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Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix Review

Published July 27, 2007 by |

Potter fans must surely be in heaven right now, with the final book now available and a new (and fantastic) film showing in Cinemas around the world. As if that isn’t enough, the inevitable game tie-in has been brought to stores by EA, just in time to ride the cash-laden wave of Potter hysteria. But far from continuing this year’s trend of far-below-average movie tie-ins, this one is actually not bad.

Following the plot from the book and film, Order of the Phoenix sees Harry begin his new school year in tumultuous style, having been nearly expelled for using magic in front of his muggle cousin Dudley. As events inside and outside the school take a turn for the worst and with the students forbidden from practising magic (thanks to new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge), Harry’s classmates soon turn to him to teach them how to protect themselves against Voldemort’s dark forces.

It’s this aspect that the game focuses on, as you try and recruit Hogwarts students for Dumbledore’s Army. The game owes a lot to GTA and Bully style free roaming adventures, giving you pretty much the whole of Hogwarts to explore as you wish. Although some missions are required to be completed to advance the plot forward, this is a lot less linear than previous Harry Potter games.

Sadly, the missions themselves are quite disappointing. Each character you need to recruit asks you to do something for them before they will join you, and most of these are simple fetch quests. They won’t challenge older gamers and the lack of variety may mean younger fans get bored before they get to the (admittedly impressive) finale.

There’s plenty to do between classes, so if you feel like playing a game or two of Wizard’s chess or explosive snaps before attending a lesson you can do. Along the corridors you may also find statues that need repairing or lanterns to be lit; using your magic spells to clean up Hogwarts in this way can open up shortcuts or unlock bonus content. With each spell you learn you can interact more with your environment or the other students and this is where most of the fun comes from. Performing these spell is also a lot more fluid than before.

For most consoles, including the 360, the right Analogue stick has been assigned to Harry’s wand arm; so to perform Wingardium Leviosa for instance, tilt the stick up then left and right a few times. While it feels more natural than just hitting a button, it’s far less interactive than that of the Wii, which is obviously a better fit for wand control. If you can handle the drop in graphical quality, then the Wii version is the one fans should go for.

For those with both a 360 and Wii, choosing the version that’s right for you depends on whether you prefer better controls or graphics, as the 360 stands high above the rest. Hogwarts in High-def is as beautiful as can be expected and likewise the characters are pretty close to their real life counterparts. And the slower pace of the game means more of the characters from Hogwarts make an appearance, so you’ll be seeing more of Moaning Myrtle and Nearly-headless Nick who are sadly missing from the film.

EA also managed to rope in nearly all the real life actors to voice their digital selves for cut-scenes and general dialogue, helping to lend an extra level of authenticity. The game expands on some of the scenes from the films, even adding things omitted from the big screen release, like Ron and Hermione’s promotions to prefects, and contains some great extras if you complete enough side missions. These movie style special features waiting to be unlocked give an interesting insight into the making of the game and features interviews with the game designers and film actors.

On the whole this is a great package for Harry Potter fans, even if the difficulty levels leave older fans wanting. Until EA release a MMORPG based in the world of Potter this is the closest you’ll get to actually being a student at Hogwarts.