Harry Potter is on a rampage and I’m in control.
Armed with a wand, I dispatch a gathering of witches and wizards as I manoeuvre Potter deftly through an abandoned factory. Swirling red lines spew from Potter’s wand as I watch over his shoulder, the dancing lights lance into an enemy wizard until he collapses in pain.
This may not be the Harry Potter you’re used to: A wide-eyed bespectacled youth of confused powers and wholesome values. No, this Harry Potter uses spells to torture his enemies into unconsciousness, snipes witches with magic that turn them on allies and unleashes wall-crumbling blasts of magic from the safety of cover.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is nothing like what you’d expect from a video game based on a popular series of family-friendly books. And that’s just what the developers hope.
Last month I had a chance to sit down with developers Bright Light Studios at EA’s LA offices and take the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 for a spin.
The game, built using a new graphics game engine, looks and plays a lot like a third-person shooter. You control Potter from a perspective just behind and above the teen. Potter is pretty fast on his feet and can even scramble into cover. Most importantly, you use magic to dispatch enemies.
“This is a very, very different experience,” one of the developers say. “There is no Hogwarts, no school rules, just life or death.”
And there also isn’t much on the screen, besides the action. There’s no life bar or targeting reticule. No magic gauge or currently selected weapon icon. Instead you pick up how you’re doing by what’s going on and how Potter is reacting to things.
This wasn’t a bunch of cartoons shooting fireworks at one another, this was a life and death battle with magic that could torture a person to death.
My very short time spent with the game left me impressed with the title’s new direction and how aptly it handled as a shooter derivation. What I couldn’t tell was whether the game would quickly get old, sending me from one magical firefight to the next until the game was over.
Hopefully in re-imagining the video game take on Harry Potter, due out this spring for the DS, PC, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360, Bright Lite didn’t forget to tap into the compelling fiction of the franchise.