Taken from IGN
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Hands-On
Does the Wii remote become Harry's wand? We've got the answer and first gameplay images.
by Micah Seff
April 11, 2007 - We recently got a rare treat at the IGN offices. Representatives from EA UK dropped by with the latest build of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the Wii, and let us sink our teeth into the substantial adventure. We sat down with the game's executive producer, Harvey Elliot, for a taste of what the game had to offer.
For this latest entry in the Harry Potter series, EA UK took a cue from Grand Theft Auto, astonishingly enough. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix actually has a whole lot in common with that beloved franchise. That's not to say that Harry is going to be beating down hookers with a baseball bat or anything. Rather, for this adventure, EA UK opted to implement the sandbox-style mission structure of the latest GTA games. Littered throughout the game are "discovery points," which function as milestone markers. These discovery points can be activated by completing various challenges, and reward the player with spell and level advancements.
Potter and friends are growing up.
The new sandbox structure of the game means that you can devote much of your playtime to scouring Hogwarts for every last mission, rather than progressing through the game's actual storyline. What this effectively does is bring Hogwarts to life in a way not seen before in a game. The digital version of the school is filled with recognizable elements from the fiction, and characters will be rewarded for seeking them out. Doing tasks like corralling a group of Snitches in a room and setting them loose on some levitating books will not only elicit a chuckle from Potter fanatics, but also will yield some discovery points.
None of this is to say that the game ignores the formidable storyline of the movie. On the contrary, the game's plot plays a supportive role to its celluloid counterpart, filling in the events between the climactic moments dealt within the film. Everything that happens in the game will have a lasting effect on the world. When designing the levels for the game, the developers had access to the film set and well as the design documents used for the movie. This made for a vision of Hogwarts that is more true to the movies than we could have imagined. The game designers opted to use the movie's vision of Hogwarts because it is more visually iconic. Walking through the castle as the myriad of portraits shift around and the staircases revolve is easily as impressive in the title as it is in the movies.
The Wii-specific controls for the game seem remarkably well put together. Once Harry's wand is drawn, the Wiimote can be used to directly control the spells you cast. Everything is handled through accelerometers; there is no pointing in the game whatsoever. Any of the game's spells can be cast quickly and easily, merely by a flick of the wrist. Thrust the Wiimote forward, and Harry will propel an object away from himself. Motion upward with both the Wiimote and nunchuk, and Harry will cause an object to levitate in the air.
Once you have an object floating, you can move the Wiimote around in 3D space to reposition it. This actually worked better than we had assumed it would, although it is not yet perfect. There are puzzles that require placing objects in specific places, which is somewhat irritating because of the inaccuracies involved in the motion controls. Despite this, it was a lot of fun to wave the Wiimote in the air and see Harry react in turn. Hopefully the spell system sees some refinement before the game's release because they were already enjoyable, even at this early state.
Visually, the game is quite obviously a port of the PS2 version. That's not to say that it looks ugly -- far from it -- but there are some aliasing issues, as well as some blurry textures. Still, the project runs at a fairly consistent 30 frames per second throughout and looks impressive nevertheless. It also supports 16:9 widescreen and 480p. From a visual design perspective, though, the game is quite striking. Hogwarts and its environs are brought to life flawlessly. We took the rare opportunity to turn on the game's debug mode and fly through the levels, and we came away really impressed. All of Hogwarts is connected seamlessly, creating a palpable sensation of being in the famed wizardry school. Technical shortcomings aside, the team at EA UK did a remarkable job of recreating Hogwarts and all of its many inhabitants.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix still remains an enigma to some extent. What we saw of the game really intrigued us, and left us most definitely wanting more; however, there is still a whole lot that we don't know about the title. Most of the game's missions are still a mystery at this point, but the brief taste we were privy to was certainly enjoyable. EA made some promises about a Quidditch mini-game and playable versions of Sirius Black and Dumbledore, but we didn't get a chance to scope them out yet. The game comes out sometime in June, prior to the film's release in theaters on July 13. Be sure to check back once we get our hands on a final build of the game.
I don't think I will be picking this game up, but the wand does sound neat.