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Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
by Tom Acres

For me, every aspect of the Harry Potter franchise has been incredibly inconsistent in terms of quality. Whether it's the books, films or games, every time you think "yes, they've nailed this", a subsequent entry will probably leave you wondering what on earth went wrong. The books became somewhat convoluted with nonsense towards the end; the films have struggled more and more to turn the books into some sort of engaging or interesting spectacle; and the games have bizarrely got progressively worse as the technology has improved. The first few games on the PlayStation were charming, somewhat open-ended platform/puzzle games. The move to the PlayStation 2 era saw them take a disappointing step towards third-person action, and despite briefly flirting with a surprisingly well done open-world formula in Order of the Phoenix, the current generation of Potter games have become dull, tedious third-person shooters.

It shouldn't really be too much for Potter fans to expect a decent game from EA Bright Light, to send the series out with a bang. As it turns out, the developers have barely managed to send it out with a whimper with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

It's hard to imagine that someone who hasn't either read the book or seen the film will play this game, and that's clearly what the developer thought as well when it came to telling the story. There is practically no narrative development at all. Characters will talk and chat about things that were - even as someone who had just seen the film that morning - leaving me scratching my head somewhat. The story-telling is practically non-existent, and doesn't really provide you with the basic gist of what's going on. The opening level sees you fighting your way through the caverns underneath Gringotts Bank, but unless you've seen the film, you'll have absolutely no idea how or why Harry, Ron and Hermione have ended up in such a place. It's as if someone threw the movie script into a bonfire, and any bits of paper that survived were used to craft the story for the game. The film's most memorable storytelling moments, such as Snape's memories, are not even referenced in the game. It's an absolutely botched attempt at telling a story, and for EA Bright Light to treat such dearly loved source material with so little care and attention will no doubt anger long-standing fans of the wizarding world.

The script is also littered with some absolutely woeful dialogue, and equally poor voice acting. Whoever takes on the role of Harry in this game makes the wooden Daniel Radcliffe seem like an Oscar-winning acting legend; that's how poor it is. The memorable moments from the film that were supposed to represent real drama are included in the game as stiff and boring cutscenes, with awful dialogue and laughable voice acting. They aren't helped by the fact that the character models just look plain creepy, almost like Madame Tussauds replicas of the actors having just begun to melt. Facial animation is distressing, to the point that it almost looks funny. The character likenesses are actually passable but, on the whole, they definitely fall on the wrong side of uncanny valley.

Unfortunately, the gameplay and level design lives up to the lacklustre presentation of the story and visuals, with derivative combat mechanics and repetitive level layouts coming together to create something that really doesn't feel like the magical world so many people have come to love. Rather than the the creative and imaginative environments of Hogwarts and other locations from past games, you'll be fighting through dank caverns, boring towns and the castle itself has been relegated to empty corridors and rubble. The environments are just plain dull, and the way in which the levels themselves are designed is incredibly repetitive. Predictable and boring use of cover is a key issue of the landscape, whether they're columns, walls or rocks, and the whole game simply ushers you through in a linear direction, as you move from boring combat encounter to yet another boring combat encounter.

Throughout the majority of the game, you'll be controlling Harry, with Ron and Hermione at your side, but the game tries to freshen things up by letting you play as other characters such as Neville Longbottom and Professor McGonagall at set points during the story. However, there is no difference in playing as these characters other than their appearance, which just makes it feel like a cheap attempt at fan service. There are no unique spells or combat moves, so each character is effectively just a skin. There's also no co-op play, which seems like an obvious element to include since you have other characters with you at all times. It probably wouldn't have made the game much more fun, but it would at least have made it quicker to complete; a good thing when the game is so bad that you just want it to end as quickly as possible. I completed the whole thing in just short of four hours, even shorter than Modern Warfare 2 took me, and the end simply couldn't come quickly enough.

All you do in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is fight and run, and perhaps occasionally stop to collect an utterly pointless collectable. The collectables simply distracts from the main path, and the running only gets you to the next mind-numbingly dull battle. The combat is just plain boring, even though the developers have clearly been inspired by the likes of Gears of War, so much so that each spell is basically the equivalent of a widely-recognised weapon from such a game. You have a spell that acts much like a grenade launcher and one that seems to resemble a colourful machine gun; it really is the most uncreative use of the Potter license I can remember experiencing. Remember levitating objects with 'Wingadium Leviosa', or stunning enemies with 'Petrificus Totalus'? There's none of that here; each spell is just a slightly different way of killing someone. The only variation between the spells is that some can be more effective when dealing with certain situations that others; for example, there's a spell for dealing with enemies at long range. Honestly, though, it's basically just a colourful sniper rifle.

Combat is just incredibly unfulfilling, and not at all satisfying. Spells feel weak, as your Death Eater enemies will simply go up in a puff of smoke. The enemy AI is almost non-existent, as they will often just stand still waiting for you to kill them. Cover means you're basically indestructible, and I ran through the entire game whilst dying only once. And that was only when I was trying to shove Hermione out of cover to get her killed, because - quite frankly - the game itself was boring me to tears by that point. All the combat scenarios come straight out of the 'generic gaming clichés' box, with most of them taking the form of cover-based shooting. Occasionally, though, you'll run towards the camera whilst shooting behind you, as the game struggles to feel 'cinematic'. It fails miserably.

There's nothing to break the monotony, and none of the film's more creative set pieces are used. You don't get to ride the dragon out of Gringotts, nor are you able to fly a broom through the Room of Requirement. You do get to experience the flooding of the Chamber of Secrets, but it's been handled as if EA have no respect for the source material, akin to the rest of the game. Even the battle with Voldemort is painfully dull, as you just shoot puffy little spells at him until he falls over. And, then, you fist pump the air. Because it means the game is over and you can throw it away.

Just because I'm not completely heartless, I'll say something slightly positive: the game does make use of some of the music from the films, which is just about the only good thing I can say about it. There is also a relatively nice montage of every prior Potter game in the series just before the credits roll, but this just served to make me ask "What on Earth have you done to this series?" Because it used to be quite enjoyable.

Quite frankly, I cannot think of one person on this planet who'll find even one ounce of enjoyment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. For gamers, this is an absolutely shoddy attempt at a third-person shooter, with boring combat and repetitive level design, that make it an absolute waste of your time when you consider the other games available in the genre. Even for Potter fans, though, this game is simply a waste of your money; the game treats the original stimulus with no sense of respect, with a botched script, poor visuals, awful voice acting and a measly four-hour runtime. The best thing you can glean from this game is the fact that it represents the end of the series. For those of you who are desperate for some Potter videogame fun, stick to the LEGO games.

2/10 [?]

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- Tom Acres

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