Want to see what Harry Potter looks like in next-gen? We've just received the first gameplay images for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which you can see for yourself by clicking here or heading to the Images tab above.
Visually, EA seems to be treating its most famous franchise very well. The graphics in these five shots are surprisingly impressive for what could have been (mistakenly) relegated to kiddie fare. The characters appear lifelike and the environments appear accurate... just check out the sheer volume of detail in that Grand Staircase screen, with its dozens of different paintings. The effects, such as bright glowing spells and transparent floating ghosts, also look pretty nice.
We still worry about how Order of the Phoenix will actually play. In our opinion, the series has deteriorated with every new outing, focusing more on short scripted sequences and less on sprawling adventure. We want to live the movie, guys, not just watch an interactive version of it.
However, when we talked to Justin Manning, the game's Associate Producer, he assured us that the open-ended exploration of Hogwarts that we miss so much from Chamber of Secrets will return, as will the best features of more recent entries. You'll still get to solve physics-based puzzles like in Goblet of Fire and, though you can't control Ron and Hermione at any time like in Prisoner of Azkaban, you will be able to control supporting characters like Dumbledore and Sirius Black during specific "movie" moments.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix doesn't have an official release date yet, but the next film hits theaters July 13. Do the math.
April 18, 2007