Licensed games have always been prone to formula. In the '90s, any arcade game that sported a pop culture license was a beat-'em-up. It didn't matter if the license was X-Men or The Simpsons. At home, these same licenses were made into platformers, again regardless of whether it was Wayne's World or Home Improvement. Now it seems like the genre of choice for licensed games is third-person shooters, and the hero of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is following behind Avatar, Wanted, and a host of others, waving his little wand like a very big gun.
The shield and teleport ability add a bit of depth to what seems at first to be a very conventional shooter.
It's a strange ending place for the series' video game legacy, which began so many years ago with Argonaut's whimsical 3D platform game on PlayStation. Just as the movies have gotten progressively darker, and matured with their cast, the game series now finds itself playing quite a lot like Gears of War, and completely devoid of the puzzles and adventure elements that once seemed like such a good fit for the action-adventure fantasy themes.
There seems to be something conceptually and thematically flawed about the direction taken. Although the dark, detailed graphics seem to capture the look of the film well, the Rambo motif to the gameplay seems out of character, even for the more action-oriented series finale.
Maybe that's too harsh. It's not hard to imagine Harry volleying fire with scores of Death Eaters, but the problem is that shooters rely so heavily on the feeling of power gained from wielding a fearsome weapon, and a flick of the wand simply doesn't cut it. The "gunplay" in Deathly Hallows just feels limp and silly compared to blasting away with some actual guns.
That doesn't make the gameplay itself ill-conceived. As Harry unlocks more spells, the game gets quite a bit more interesting. Eventually he learns six different attacks, and two defensive/tactical spells, none of which have use restrictions. They each have different firing rates, cool-down times, and behaviors, and juggling these different abilities adds a layer to the gameplay that is seldom seen in games revolving around conventional weaponry. The tactical spells - a shield and a teleport ability - further add a bit of depth to what seems at first to be a very conventional shooter.
Unfortunately, this core is build around a dull, repetitive game with simplistic, predictable enemy AI, and levels that offer precious little variety outside of an occasional Indiana Jones-inspired escape sequence. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is very short, very easy, and does little to exploit any depth it might have had. If Bright Light had taken a more conservative approach and blended the shooting gameplay with action-adventure and puzzle solving elements, it would have gone a long way to creating a more rounded experience.
I certainly don't envy the developers of movie games. Saddled with less than half the time of normal game development, as well as the creative restrictions that come with working with someone else's IP, they have to scramble to come up with anything that could compete with less encumbered developments. The talented people at EA Bright Light have not made a bad game, and in fact they've worked hard to make something that has improved on their last effort and will satisfy hardcore Potter fans looking for a quick fix. But ultimately, this is a fleeting and forgettable experience on its own merits, reasonably enjoyable for the few hours it lasts, but with virtually no staying power. With the burden of meeting movie releases finally over for Harry Potter games, it will be interesting to see if the series continues with the ambition of Star Wars and finally realizes its potential, or simply fades away.