Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Wii) - Review by Chris
Since its first appearance in 1997, the Harry Potter series has grown significantly in terms value, with it now being estimated to be worth in the region of £15 million. With both the successes of the books in stores and the films at the box office, it's clear that there is an enormous following of the series from people worldwide. And where the other mediums have succeeded, the games, coming from developer and publisher Electronic Arts, have also managed to succeed hitting the number one spot in many a chart globally. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince looks set to continue this trend, even after a 6 month delay.
Half Blood Prince continues the story of Harry, Hermione and Ron, amongst many others, as Lord Voldemort continues his attempts to take over the wizarding world by insighting a war between his army of Death Eaters and various magical creatures and those of the Order of the Phoenix, with it becoming so violent that those in the Muggle community have begun to take notice. Harry et al return to Hogwarts to begin their sixth year of study knowing that Hogwarts is no longer as secure and safe as it once was. As you progress through the game and the story, Harry will come across an old textbook with notes scrawled all over it for making potions and discovers it to have been the possession of someone known as the Half Blood Prince, with the inevitable twist coming from the unveiling of who this particular character is. The game doesn't overtly push the story very much, choosing only to reference key plot points in what you'll be playing through and through the use of cutscenes. There is a lot of the book left out, with EA choosing to bring the minimum to tie in with what you'll have seen in the cinema, should you have seen the film which you should have if you're playing this. It's obviously been done so as to keep the game interesting and make sure that the next piece of action is never too far away but it will disappoint some because you'll yearn to have a fuller understanding of what is going on and why it is happening.
The actual gameplay for Half Blood Prince boils down to four main elements: duelling, exploration, potion making and quidditch. You're virtually free to take to these as you wish with Hogwarts being as open world as you could hope. Of course, the game's main progression is incredibly linear and many of these elements will be tied together to lead you through the story but you are free to go off and explore Hogwarts and the grounds at your own pace or take part in duels with other pupils, or wizards depending on how far into the game you are, or any of the other activities on offer. The freedom that you have to move away from the main storyline is great because there's a lot to do and lots to find and while the main storyline will only push on over the 5 hour mark, by having this freedom you can significant increase the run time of the game. EA have hidden 150 Hogwarts Crests around the castle and the surrounding area and finding all of these will provide a real challenge because while there are some that are easy to get, there are many that will take real ingenuity to get hold of.
The other elements that make up the gameplay have been significantly refined over previous games in the series. The duelling is more realistic, well as realistic as magical duels can get, but suffers from the fact that even though the AI is competent enough, some of the spells are overpowering and with the correct combination, you'll walk through these easily, even later on when things do get a little more difficult. It's a shame given how refined the other areas are. Potion making is a mini-game of sorts where you'll play against the clock to create a potion by following the on screen prompts for mixing the ingredients. It starts off simple, and is simple enough to play, but gets tricky later on as the number of ingredients increases. Still it's fun. And finally, the quidditch has also seen a change with you now controlling Harry on an on rails flying game as you make him pas through star shaped gates around the pitch in the hope of catching the snitch. It seems a little withheld, even with the pointer controls, as you don't have as much freedom as you like but the competitive edge that it brings with it adds another level of fun to the game. Overall, the gameplay is varied and each part is fun. It's just a shame that the main story will end so quickly but the exploration does expand it somewhat.
You'll be guiding Harry around the vast grounds of Hogwarts with the use of the Wii-mote and nunchuk. Thankfully, EA have included a button option to allow Harry to run faster making traversing quicker but the problem with the controls stems from the heaviness that comes from moving Harry about. It just feels clunky and unrefined compared with the rest of the game and you'll constantly find yourself bumping into and snagging on the scenery. The Wii-mote is put to significant use for many of the game's elements, with the pointer being used in conjunction with the B button to move the camera, a process that is as sluggish as moving Harry about, and the motion sensing abilities being used for the likes the potion making and duelling. The gestures are small and intuitive and you'll never have to wave your arms about vigorously making for an enjoyable experience that feels as close as you'll get to the real thing. There are some detection issues that will require you to repeat the gestures several times before it is detected but other than that they are fine.
The most impressive thing about Half Blood Prince is the sheer scale of everything on offer. You have almost the entirety of Hogwarts to explore at your own pace, although some areas are still blocked off, and it all looks very good and highly detailed. So much so that even small little things like the paintings moving has been replicated to provide such an authentic experience. There is little to no loading of the game's scenery but as a result of this, the frame rate can drop quite a bit. The character models don't quite reach the same standard as the scenery. They look good but not great, replicating the likenesses of the film cast well but suffering from stiff animation and little polish to some of the more noticeable defects, such as the hair looking really bad on all characters and facial expressions being anything but realistic.
The sweeping and moody score of the film isn't fully recreated here but what you get is incredibly well done and suits the game's scenery and action perfectly. Voice-overs are done well for the most part and to a decent standard, although there are times when they don't quite sustain this quality. The sound effects are done to a similar standard but do drive home the intensity of what is happening, be it in the quidditch matches or in a duel.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince goes to show how far EA have come with the license. Instead of forcing the player the follow the storyline to an early finish, here you have the freedom to take to it at your own pace and explore the vast surroundings of Hogwarts. It's still a short experience overall and can get slightly repetitive but this is by far the best of the Harry Potter games incorporating some interesting elements that diversify the gameplay and will make fans of the series incredibly happy. And for those not a fan, it can still provide some good heartfelt enjoyment.
Pro: Large, detailed open world to explore at your own pace, diverse range of gameplay mechanics, controls, for the most part, are intuitive
Con: Little in the way of story outside key points, some control issues, some poor detailing for some of the graphics
Final score: 7.6
|Genre:||Action / Adventure|
|Developer:||EA Bright Light|