Review by afro_jesus
"An unbiased look at the good and the bad of HP:OOTP"
This game is an anomaly of sorts. One one hand you have a remarkable example of what EA is trying to accomplish with "movie games", wherein there's minimal(if any at all) noticeable loading, huge environments that are extremely detailed, voice work predominantly done by the cast of the film, and some really sharp graphics.
However, with all of the money EA threw at this title it's plain to see that they just didn't care about the actual game play aspect of the title and are in turn, relying solely on the aesthetics and technical merits of the title instead. There's no way anyone should legitimately pay more than 39.95 for this, regardless of the situation.
Why, you ask? Well, it's because this game at it's absolute most is roughly 10 hours long. That's also considering that you took your time and found EVERYTHING possible to get the Discovery Level 13 achievement. Now I know, a lot of 10 hour games are insanely great and the only complaint most have with titles in that group is that "it's never long enough". Unfortunately, the "game play" in Phoenix revolves around the "fetch and quest" type of engine.
If I was to be insanely harsh, I would state that this game's entire play style follows the same basic formula of "Look at map, find character from movie, talk to them, retrieve item/run errand/find information, then open map and repeat for the next character" and I wouldn't be far off. While the game does offer a good amount of things to do outside of the normal fetch and retrieve, there's nothing with enough depth to make it worthwhile.
You have your choice of 3 mini-games, some with variations(Gobstones and Card Snap), but even then they don't offer much, which in turn leads me to our next issue....
Lack of Multi-player/Online play:
While it's a given that this title is only a single player experience, with the amount of additional mini-games and the fairly balanced(surprising, I know) dueling system...it should have been a literal no-brainer for the addition of online play. Even in it's most remote aspect, online play could have been the deal breaker that would've given people(predominantly, this game is marketed at younger gamers or die-hard HP fans) a lot to do after the game was finished.
Also, the lack of multiple playable characters in this title keeps you from deriving from the sole "Harry Potter is the only one that matters" side of the coin. In Azkaban and even to a lesser extent the hand held titles(which are mostly RPG's or hybrids), each character in the "Hogwarts Triple Threat" have something to offer. All Ron and Hermione(mainly Hermione) do the entire game is complain and comment about the current situation, most of the time doing so directly after you've been given a new objective.
Secondly, by doing this making the only playable character Harry, you have killed any type of variety in the puzzle aspect of the game. Without multiple characters, there's no depth. Every situation is the same, every character has the same spell set, and every puzzle can be completed within seconds of discovering it. This design flaw leaves you with nothing but tedium, and unfortunately that's what this entire game is.
The last major complaint is the overall stiff controls. Instead of the normally fluid and intuitive control over Harry(as in previous games), we've been force fed Resident Evil style tank controls. Now, it's nowhere near as BAD as the earlier RE titles, but it's still leagues behind the previous HP titles, and that is flat out unacceptable. Nobody should have to deal with sub-par controls, especially at $59.95 per game and ESPECIALLY on next gen consoles. Period.
On a positive note, the game does look fantastic and the actual scope of Hogwarts as a whole is mind blowing(especially to someone who isn't a die-hard HP fan, such as myself). But add onto that the crispness of the textures and the quality of the music(and voice work) and you have a stellar recreation of the overall look/feel of the film. It shows what kind of resources EA put behind this, but in the end you have lifeless character models that show no emotion, a sub-par sandbox engine, and tedious "tasks" to perform.
Final result? Buy it used or rent it for a quick play through, but do NOT drop the MSRP of $59.95 for this. The end game is just too shallow to justify the price due to the lack of any real replay ability(other than achievements), even for it's intended target audience.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/09/07
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