E3 2010: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Hands-OnBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Jun 02, 2010
If Electronic Arts was hoping to generate some headlines and shocking double-takes with their new Harry Potter adaptation, they've wildly succeeded. Whether they've been able to produce the Harry Potter game that fans have been waiting for since they signed onto the series remains an open question. Regardless of quality, however, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 looks and plays unlike any Harry Potter game you've ever seen. It plays like...well, Gears of War.
As a huge fan of the series, I've played through the last few Harry Potter games produced by EA to interact with J.K. Rowling's fleshed-out world, not because they're particularly great games. When I sat down with Deathly Hallows at EA's pre-E3 event in Los Angeles a few weeks back, my mouth immediately dropped when one of the game's producers complimented the other developer guiding Harry around on executing a great "head shot" against a Death Eater. Head shots in a Harry Potte game? Clearly, EA is going for a grown-up audience with this one.
The direction reflects the maturation of the audiences, EA told me. The kids who got into the series with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone may have been 9 or 10-years old then, but have grown up with the series as Rowling's wizarding tales have become darker and darker. Those very same kids are now looking at Call of Duty and Gears of War for their gaming fun, not participating in another year of Hogwarts mini-games. Thus, the stark change in design direction.
EA let me play through a tiny slice of a single stage in Deathly Hallows during the event. The game will feel immediately comfortable to anyone who's played a modern third-person-shooter. Harry can hide behind the destructible environment with the game's cover system, swap between spells with a radial weapon menu brought up with one of the bumper buttons, and the spells themselves have been modified to act more like traditional video game weapons, including high-powered pistols, machine guns, shields and, of course, wall-destroying bazookas.
The experience was incredibly awkward, partially fueled by the early-development feel -- Deathly Hallows definitely feels like a team's first attempt at a cover shooter -- and the surrealist nature of engaging in endless combat that channeled more Cliff Bleszinski than J.K. Rowling. Much of that stemmed from EA describing Deathly Hallows using "head shots" and other shooter norms. Such terminology may make it easier for non-Potter fans to understand what the equivalents are in the Harry Potter universe, but machine gun comparisons gave an off-putting first impression.
Getting gamers excited about yet another Harry Potter game has been a challenging task for EA. While I have reservations about the direction of Deathly Hallows, if EA's goal was to change the conversation about expectations for their next Harry Potter game, they've already done that.