Hands On at E3 2010 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

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It’s no secret that the Harry Potter games have never lived up to the success of the movies or the books. Heck, I overheard a lot of people in EA’s booth saying something along the lines of, “Man, did you see that new Harry Potter game? It actually looks kind of good!” It’s also no secret that movie tie-in games have, with relatively few exceptions, been less than successful.

EA is hoping to change all that with the latest chapter in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Developed by EA Bright Light, Deathly Hallows is a different approach to the Harry Potter universe. Instead of the mostly exploration-based gameplay of previous titles, Deathly Hallows looks more akin to a third-person shooter.

This makes perfect sense if you’ve read the Potter books, as Deathly Hallows puts Harry into a direct battle with his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, with more action filling the pages of the final book than any other in the series.

So, how does it translate into a game? Well, we grabbed a controller at E3 last week to find out for ourselves.

The first thing that struck me about Deathly Hallows was how much like a shooter (say, Gears of War) it feels when playing it. You run to a piece of cover, and press A to snap to it. You can lean out, fire off spells, and move back into cover. You can even generate your own cover by pressing the RB on the XBox 360 controller, casting a shield spell (Protego). This spell has a limited duration, and roots you in place, but can be quite handy if caught in the open.

Navigating between the various spells is accomplished by simply scrolling through the list using the D-pad. This seems like it could become quite cumbersome if the list of spells grows any larger than it was in the demo. Anyone familiar with the series will recognize the game’s spells, although some of the effects have been tweaked. A few highlights include:

  • Wyngardium Leviosa: Levitate targets, or pick up debris in the environment and hurl it at your foes.
  • Confundo: Hit an enemy with this, and they’ll become an ally – at least until their friends turn and take them out.
  • Stupefy: A straightforward attack spell that functions almost like a pistol
  • Confringo: The ‘rocket launcher’ spell from the demo, it generates a large explosion that will knock enemies prone, or take them out completely.
  • Crucio: A rapid-fire attack spell, referred to by the EA staffer I talked to as the ‘assault rifle’ of the game.

You can also use the ‘Four Points’ spell to navigate your way to your next objective. A ghostly silver trail, Four Points glides along the ground, up stairs, and around corners to lead the way.

Deathly Hallows perfectly captures the visual style you’d expect from the darker Harry Potter books. It’s dark, and the spells are bright contrasts to the melancholy backgrounds. In the demo we played, buildings reduced to rubble were the order of the day, and wayward spells could add to the destruction.

My only current worry with the new style of the game is that it appears that the spells are heading more the direction of gunfire than the powerful spells they’re made out to be in the books. I was using Stupefy to deal with an enemy in the demo, and it took numerous hits to put him down. I understand why this has to be so, but it does take away from the feeling books and movies have.

All in all, I was impressed by the execution of Deathly Hallows. It really appears that EA is endeavoring to find a sweet spot with this Harry Potter title that would allow them to have it follow the movie closely without sacrificing game quality. Whether or not they pull it off remains to be seen, but EA Bright Light is off to a great start. We’ll find out more once the game is released, which won’t be until the fourth quarter of this year.

To tide you over, here’s the debut trailer to give you a look at the game until Q4 rolls around.

Save Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 using our full text and video walkthrough.

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