Well, it’s over. After a decade of movies, tie-in games and novelty scarf knitting patterns, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 draws a close to one of the most successful franchises ever.
The Harry Potter games are in the strange position of being based on a film series culled from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s seven wildly famous novels. Publisher EA has adapted every installment, but does its last hurrah for Harry provide a satisfying conclusion?
Deathly Hallows Part 2 complements the license, both in gameplay and presentation. It’s a neatly conceived action-adventure that pays such accurate tribute to the source material that you may as well be playing through the movie. Whether this counts as a pro or a con toward your interest in the game is down to how much of a diehard Potter fan you are.
Each movie has had its own game, but several other titles, such as Lego Harry Potter and 2003’s underrated Quidditch World Cup, have let players try out different aspects of Harry’s world. It’s not unfair to say, then, that if you’re looking to play anything magical outside of what can be found in the Deathly Hallows novel or movie, it’s probably already been covered before elsewhere.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a very cinematically presented game, with darkly realistic graphics and a brooding orchestral and choral soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in a war movie. The main menu hovers around Hogwarts Castle at night. From here, the game’s two modes and unlockable content is accessed.
Story mode plays through the events of the recently released movie almost scene-for-scene, and even cribs key lines. The second mode, Challenge, allows replay of certain scenes after they’ve been completed in Story. Each scene is realised well and doesn’t last too long by itself. Scenes revolve around linear mission objectives. There are two starter difficulty settings, Normal and Advanced, with an unlockable expert mode after the first run through.
Crunching through Normal with little problem and not much tactical thinking takes about four hours. Instant respawn from regular checkpoints means there’s never really much suspense, but if there was, then it might hinder experiencing what is essentially a foregone conclusion. This is the end for Harry at Hogwarts.
Personal taste will dictate if you’re bothered by such linearity, but the ambience and speed of the game is actually thrilling and difficult to stop once begun. Well timed character changes and new spells manage to lock in the freshness.
You’ll start out playing as Harry, but get to fill the seven league boots of Ron, Hermione, Seamus, Minerva McGonagall, Ginny Weasley and the legendary Neville Longbottom at different stages. None of the characters handle too differently from each other, but fans will enjoy battling Professor Snape as McGonagall or fending off the evil Death Eaters as a member of Dumbledore’s Army.
The spell book begins with the basic Stupefy stun and expands through the scenes to include the disarming Expeliarmus, shielding Protego, explosive Confringo and several more. All the spells are visually impressive. Swapping between them is simple and effective, meaning wand battles are hectic and fun.
What makes combat in Deathly Hallows Part 2 truly compelling is the cover system. This allows Harry and friends to dodge between parts of the scenery to protect themselves from the charms that are flung around the various scenes’ battlegrounds. It brings an unexpected twinge of third-person shooters, such as Mass Effect and Gears Of War, to the boy wizard’s last adventure. Harry gains the ability to Apparate in the later scenes, and while this isn’t perfect, it’s entertaining to whoosh around as a trail of smoke between blasts of spell-fire.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 still has its flaws. Combining cover with Stupefy and the Protego spells makes taking down enemies pretty fun, until you realise its possible to fire backwards with an arm stuck out from behind cover without looking, and still aim with accuracy. This renders cover almost pointless, but is hilarious to watch, and justifies Harry’s fictional reputation as the Steven Seagal of magic.
Characters don’t seem to have a health meter, so it’s a little confusing to register damage. When struck by pain-inflicting Crucio after Crucio, the corners of the screen turn black and begin to encroach towards the centre. It’s a neat way of indicating health, without ruining the game’s flow and the sense that you’re in a movie.
Only a few of the actors voice their characters, but it’s cool to hear Harry shout Stupefy when you cast the game’s first spell. Some of the more cockney enemies do sound like they’re screaming “scuba dive!” at times, and perpetually knocking down waves of Death Eaters can get dull.
Environments like the vaults of Gringotts mystical bank and Hogwarts are impressive, but not open to much exploration. The linearity undermines the primary means of unlocking the game’s bonus content, Deathly Hallows symbols called Collactables. These are strewn around each scene. When found, they give the player access to 3D models of characters and tracks from the score. It’s not that original, but the content is, at least, high quality.
Pottermaniacs will enjoy the fast-paced action and level of immersion Deathly Hallows Part 2 has to offer. Anyone casually acquainted with the franchise probably won’t appreciate the opportunity to play as Neville or McGonagall in quite the same squee-tastic manner, but the game’s gore-free, magical militancy should still entertain players of all ages. Whether the short length or lack of variation Harry’s final fling with film provides is enough to hold everyone’s attention will likely boil and bubble down to individual preference.