Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ReviewAlec Hilton
Well, another summer comes and brings with it a wealth of game and movie tie-ins. Some we have already seen, like the terrible Transformers game and the fantastically frightful Fantastic Four. Could this new incarnation of the young wizard make a turnaround for the genre?
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix takes you back to the fifth year at Hogwarts School. Harry has spent his summer back with his aunt and uncle and is pissed off with the lack of news that he is getting from the magical world. This is where you step in; the opening sequence includes an attack on Harry by two Dementors. This introduces you to how spells are cast in the game. There are two ways in which you can cast your charms. The first is the way that the game shows you using the right analogue stick, pushing it in different directions will emit another spell. The other way is to use the Sixaxis input on the PS3 controller. This is possibly the best use of the function that I have seen so far. You move the controller in different directions depending on what spell you wish to cast. So for Accio, you push forward and the object that you are targeting will fly across the room. The best use for this is with Wingardium Leviosa. You target an object like before and lift the Sixaxis up to cast the enchantment. Then as you move the controller around you will move the object with it.
The game’s story follows the book’s plot a lot more than that of the films. Along the first sections you are taught the basics of spell casting, as well as a number of spells that you will need during the game, with more unlocked as you progress. The spells are divided into two sections, combat and object-based casts. To allow a combat cast holding R1, Harry and gang will raise their wands in a combat stance. Hold R2 and Harry will target objects that he can interact with using magic.
Combat is taken care of nicely here. You can run about targeting any student and start flinging great magical balls at them. All the story-driven combat is staged in such a way that although it does feel staged, it doesn’t suffer from it too much. The set battles do look amazing, with the casts knocking opponents down or away from you. Some of the casts don’t quite look the same as they do in the films, which is a slight shame but nothing too terrible.
The most impressive part of the magic side of things is the object-based magic that allows you to repair, push, pull and elevate objects around the place. This is done in such a way that it all feels so natural but also massive fun.
The mainstay of the game is a Grand Theft Auto for kids really, with lots of little tasks to complete besides the normal story mission. There are tasks like repairing all plant pots’ suits of armour, etc. around Hogwarts and finding passwords for all the printings around the castle to gain access to secret passages to make movement much quicker. You can pick them when you feel like doing the story missions, but at times the game forces you to go further in the story, as you need to learn this spell to continue in your explorations.
And so we come to the biggest problem with the whole game, the story missions and even the optional mini-tasks. They are just so boring, all they ever tell you is to find this person or find this book. Some have a small amount of imagination in them, such as the herbology lesson mini-game where you have to move plants from broken pots to new ones. But this is one of the best, and that’s not a shining example of greatness. It’s a great shame really as the game has some wonderful ideas in it, but the execution was just not right.
Finally the graphics. This does manage to show the PS3’s true colours when it comes to graphics, easily looking as good if not better than graphics on the 360. The textures look truly mind-blowing. The design team really has captured the school from the films in all its glory.
The game certainly has its merits and could not be described as terrible. But a flaw in the mission structure and plainly useless hints make this a passable attempt at best. With the final book out, Potteritis will certainly sweep the country. Order of the Phoenix is most definitely the most defining and closest you have gotten so far to being Harry Potter. This is a must for all the fans of the books and films alike.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.