There is buzz over the latest Harry Potter game, which combines the grim, mature tone of the latest films with Gears of War style third person combat. Harry and other wizardly folk now sprint for cover, wands spraying flurries of magical energy. I got my hands on the PC demo on the third day of E3.
The game is very much an adaptation of the film. Like the Deathly Hallows movie, it cuts the book into two pieces, hence the ?Part I.? The demo I played had the same visual strengths as its cinematic counterpart; dark, realistic character and environment design juxtaposed with bright, otherworldly magic. It featured Harry, on the hunt for Horcruxes, going up against Death Eaters in an abandoned junkyard. It had me taking cover to plan my next move, firing magical blasts and levitating metal beams and barrels to hurl at my enemies. Caught in the open I could generate a force field, it was mapped to the Right Bumper for quick use and was the coolest looking spell.
Anyone who's played Gears, Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, or any other game from the recent influx of third person run-for-cover shooters will find Deathly Hallows familiar. The spells are visually striking, but they're from familiar shooter stock. One spell shoots magical embers at a machine gun rate, one acts like Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun, and another is your standard charm spell. There are rocket launcher and sniper rifle-like spells too. Most players won't need to study the manual for long, but hardened gamers may find it overly familiar, at worst a knock off. The average Potter fan may not, so this could be the shot in the arm these games have needed.
The version I played felt undercooked, and the demo team was ready to admit it. They were confident the pathfinding issues and graphical rough edges would be gone by the final version, but I really hope they overhaul the spell selecting, which pauses the action to let you choose from a radial menu. This kills momentum, plus the spells are listed in Potter talk with names like Stupefy, Confringo, and Confundo, with no illustrations to help differentiate them. Spell selection on the fly is done with the D-Pad, but you're groping in the dark until you have it memorized. The game doesn't come out until November 9th, the same day as the movie, so EA's Birght Light Studio has time to straighten out the kinks.
There's a lot to be excited about with this game if you're a big Harry Potter fan. Just like Lord of the Rings fans, they've had to wait a bit for a really successful video game version of their beloved franchise. If you're not much of a wannabe Hogwarts student, you'll find a myriad of other Gears of War knocks-offs coming out this year.
Be sure to check out the game's trailer below. I wish that battle with the undead had been in the demo, but I'm glad to see they haven't ditched the broom riding.