Is this it? Can it be? The final Harry Potter movie tie-in game? I’ve been unfortunate enough to have reviewed a few of these over the past ten years, including the previous installment, and I can’t say I’m sad to see them go. While I’m a fan of the franchise overall, the only game in the series that I actually liked was Traveler’s Tales Lego game. That said, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 isn’t thoroughly bad. It’s not good either, you understand, but this is one of the few Harry Potter games I actually kind of enjoyed.

Part of it is due to the game’s length. At just a few hours, it took me about as long to finish this game as it did to watch the movie it was based on. There’s a bit of replayability with the extra challenges and harder modes, but you’ll be finished with this one in a day or two. The gameplay and environments have been seriously improved, but the repetition and complete failure to actually tell a comprehensible story keep you from enjoying the game’s strengths.

I was originally skeptical of the series’ transition to a cover-based shooter in Deathly Hallows 1. The chest-high walls seemed out of place in that game but they’re more at home here, in part because the developers have made them a greater focus. Now you’re not bouncing from a cover-based shooter to a stealth game to an exploration game. You’re just playing a shooter where the machine guns have been replaced with wands. Sure, there are a few alternative sequences, which mostly involve running away from explosions/fires/floods/etc. but even these usually have some sort of shooting element. The levels are also more suited to this type of gameplay, with lots of available cover and a real incentive to move around during the battle to gain an edge over your opponent.

Probably the best improvement made to the shooting part of the game is that the spells actually matter now. The last game had spells that looked different but just dealt generic damage to your enemies. Now you’ll actually have to pick the right spells for the situation. Enemies blocking your attacks? Take them out with Expelliarmus. Enemies crouching behind a distant wall? Drop a homing attack on them with Impedimenta. Have an enemy right in your face and want them to drop quickly? Use the rapid fire Expulso on them. It may parallel the standard shooter conceits, but it’s nice to see them in a new form.

There are a few problems with the system. Since each spell has a unique recharge time, you’ll have to switch back and forth frequently during battle but equipping some spells actually changes your character’s perspective and one even shares a button with the get in/out of cover command, both of which make combat more chaotic and confusing than it ought to be. Also, why is the Apparate spell introduced so late in the game and why is it only limited to Harry? It’s one thing that helps to set the game apart but it’s so underused it might as well not have been included.

Having proved that the cover-based shooting mechanics can work with wands taking the place of AK47s, the developers unfortunately just keep repeating the same sorts of encounters over and over again. Sure, some of the boss battles mix it up, and the bits with Seamus and Neville add a few more interesting objectives, but mostly you’re just waiting for the bad guys to apparate in, and then crouching behind a low wall while you fire pyrotechnic spells at them. There’s barely enough variety to hold your attention even for a game as short as this one.

The story certainly won’t hold your attention, at least not based solely on what’s presented in the game. The transitions are ignored, motivation is absent, and there’s only enough dialogue to remind players of the characters’ names.

I won’t give away the actual plot here, but towards the end of the story, Harry goes to meet Snape in a boathouse and the whole issue of Snape’s real motivation and loyalty is decisively settled. It’s a pivotal and powerful moment in the book and the film, but in the game, Snape says a total of eight words to Harry before the game moves on. That’s the big reckoning between these two characters who have hated each others’ guts for seven years? It’s hardly the only case where the actual substance of the story is sacrificed to get players on to the next shooting bit.

The follow up scene also skips over one of the entire series’ two biggest reveals. I would assume this adaptation has had to trim out anything that’s not directly related to Harry, but even that’s not a likely excuse since the game goes out of its way to let the player take charge of other characters. Molly’s sequence in the game is actually much more satisfying and fleshed out than it is in the movie — although I don’t know why the T-rating prevented the developers from including her most memorable line. In fact, there’s just not much humor or humanity in the story at all. Even the long-awaited moment in the Chamber of Secrets is blown by just to get to the next bit of shooting.

This may sound like nitpicking, but I don’t think the developers should rely on the player to fill in all the transitions and context for the action sequences. Nevermind that this is one of the most well known film and book series in recent memory; that’s no excuse to ignore the story. I said of the previous game that it almost feels like a supplement to the movie rather than a standalone experience, and that’s the case with this sequel as well.

Bottom Line: The shooting mechanics and levels are getting better but the encounters themselves are too repetitive. I hope someone takes the basic idea and does something more with it. The absence of basic storytelling and scene transitions make it hard to enjoy on its own.

Recommendation: The shooting gameplay has potential but it’s hard to justify paying full price for a game this short and disjointed.

[rating=2.5]

Game: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Genre: Shooter
Developer: EA Bright Light
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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