Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Once again J.K. Rowling's world comes alive
in EA's latest adventure game epic entitled Harry Potter and the Order
of the Phoenix which follows the freshly released movie of this amazing
series. Amazingly enough, EA have used actual blueprints from the movie
to recreate all the wonders of this amazing universe that not only
features the actual scenes from the movie but even some of the original
cast and authentic motion picture soundtrack for a totally thrilling and
Order of the Phoenix closely follows the movie, chronicling Harry's
fifth year at the wizard academy. Fresh off his butt kicking at the
hands of Lord Voldemort, Potter gets in trouble for using magic in the
presence of a muggle. Even worse, almost everyone at Hogwarts refuses to
believe his story about Voldemort, and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius
Fudge appoints a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores
Umbridge, that leaves her students woefully unprepared to face the
enemy. Harry and his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, go above the
instructors and form Dumbledore's Army, a collection of students
committed to protecting Hogwarts at all costs.
Much of the game revolves around recruiting
these 28 students as well as completing other tasks, outlined in Harry's
Marauder's Map, accessed by pressing Select. EA saves gamers some time
(and lots of frustration) by allowing them to activate quests and
following magic footsteps, which always point in the desired direction.
This proves especially important, since players can ignore the map and
instead focus on the game's excellent visuals.
As for the rest of the game, while it involves a lot of at times stock
standard fetch quests, the whole idea of exploring Hogwarts should keep
players enthralled. The spell casting system proves equally intriguing,
as gamers tilt the right analog stick in various directions to
manipulate the environment and battle rival wizards. Fortunately, the 12
spells are easy to cast. To perform Accio (pulling an object), for
example, players press down twice. To cast Reparo (puts broken items
back together), they rotate the stick clockwise. Other spells involve
pushing objects (Depulso), smashing them (Reducto), stunning opponents
(Stupefy) and disarming them (Expelliarmus).
Through experimentation, gamers use some of these spells to solve
puzzles. Putting paintings back together with the levitation spell (Wingardium
Leviosa), launching suits of armor into various poses with Depulso
levels up Harry's magical abilities as well as unlocks bonus content,
accessed in the Room of Rewards (which showcases trophies and clips
featuring interviews with the film's cast).
EA attempted to make the PlayStation 3 version unique with an exclusive
SIXAXIS feature. In theory, players cast spells by physically
maneuvering the controller. Casting Accio, the pull spell, involves
bringing the controller backwards, while Reducto asks gamers to move it
left and right. A good idea, just not a practical one, thanks to the
controller's unreliability. Players will push, pull and rotate the
controller, only to find that it doesn't work and Harry loses a fight
(EA sends him to the hospital wing rather than kill him). Thankfully,
gamers can switch between the standard/motion controls while pausing the
EA did a remarkable job modeling Hogwarts,
capturing such famous locales as the Great Hall, Hagrid's Hut, Defense
Against the Dark Arts, the Boy's Dormitory and the most impressive of
all, the Grand Staircase; complete with moving stairs, ghosts and
talking paintings, which players may interact with. Some of the
characters look weird, but for the most part, the developers captured
their likenesses, especially Ron, Hermione, Harry, and the majority of
the support characters. The game chugs in spots, mostly when Harry (or
one of the other playable characters-secret) runs through sunlight, but
for the most part, Order of the Phoenix runs smoothly. For whatever
reason, however, the run button fails to work while passing through
specific corridors, an obvious glitch.
Gamers will also enjoy the audio, which features a harmonious blend of
popular tracks from the film, including the famous Harry Potter theme.
With that being said, parts of Hogwarts lack music, forcing gamers to
explore without the company of John Williams' (Jaws, Star Wars, Saving
Private Ryan) epic score.
EA also deserves credit for the voice
acting. While it was unable to sign Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson
(Harry and Hermione, respectively) to voice their characters, it hired
over twenty actors and actresses from the film, including Rupert Grint
(Ron), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy); all
of which do an excellent job. Their performances, combined with EA's
direction produce heart warming and intense sequences, particularly the
humorous ones. Ron and Hermione, for example, snap at each other just as
they do in the movies, further cementing the game's authenticity.
Order of the Phoenix is without question EA's greatest Harry Potter and
one of the best movie-based games. The combination of adventuring and
the exquisite presentation delivers an authentic and impressive
experience that everyone should play. Although if you don't want the
latest movie spoilt, you might want to wait until you have seen it.