Thursday 6th January, 2011
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Xbox 360) Review
Time-snatcher, or deathly dull?
Because of the change in tone from the other Harry Potter books/films, this latest Harry Potter game has undergone a change from the previous adventure games, where you were free to wonder round Hogwarts. Of course, this change can be partly attributed to the change in tone of the last book - most notably that Harry, Ron and Hermione are no longer at Hogwarts, and are on the run from Voldemort and his Snatchers, searching for the Horcruxes (pieces of Voldemort's soul stored in various objects) in an effort to destroy him once and for all. Because there's a hell of a lot of battles and things, EA have decided to make it into more of a first-person spell-caster - but how well does it work?
The game begins by throwing you in at the deep end - riding in the side-car of Hagrid's flying motorbike, on your way to The Burrow (Ron's house), you get ambushed by hoards of Voldemort's Death Eaters, along with the man himself. You'll need to shoot at them, making them apparate away (ie. disappear in a puff of purple smoke) before they kill you - the controls in combat are quite smililar to that of a first-person shooter, with LT locking on to enemies (although it doesn't seem to work too well), and RT shooting. Once you clear all the enemies, you crash-land in the garden of the Burrow and black out - you wake up a bit later in a bed, with Hermione and Ron watching over you.
Next comes Ron's brother Bill and Fleur's wedding, and training in how to use the 'Four Points' spell - by pressing the B button, you can cast a spell that will make a trail appear to guide you to the next objective. First you want to track down Luna Lovegood's father, Xenophilius - the editor of the Quibbler, the only wizarding newspaper thing that doesn't think Harry is a raving lunatic - and after a brief conversation with him, you set off in search of Ron's dad, who's apparently disappeared to his shed, further up the garden. Once you reach his shed, he gives the trio the items Dumbledore had left to them in his will - the Deluminator to Ron (a cigarette lighter that turns off the surrounding lights), a copy of 'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' to Hermione, and Harry the sword of Godric Gryffindor and the first snitch he caught in Quidditch. Then, they get ambushed - the Ministry of Magic has fallen, and Death Eaters are everywhere - you need to fight your way back to the tents where the wedding was held, to check everyone's okay.
Now, the cover mechanic is introduced - pressing the X button whilst next to a decent-sized obstacle will make Harry crouch behind it, and pressing the RT will make him pop out from behind it and blast the Death Eaters, but how well this works is often hit and miss - Harry will often blast the rock next to the Death Eater, rather than the Death Eater himself, despite you targeting the Death Eater. Although, I find that just running round in circles, spamming sparks is much more effective. Once you fight your way to the tent and find that everyone is fine, Hermione grabs Harry and Ron's arms and apparates them away to the relative safety of Tottenham Court Road.
What follows is a lesson in Ron's paranoia and using the Invisibility Cloak (accessed by pressing the Y button). Ron is convinced certain people around Tottenham Court Road look suspicious, and donning the Invisibility Cloak, Harry is sent to check. But it's not as simple as just marching over there whilst invisible - bumping into anyone will risk you being seen (and everyone seems to like walking in your way), and you'll need to move slowly so as not to be discovered. How close you are to being found is represented by the 'light meter' on the left hand side of the screen - when this empties, you'll be found, but it can be recharged by simply standing still in a quiet place. Once Ron's calmed down a bit, you make your way to a Cafe - only to be ambushed again. After some fighting, you get apparated to outside Sirius' house, 12 Grimmauld Place, and, as always seems to be the way, Harry needs to make sure it's safe.
There's nothing like having Voldemort after you to put a bit of a downer on your camping holiday.
And now comes the most annoying, awkward bit so far - Deoxys in the kitchen, and a lesson in how to use potions. It tells you that you need to throw the Deoxy potion at the Deoxys. Which sounds simple enough. But after throwing loads of potions their way, they weren't disappearing - what it forgets to tell you is the potion merely stuns the Deoxys, and you'll need to then shoot sparks at them to get rid of them, but you'll have to be very fast, seeing as the effects of the potion don't seem to last anywhere near long enough for my poor analogue stick skills. This seems to be a running theme with the game - poor explanation, and awkward implementation.
If you're the kind of person who thinks the game should follow the film to the letter, then the next part will likely annoy you. Because Ron and Hermione are busy doing recons and preparations for getting into the Ministry of Magic, in the books, Harry is left with little to do, and no-one but Kreacher the House Elf for company - which wouldn't have been much fun in the game. EA have therefore taken a few liberties, and given Harry a few missions involving rescuing the various Muggle-borns Voldemort's Snatchers have trapped. These mostly revolve around wondering round abandoned factories and dilapidated castles, shooting Snatchers and Death Eaters, and talking to a couple of Muggle-borns to rescue them.
Rescuing Muggle-borns from an abandoned factory may not be in the book, but it does give Harry something to do whilst Ron and Hermione are off doing more important things.
Now, I know this seems to be the latest thing in games at the moment, but I don't like it - 'Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1' has no health bar. The only way you know if you're about to die, is when the screen begins to to grey out - which I often don't notice until it's too late, especially when you're in a dark area, like the abandoned factory. And with no little drawing of the D-Pad on the screen, it's impossible to know which one will throw which potion, other than by trial and error - this is at least one of the reasons why I don't use the potions.
On the positive note, people who get a bit OCD about collectables (like me) will find there's plenty of stuff to find, with extracts from both The Daily Prophet and The Quibbler to locate, as well as Potterwatch broadcasts to tune in to - a humourous radio show, hosted by Lee Jordan, the friend and partner in crime of Ron's twin brothers, Fred and George. Harry also gains experience as you progress through the game, improving his spells and stats as he goes.
Apart from 'Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1' having too long a name, and several issues with awkward controls and poorly explained parts, it's not a wholly bad game - just don't expect it to be just like the previous games.