The most disappointing thing about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is that it fails to capture the essence of the story it's trying to tell. While the revamped third-person shooter gameplay stays engaging throughout most of the campaign, the context that it's framed around is paper-thin. There is no attempt to tie the onscreen action to the motivation of the hero performing it; nor is there a coherent and engaging narrative to complement the gameplay and inject some sense of purpose. Crude character models, bad voice acting, a fragmented storyline, and a variety of bugs transform the richly detailed and minutely imagined world of Harry Potter into an experience as colorless as one of Professor Snape's lessons.
6284239NoneDeath Eaters pursure Harry and Hagrid through the London skies.
The final journey facing Harry Potter is not an easy one. Darkness, loss, and death now fill the space once inhabited by classes, Quidditch, and dorm-room chitchat. There are no more schoolyard adventures, traipses through the forest, or twilight romances by the lake. Instead, Harry, Ron, and Hermione must venture past Hogwarts into the cold, wet English countryside, tracking down and destroying the remaining parts of Voldemort's soul. This is the picture painted so clearly and heartbreakingly by J.K. Rowling's final Harry Potter book and so unceremoniously represented here. Not only does the game's story take liberties with the canon (when did Harry, Ron, and Hermione ever venture inside an abandoned factory?), but those elements of the story that are reflected accurately are portrayed through short, fragmented cutscenes that look dire and are completely unconvincing, making the story confusing and unclear for those unfamiliar with the books.
Important plot points are glossed over in favour of combat, and the game does very little to explain what drives these characters to do what they do. What's more, cutscenes have the emotional range of a teaspoon, to use Hermione's own words. What is supposed to be one of the most touching moments of the final book is reduced to a cutscene so brief and so badly acted you can only laugh. The character models also leave a lot to the imagination and are plagued by awkward movements, a perpetual stiffness of the hair and clothes, and out-of-sync talking, not to mention extremely limited dialogue--Ron is particularly fond of shouting "We can't do this!" during every single combat sequence at regular intervals, which is annoying at first and completely soul-destroying by the time you finish the game.
Looking past the problematic storytelling elements, the gameplay itself is fun for the most part, especially if you can look past the fact that you won't be doing much else. The third-person shooter makeover sees you controlling Harry from an over-the-shoulder perspective, with a targeting system and cover mechanic also at his disposal. Most of the combat is free-flowing and rapid, however some camera issues stop it from being a completely rewarding experience. In some parts of the game, the camera becomes uncooperative and results in extreme close-ups, usually when you're moving in and out of cover or navigating within small spaces. This is something that almost always ends in disaster--it's impossible to determine the direction of killing curses when the whole screen is filled with the bottom left-hand corner of Harry's blue jumper. What Harry "shoots" are various spells; each spell's intensity increases over time, with Harry levelling up throughout the campaign and eventually unlocking 10 spells overall, including Expelliarmus, Expecto Patronum, and Petrificus Totalus. The spells are assigned to a spell wheel that you can either cycle through using the right bumper or bring up as a radial menu. The targeting system also works smoothly and is responsive throughout the whole game, activated by pressing the left trigger to lock on with the reticle, and the right trigger to shoot. The fact that the display features no health or magic bar (with health obtained from various potions dropped by defeated enemies) also helps to make the experience smoother and more immersive, at least during those parts when the camera isn't acting up.
Shooting enemy clones is fun, even if occasionally one runs into a tree for no reason.