Electronic Arts have always kept improving their Harry Potter titles each time they come out, while they may not appeal to the hardcore gamers out there but they are excellent for the younger generation and the effort that goes into the presentation really appeals to them.
The magical world of Hogwarts is brought to life like never before in the boy wizard's first adventure on Xbox 360: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. With news that the fiendish Lord Vold... sorry, we mean, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned, you must help gather a wizard army to battle the dark arts. The ability to freely interact with J.K Rowling's spellbinding (couldn't resist that one) environments and characters adds a new angle to this popular series.
How Does It play
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth in the series based on the films and the books, once again Electronic Arts has filled the game with every bit of detail a Harry Potter fan could want, from the perfect likeness of the characters to the fantastic look of Hogwarts where you will spend a lot of your time roaming around.
What EA have done well it making sure that the focus of the game is based on living life at Hogwarts, this is because of the fact that if you know how the film and book is, there isn’t much space for full on action throughout so exploring Hogwarts becomes a must for the game. As I mentioned earlier on in the review, Hogwarts has been created perfectly in the game, the paintings in the Grand Staircase move and talk, students wander around the place and depending on which house they are from they will talk to you in various ways. There are also no load times in the game at all on either the Xbox 360 or on the Playstation 3.
The game has a number of quests for you to complete to further on the story, around 35 in total which while some of the quests are quite well done a number of them mean a heck of a lot wandering around and backtracking over and over again which is a bit of a disappointment. You will also learn to cast six non-combat spells, the usual ones we hear of such as Depulso (to push things) etc. As you wander around Hogwarts you can make use of the spells to fix broken stuff, move things around etc this helps you unlock discovery points that are hidden around the game and allows you to unlock secrets inside Moaning Myrtle’s Room of Rewards.
You can’t die in the game which is a good thing really, especially for a title that is aimed at younger players, the game also has no HUD on screen so there is no health or magic bars to talk of. Names of rooms pop up on the screen but that is about it. There are still things that can help you out though, you can view your Mauraders map, select a room or character that you wish to find and then footsteps will be shown on screen for you to follow so you can get to them easily. It is subtle and well done.
The map also helps you find people who have tasks that need doing, such as pulling off pranks, finding books and such like so that they will help you out later in the game. You do most of these tasks by using your wand to cast spells and move items. The game isn’t just casting moving spells though, as the story goes on you will need to do some fighting, once again by casting spells though. You will gain access to six combat spells, but there are problems with the combat, when fighting others there are no indications on whether you are causing the enemy any damage, this is because there is no HUD on the screen so in the end you just have to keep casting and hoping. Combat feels a little tacked on for my liking and is one of the more disappointing aspects of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
The game has the addition of sixaxis controls on the Playstation 2 but these are not something most players will even bother with, while it seems like a good idea to use it to cast spells, half the time the casting is never accurate when compared to just using the plain right pad control method. The Xbox 360 version on the other hand has the usual achievements which are well spaces out, though most of them are not all that difficult to get.
There are other little problems too, sometimes your friends get in the way when you are walking around, and they block doors and generally just walk in front of you throughout the game. The game is also a little lacking on story content, you would certainly expect to know more about what is going on in this chapter of Harry Potter compared to what you are told in the very short cutscenes on show here.
Graphics and Sound
Graphics are not partically hot either, the backgrounds feel very empty, but as the levels move on the number of ships start to build up. Small ships leave trails from their boosters which can sometimes make things confusing, at least to me, when there are lots of ships on the screen as you sometimes struggle to see what is going on. Ship designs are decent but once again nothing that stands out. The framerate is good most of the time, but in some missions there is noticeable slow down when under attack from a number of enemies or sometimes just a few enemies and a couple of larger ships, but in general you get a solid 30fps. It would have been nice to have a game like this as a proper 1080p game, but I’ve just had it upscaled from 720p. Text is also hard to read in the game when using the UI, a shame when trying to work out what to do while flying around.
The CG movies, while well animated and exciting are not of particularly good quality, this really shows off the lack of space on the DVD-ROM as it would have been nice to have some full high definition cutscenes rather than just upscaled content.
Sound though is much better, explosions are clear as is the constant communication made with your wingmen and other flyers. Everything works well in 5.1 sound and the music is very good too, it feels cinematic once again just as it should do for a game set in space.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix won’t set the world alight, but it does show off the world of Hogwarts far better than any of the previous titles have done. If I was to buy either the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 versions I would probably go for the Playstation 3 slightly improved graphics thanks to its 1080p support but in fairness there is not much to choose between them. Overall a decent effort that fans of the books and films will lap up.