For the fourth foray into the Hogwarts school of magic, Electronic Arts has apparently decided enough is enough. No more interesting adventure. Away with compelling spell casting. All that's left is action, loads of dialogue from the film and a healthy dose of disinterest.
It's no shock to find that Goblet is faithfully bound to the book and film, so the story opens at the Quidditch World Cup campsite, moves to Hogwarts, then replicates the events of the Tri-Wizard tournament. Along the way players control Harry, Ron or Hermione. All three are typically onscreen at once, but there's no hot-swapping between characters. The non-player characters are usually controlled competently by the computer, which will enthusiastically attack and can be directed to give spell casting assistance. During the tournament the AI support drops away, as Harry must face that event alone.
Spell casting is purely context-sensitive. Press one button for a hex, another for a charm, and the game will decide which spell to choose, based on the environment. That reduces the game to a routine action adventure, where you simply navigate one room after another, pressing the same button over and over to defeat monsters that never become frightening. There are items to collect, collector's cards to boost stats, and some very basic puzzles to conquer. But EA has plainly designed the game to offer only a basic challenge to the broadest possible audience.
During the tournament things pick up a bit - an underwater sequence is a standout and there's some good fun to be had outrunning a dragon on broomstick. But these are fleeting moments, and the game too quickly returns to daft arcade action. Even the option for two other players to jump in and control Harry's friends can't add enough spark.
Goblet of Fire looks just fine, thanks to environments that faithfully replicate those of the film. And the character models look great; they're easily the best in the series. But it matters little, when there's nothing interesting to do. And the frequent sound bites and shouted dialogue wear thin long before the tournament even begins. If EA could loosen up and trust Rowling's audience to respond to a challenge there might be a wonderful adventure game for Harry Potter to star in, but this definitely isn't it.