|System: Wii, PS3, X360|
|Dev: Bright Light|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Fantasy Violence|
by Robert VerBruggen
There's really not a whole lot to say about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the Wii game adapted from the blockbuster movie of the same name. To put it briefly, it's a third-party shooter/stealth title that's so unpolished it feels like a preliminary build, and therefore it's not worth your time.
The basic idea here isn't a bad one. As they did with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which abandoned earlier games' generic action formula for the Grand Theft Auto/sandbox model), EA decided to try a whole different type of gameplay for Deathly Hallows Part 1. This is a Gears of War-style third-person shooter -- complete with a cover system, though unfortunately lacking a machine gun with a chainsaw bayonet for Harry to wield.
In most of the action sequences, you hide behind various barriers, popping out to shoot enemies with spells from your wand. As you progress, you unlock new spells, become stronger, and advance the plot (which is drawn from the movie, obviously). You also unlock special challenges, which you can attempt in your time away from the main game. While you'll spend most of your time with a few basic spells, you eventually have a full Bioshock-style wheel of them to work with, including Wingardium Leviosa, which allows you to manipulate objects magically.
Sounds good, right? Only until you actually try it. "Unplayable" is a little too harsh a word, but "unenjoyable" certainly describes the experience you'll have as you try to work your way through the Death Eater-strewn battlefields. While you can adjust the sensitivity and dead zone of the Wii-mote controls, they never feel quite right. Harry turns a little too slowly, the auto-aim is far too forgiving (though you can turn it off), and we still haven't figured out whether it's possible to de-select a potion if you equip it but decide not to throw it (they work like grenades). The game consistently fails to explain the basic mechanics, leaving you frustrated as you wonder how to perform basic tasks. Also, it's hard to tell the enemies from the friendly characters in the middle of a spell-fight.
Meanwhile, the cover system is obnoxious. If you're near the right edge of a wall but facing toward the left, Harry will try to look out to the left if you press the button that pops out to shoot. Some objects that obviously should provide cover don't. Further, the camera is a wonky mess when you duck into a tight space, failing to show you what you intuitively want to see and sometimes spazzing out completely. Fortunately, Harry takes very little damage from most enemies, and his health regenerates, so it's usually possible to just ignore the cover system entirely.
Things get even worse when the developers try to mix it up with some stealth, sending you to investigate the suspicious happenings around you without getting caught. A quick button press turns on your invisibility cloak and changes your view to first-person. There's a triangular meter on the bottom-left, and you become visible when it runs out. You also become visible if anyone bumps into you, which makes it a real pain to sneak through crowded areas, especially given the wonky camera and how slowly Harry turns. Sometimes, being seen results in an immediate mission fail, and other times, countless enemies will turn on you. They don't do enough damage to kill you most of the time, but it's too difficult to sneak back away into invisibility, and half the time you wish the game would just start you over and be done with it.
Other parts of Deathly Hallows Part 1 aren't quite so bad. The on-rails shooting sequence that begins the story is tolerable, and there are a few interesting levels, including one that has you hiding from a fire-breathing dragon. These features are few and far between, however, and they often drag on for too long.