Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix PC, PS2, PS3, X360 & Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Millions of Harry Potter fans are doubtlessly counting the days until the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released on July 21st 2007. In the meantime however, fans will be able to find comfort in the fact that the fifth movie is just around the corner. Of course all things Harry Potter are tremendously popular so it's no surprise that a game based on the movie has been released and that the game is being released on all of the major gaming consoles, handhelds and of course the PC. This review looks at the PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 2 versions.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix once again puts you in the shoes of the bespectacled young wizard in this fifth episode in the series. The game begins with him almost being expelled and then finding out that the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor refuses to allow the use of defensive spells. The aforementioned professor, Dolores Umbridge, also refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned and gives Harry a detention for insisting this is the case. Feeling rather cheesed off, Harry, Ron, Hermione and their friends decide to form their own Dumbledore's Army in order to defeat Voldemort and his rather evil Death Eaters. Whilst you get to control Harry for the majority of the game, you do get to spend a few minutes controlling Sirius and Dumbledore. Hogwarts also has numerous secrets to discover and when Harry has discovered a certain number, he'll be able to visit the Room of Rewards to collect his prize. There are also some mini-games to play too with the likes of Wizard Chess, Gobstones, and Exploding Snap being available for Harry to enjoy.
Recruiting Dumbledore's Army is going to require poor old Harry to traipse all over Hogwarts. To make your traipsing slightly less of a chore you have access to the Marauder's Map. Essentially you'll bring this up on screen and either select a location or a task and then activate it for a route to be plotted. After choosing a destination you'll see footprints appear on the ground to show you which way you need to go. This is actually a nice idea but there are a few problems with these footprints. First of all if Harry is running around, the footprints occasionally have a hard time keeping up and it's possible to head off in the wrong direction. Secondly the footprints are dark and are not always that easy to make out. Still it's a rather novel feature that I hope is improved upon and used in future titles.
To cast spells in the 360, PS3, PS2 and PC (if you're using a gamepad) versions you'll simply press a button to take out your wand and then move the right analogue stick in a variety of ways to cast the spell. There are six non-combat and six combat spells to learn and they involve rotating the right analogue stick in both an anti-clockwise and clockwise fashion as well as tapping it up and down. To keep memorising the spells as simple as possible the six combat spells require the same actions as the six non-combat spells. Naturally you'll only cast combat spells when involved in a duel. With the PS3 version you can opt to move the whole controller instead of the right analogue stick in order to cast spells. Personally I didn't find this motion-sensing option very useful and preferred to use the right analogue stick. You don't have to use a gamepad if you're playing the PC version as you can use the keyboard and mouse. I thought the gamepad was the better option and if you connect an Xbox 360 controller you'll find it works perfectly with the force feedback working just as good as if it were being used on the 360 console. Naturally the Wii version is a little different as you'll cast your spells by moving the Wii remote and in some cases both the Wii remote and nunchuk. In contrast to the motion-sensing controls on the PlayStation 3 version, the Wii controls work very nicely and in terms of the control system the Wii version is definitely more fun to play because of this.
Exclusive to the Xbox 360 version are the achievements you can complete. There are forty-one achievements in all and for the most part they are quite easy to earn simply playing the game without the need to go out of your way. You'll get 20G for going to Hogwarts for instance and 100G for recruiting Dumbledore's Army. You'll get 100G for simply finishing the game and another 100G if you finish the game on the hardest difficulty setting. If you manage to meet all of the characters in the game you'll earn a further 10G. To encourage you to play the mini-games you'll get 20G for beating all of the Wizard Chess champions, 20G for defeating all of the Exploding Snap champions and 20G for defeating all of the Gobstone champions.
Out of all the different versions we were fortunate to play, the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions looked the best. Both the 360 and PS3 versions support 1080p. The PC version only offers three resolutions however, with the maximum being 1024x768 which seems quite odd. These three versions looked quite good on the whole with Hogwarts in particular looking impressive. Some aspects, such as the character models, just looked like higher resolution versions of those in the PlayStation 2 game which is a little disappointing. The Wii version looks quite a bit poorer and to be honest it's not much of an improvement upon the PlayStation 2 version. The frame rate in virtually all of these versions is actually pretty good. The PlayStation 2 version does suffer from a low frame at times although, in fairness, it doesn't get in the way of anything. Neither version has a great camera. Essentially you are unable to manoeuvre the camera angle and at times your view is not beneficial.
Thankfully Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is subtitled. The subtitles aren't enabled by default but you'll have the option of enabling them before you start a new game (as well as choosing one of three difficulty levels). The subtitles in the game don't have any character portraits or names placed alongside the dialogue but for the most part it's easy to see who is saying what. There aren't any subtitles when the characters call out the name of the spell they are casting. All tutorial messages are shown in text and use relevant controller button icons to make it crystal clear what buttons or actions are needed. All objectives are shown in text and you can speak to Ron and Hermione if you forget what you need to do as they will make comments that will jog your memory. In every version apart from the PC version an icon is shown to let you know that your game has just autosaved at a checkpoint so you'll know when you can quit out of the game without losing any progress.
We should make it perfectly clear that your opinion of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will depend entirely on how much of a Harry Potter fan you are. If you like the idea of being able to explore Hogwarts and just want to take in the ambience of game, then you're pretty much guaranteed to really enjoy the game. If you're simply picking this up because you fancy an action adventure type of game then you'll probably be disappointed with what's on offer. The main reason for this is because you'll have to travel all over Hogwarts doing menial tasks that just aren't much fun. The storytelling in the game is rather vague and perhaps relies on the player having read the book, or seen the movie. Instead of having a storyline that's fully fleshed out, you have one that seems to skip from one incident to another far too hastily. There are only a handful of battles in the game and to be perfectly honest they aren't exactly engaging experiences. The less inspiring elements of the game mean that it's a game that only Harry Potter fans will really appreciate.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is primarily a game for Harry Potter fans. Those that aren't Harry Potter nuts might not too forgiving of the games shortcomings. The PC, PS3 and 360 versions might look the best but the Wii version is definitely more fun to play thanks to it's unique control scheme.