Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Hands-On Preview – Waving Our Wands About
Written Friday, October 15, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
It seems appropriate that we should be sent to a small clearing in the middle of a rainy forest to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 The Video Game (surely a contender for longest title ever), seeing as it could almost be a setting out of one of the novels itself. Of course, we're inside a large marquee, as rainwater doesn't tend to agree with games consoles, and we have the opportunity to go hands-on with three different parts of the upcoming movie tie-in, which is setting its sights on an audience that has grown up with the films and books.
Consequently, the game is as dark as the final book and the upcoming film, which sees the titular teenage wizard on the run and having to rely on his growing powers. So, in the middle of the mystical Epping swamp, we first go hands-on with the latest Ministry of Magic demo, which has Harry navigating the labyrinthine black corridors to find his way to an atrium where a sub-boss battle awaits. How you wind your way through this level is down to you though, as you can either use Harry's invisibility cloak to stealth past patrolling enemies in first-person or engage the Snatchers in a wand-on-wand battle.
Deathly Hallows is a third-person shooter at heart, so the temptation is to run in wand blazing. However, it's more rewarding to use the cloak, which has a sort of timer that's expended as you move or get close to foes. Denoted by a triangular Hallows icon in the bottom left corner of the screen that burns away, but replenishes if you stay still or disengage it, the cloak requires careful management to avoid being exposed in the middle of a group of Snatchers, who stalk the corridors trying to sniff out Harry. Then there are a few Dementors drifting around the ceilings that you'll need to be on the lookout for, as they're quick to drift down to grab you and leech your happiness away.
Upon reaching the atrium, the area is closed off by a Patronus spell and Harry is forced to fight, with Ron and Hermione turning up to help. We use a Wingardium Leviosa spell to lift and throw some books, followed by a Petrificus Totalus spell, which temporarily freezes the boss in place, enabling us to follow up with a few blasts of Stupefy and Confringo. Potter can unlock eight different spells during the course of the game, beginning with the Stupefy spell, which is a basic offensive spell Harry uses to zap enemies with crackling sparks of incendiary blue light. In the interests of the demo, we're given access to all eight of Potter's spells, so that we can get a proper taste of his complete array of powers.
With the Ministry of Magic part of the demo aced, we move on to some of the standalone challenges next. There will be 22 to tackle in the finished game, each with online leaderboards and support for co-op, and we get to sample two of the three different types planned. First up is a sequence following a wedding in the movie, which drops Harry right into the thick of the action for a Time Attack against more Snatchers in the middle of a typically rural, British field. You can almost smell the foot and mouth disease.
Using strategically placed bales of hay and stone walls for cover, we take the time to mix up Harry's spells to try out a few combos. Starting with a Confundo spell to temporarily turn an enemy against his buddies, we then hit another with Expelliarmus to disarm him, before taking cover to compose ourself for a second before rushing in with a Protego spell, which is both Harry's shield (standing still) and melee attack (while running forward). Advised to switch to Confringo to quickly dispatch the Snatchers, we find that the spell is essentially Harry's machine gun, dispensing rapid fire bolts of red magic that neutralise enemies fast. It becomes our go to spell of choice for the rest of the demo.
Now that we've caught the Time Attack bug, we decide to take on another, which plays more like a wand-wielding version of Horde mode, delivering groups of Snatchers and Death Eaters in waves. Situated in what appears to be a dilapidated trailer park, we scrabble into cover behind a sheet of corrugated iron propped up by oil drums. The makeshift barrier is rapidly smashed by aggressive enemies, but a bit of Wingardium Leviosa scoops up the corrugated sheet and enables us to use it as an impromptu protection as we move to the next piece of cover. Here, Confundo is invaluable once again and countering with the Snatcher's own Impedimenta magic helps in quickly clearing the waves.
Whenever your health gets low, there's an optional context-sensitive command that recommends tapping A to swig down a Murtlap Essence potion or you can just as easily throw an explosive potion like a hand grenade to create space and buy time. Harry can also consume a Felix Felicis potion that increases his luck, causing enemy spells to miss while the effects last. It becomes apparent from this particular challenge that all of the key components of a traditional third-person shooter are present and correct in Deathly Hallows, with a cover system, a selection of weapons, or rather spells accessed via a radial menu, and even the aforementioned potion grenades. Hitting headshots causes double damage, so there's the same kind of impetus to aim with precision, and tactically knowing which spells to use and when is like switching to a shotgun or machine gun where appropriate. It all makes sense.
We can't finish our hands-on session with Deathly Hallows' without sampling one of the game's Kinect challenges of course, which requires throwing different shapes with your hands and arms to cast a variety of spells. An underarm motion throws an explosive potion, a basic gesture with your right hand fires off a basic shooting spell and holding your left hand by your shoulder and flicking your right wrist meanwhile casts an explosive Expulso spell, perfect for blowing up Death Eaters with a single shot. The stage is entirely on rails, funnelling you through the columns and steps of a ruined temple, but it's good, wholesome throwaway fun nonetheless. This Kinect aspect will likely be little more than an additional diversion to throw on at a party or something though, but regardless, it's a nice little bonus.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 The Video Game will effortlessly attract the discerning Potter fan looking to play through the video game version of the movie in November. Despite boasting the elements of a third-person shooter - it even incorporating deeper aspects like XP upgrades that reward progress – it's entirely possible that this could rise above the usual movie-inspired bilge. Whether Deathly Hallows can woo a less casual crowd by offering enough depth and variety however, might be an impossible spell that even Harry Potter himself can’t cast.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is pencilled in for a November 16th and November 19th in North America and Europe respectively.