of the Phoenix for a fiver just for the Achievements (I was going through a difficult time), but I actually really enjoyed the game.
Sadly, as Neil found out with the first instalment to the series finale, someone decided that making above-average movie tie-ins was anathema to the status quo and must have demanded a return to the mediocre and the risible. I don't know whose idea it was to turn Harry's last stand into a third-person shooter, botch it with rusting mechanics, insufferable lag, woeful pacing, dreary graphics and about as much excitement as a brown paper bag...but something went wrong.
Thing is, crank the difficulty level up to maximum and the final few levels are actually quite fun. By this time you've unlocked your full spectrum of spells - from the sniper shot of Petrificus Totalus to the explosive blast of Confringo - Apparating in and out of cover and peppering Death Eaters with spells that are an absolute cinch to switch between. For a moment, dare I say it, I found myself having something approaching a good time...for a few minutes.
Fun is something you might have thought EA Bright Light (formerly EA UK) would have brought in abundance. This is massive: McGonagall fights several giants, Neville and Seamus blow up a bridge, there's a castle-wide battle raging throughout and plenty of boss fights. In fact, more so than Part 1, this is actually a game that kind of suits a more action-oriented focus. There's no opportunity for mincing around Hogwarts, because Hogwarts is under attack! Once you've made peace with this, initial disappointment is swiftly bypassed.
Only it's replaced by a crushing sinking feeling thanks to oppressive repetition. I'd hate to think how little time this game spent in development but, as is the case with nearly every single movie tie-in, it's rushed, repetitive, short and ugly. I wish it wasn't the case, as always such games give rise to a swathe of 'what if?' questions as reviewers daydream about how good the game could have been to escape the turgid mess in front of them.
The characters all look like they've been punched in the face several times, Ron especially. Seamus looks more or less like a human being, and Neville is now a hulking Adonis rather than a chubby git, but Alan Rickman has a severe case of 'melting visage' and Maggie Smith looks like a nondescript raisin wrapped in a bedsheet. The animation will make you laugh at times (never for the right reasons) and curse at others, and waiting for Hermione or Ron to open doors for you is about as much fun as eating your own toes. Don't expect any help from your companions during a fight, by the way, most of the time they'll stand in the middle of firefights and look blankly at the camera.
You start off with the simple Stupefy spell, gradually unlocking more powerful spells as the game progresses. They're all mapped to the face buttons and bumpers with either a single or double tap, and smoothly swapping between spells and chaining attacks is one of the best things about the game. Once you've gotten used to the fact that characters handle with about as much grace as a hammered Johnny Vegas, perched in cover you can kick things off with a rapid-fire Expulso, break enemy shields with a well-timed Expelliarmus before sending them flying with Confringo and bringing up Repulso briefly to defend while your wand recharges.
This is actually pretty sweet the first time you do it, but that is drastically lessened over time. Of course, the game has an Achievement for taking out 1000 foes, which is handy, because it's all you're going to be doing. At least Transformers had some variety to it...and a multiplayer mode for that matter...but this is woeful.
There are a couple of moments where the game aims for 'cinematic', moments that see the camera swing around to face the player and have you casting spells frantically over your shoulder whilst trying to run away from something. I have always loathed it when games do this, even the Killer Croc bit in Batman: Arkham Asylum was only barely tolerable. Towards the end, though, trying to outrun Voldemort's cloud of death, Harry refused to play ball, often insta-failing for no good reason, and occasionally simply refusing t register my button input, squatting down and waiting patiently for the Dark Lord to engulf him...which sometimes took several seconds. Items in the near vicinity were broken.
There is a Challenge Mode...but that just involves playing through little bits of the Story Mode again, only this time there's a clock. There are leaderboards to try and tempt you into competition with other players and entice you replay certain levels, there are collectible character profiles and other tidbits to be found as well, although the levels are pretty linear so you don't exactly have to be Cook or Hemingway to find them. But why you'd go back is somewhat beyond me.
It's games like this that make you wonder just how stupid publishers take their audience to be. Thirty five - forty quid will net you maybe six hours of gameplay, no multiplayer, poor graphics, worse audio and a headache from where you've bashed your noggin into a wall, waiting for one of your wizarding chums to open a gate. As Blackadder would say, there's barely enough content here to cover a small water biscuit. It doesn't have to be this way, and Bright Light knows this. They've done so much better before.
- Ironically, removing Kinect support has probably made the game better
- Confringo is pretty satisfying
- Easy Achievements
- Criminally short
The Short Version: Don't spend money on this. It'll only encourage them.