The Harry Potter film tie-ins end on a low note with this short, tedious, and conceptually vapid cover shooter.
As with last year’s installment, developer EA Bright Light has envisioned the wands of Harry and his friends as guns–but instead of switching between weapons, you switch between spells. Stupefy isn’t a stunning spell in this game: It’s a pistol. Expulso isn’t an exploding spell: It’s a rapid-fire machine gun. Confringo isn’t a blasting curse: It’s a grenade launcher. And forget everything you know about apparating, which you probably never imagined as a short-range teleport. Perhaps this disrespectful take on the beloved Harry Potter license wouldn’t be so disastrous if the resulting game were fun, but for the most part, it just isn’t. Switching between spells provides some welcome variety in the second half of this unusually short cover-based shooter. Otherwise, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is tedious and dumb, failing both as a game and as a licensed product.
So Deathly Hallows Part 2 isn’t for Harry Potter fans–but it isn’t for shooter fans, either. You shoot the same nameless generic enemies time and again, and then you move down a narrow path so you can take some cover and shoot more clones. You occasionally break free of this predictability, only to find yourself having even less fun than before. Perhaps the aforementioned sniping section might have provided a brief spot of variety, but once you finish sniping one set of baddies, you’re directed to another group–and then another. Even more boring is your trek into the chamber of secrets where, as Hermione, you shoot spiders while Ron takes his sweet time opening more doors. Most of this level doesn’t involve shooting, however; you just follow Ron through dark caverns. The bright eyes peering through the darkness are a nice touch, but while this level might have been meant to create tension, the only emotion it generates is boredom. There’s an early moment in which the trio rescues a fire-breathing beast, and you might get momentarily excited by the possibility of taking to the skies. But no. The most interesting possibilities are confined to cutscenes, while you carry out all the drudgery with your gun-wand.
Amid the tedium are some bright sparks worth celebrating. One is a battle between McGonagall and a hulking giant, in which you use your impedimenta homing missiles to knock the big guy off balance while fending off teleporting death eaters. You can’t cast the same spell too many times in a row because doing so leads to inaccurate aiming. Thus, you must stave off these meanies by switching between spells. The giant battle is fun because it demands such switching, and it even requires you to use the protego shield to protect yourself from boulders the giant flings. A few sequences have you sprinting toward the camera as you fend off an oncoming apparition or destroying flaming debris as it hurdles toward you. These sequences are done well because they convey something the rest of the game lacks: a sense of urgency. Even on its hardest difficulty (unlocked after you finish the game), Deathly Hallows Part 2 isn’t challenging, though you could suffer one or two cheap deaths when, for example, Ron stands between you and the only available cover spot and refuses to budge. Or you may perhaps find yourself in a poorly designed sequence in which a narrow doorway into a room loaded with enemies acts as a frustrating chokepoint.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is over in three and a half hours or so, which is a mercifully short playing time for a game that sells at a too-high $50 price. You can replay story missions on their own or as timed challenges that might earn you a place on the game’s online leaderboards. But these missions don’t make for very good challenges, in part because you still have to wait around for your AI companions to open gates or to trigger scripted events. If you enjoy the immediacy of motion controls, you can play the game using PlayStation Move accessories. This option works just fine, though switching between spells is more cumbersome with a Move controller than a standard DualShock 3 or Sixaxis, so it isn’t necessarily the superior way to play. After you finish, you’re treated to a montage of gameplay moments from the prior Harry Potter games, which serves not to inspire fond memories, but only to remind you just how much potential was squandered in a series of games that never lived up to their inspirations.