Much like the movie it was based on, EA’s game “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” is not the best in the series. A couple of elements were improved upon, but overall the game is missing too many things that were present in the earlier games as well as the latest one, “Order of the Phoenix.” That doesn’t mean it is without merit, simply that longtime fans of the game series were somewhat disappointed with it.
The plot itself mirrors that of the book and movie by the same name. However, the way the plot and cutscenes are showcased is sorely lacking in entertainment value. Rather than utilizing traditional animated cutscenes, the game inserts stiff, storyboard-type pictures between levels, throwing in some audio narration that makes it seem even more like a child’s picture book. This method of storytelling is bland and unimaginative and makes the plot secondary to everything else, which it may be for many gamers but most definitely is not for Potter fans. Additionally, it doesn’t make a lot of sense not to use real cutscenes since one of the few things this game has been praised for is its improved graphics.

Visually, “Goblet of Fire” is a feast for the eyes. Everything is better, from the movements of the playable characters to the details of Hogwarts Castle. Unfortunately, the player is not allowed much room to appreciate these improvements. The game is set up to be played on a level-by-level basis. No free exploration is allowed, even though that is one of the best elements in all of the other games in the series. There are a few minigames accessible from the menu, but the way it is all set up makes the entire game feel disconnected and abstract. None of the levels relate to each other in any tangible way, and each of them must be replayed in order to obtain all hidden objects, making it confusing for newer Potter fans to recognize which events were supposed to happen first. In fact, it’s difficult to see any sort of connection between this game and the original story. The playable levels resemble the castle and story of the book in only the most obscure fashion, as if the designers were given a description of the sets from the movie and a few vague plot points and told to make it up as they go along.

Other than the improved graphics, the best thing about this game is the co-op play. Playing solo is not impossible but can be rather difficult when particular enemies are encountered or the minigames are attempted. Some situations require help from a consciousness other than the PS2, one that can think clearly enough to avoid shooting a spell at the wrong target. Additionally, it is a great deal of fun to have one of your friends play one of Harry’s friends while you’re running around as the hero. This innovation in the series is worth playing the game through once just to enjoy working together on your spell-casting.

The usual spells are at your disposal, including Wingardium Leviosa and Incendio. The same spell cast at the same target by two or three of the playable characters is often necessary to defeat certain monsters or puzzles, which is where co-op comes in handy. Mostly, the game involves running around and defeating a number of different creatures while searching for the very difficult-to-see hidden statues and other objects. The game can be completed without them, which may be useful for easily frustrated players, as there is no specific list for each level to tell you what you’re looking for or how many you need to find. Luckily, such a list can be found on the internet, courtesy of some very determined players.

Of course, the final climactic level involves fighting Voldemort himself. This level looks and feels closer to the movie than any of the others but is far too short when compared to the amount of time that must be spent going back through previous levels in order to achieve that coveted 100% completion. Defeating the evil wizard is also far too easy when compared to the fights you must endure with such lower creatures as the blast-ended skrewts.

What it all boils down to is a game with some fun elements but virtually no connection to the series it was meant to be a part of. As it consists of a limited number of levels with no freedom of movement around the majority of the castle and none of the beloved RPG elements, the game’s replay value is extremely small, almost non-existent. If the developers were aiming for a short game whose only purpose was to get Potter fans to play together and talk about the movie, they succeeded. It may also have had the added bonus of introducing new Potter fans to the game series since it’s more action-oriented, assuming that they would buy “Goblet of Fire” without having purchased the rest of the games. One of the best things that can be said about this one is “It’s not all bad.” As long as you don’t go into it expecting too much, you won’t be too disappointed.

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