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Located here is an exclusive preview of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix videogame by Leanne and Stefan

.: Leanne's Preview :.

As part of the fansite council that EA Games have created, I got the amazing opportunity to go to their new home in Guildford on 26th April 2005. We were split up into “houses” and given the chance to play on the games on three platforms. I was in Sytherin with Jessie from Dreuzels, and Charlotte from Immeritus.

Nintendo Wii

This was the first platform that I got to play on, and it was, by my own admission, the one I was most looking forward to having a go on. We were given a quick demonstration of how the control for this system worked before we got to have a go ourselves. As I was sitting in the “hot seat” so I was first up. The Wii controllers act as Harry’s wand on screen so every movement you make, Harry makes, too. This was a little weird to begin with, as it was just a very odd sensation to be actually controlling the character’s exact movement on screen. After a few minutes of causing havoc in the courtyard, which involved casting the Wingardium Leviosa spell on a bench, complete with the Hogwarts emblem, and hitting a few students on the head with it, completely by accident of course, I enlisted the help of the Maurader’s Map to navigate my way to find Fred and George for my first “task.” As the game had only just begun, the task was to learn some spells that would help me out on my way around the castle. The map is a really useful bit of kit on the game as without it, you really would be at a complete loss at where you needed to go. You’re provided with a set of footprints, which lead you to where you want to go. All you have to is make sure you follow them correctly, unlike myself and Jessie at times, who decided we’d go off in the completely wrong direction. The graphics on the Nintendo Wii are extremely impressive and, as I touched upon earlier, there’s an immense attention to detail.

XBOX 360

Once all three of us had had a chance to experience the Nintendo Wii for ourselves, we moved over to the XBOX 360. Again, we started with a small demonstration but we were soon given the control pad and away we went. I found it easier to control Harry on this platform than on the Wii but it wasn’t as much fun as actually moving around the “wand” yourself. The spell casting on this platform uses the analog sticks on the controller. I had a little trouble with casting the Reparo spell, which the rest of the group, and Gary Napper (European CQC senior tester) who was sitting with us while we played, found highly amusing. They cheered me on for a good five minutes while I continued to cast this same spell. I got there eventually and a huge cheer was given out all round. This was when I decided it was best to hand over the controls to Charlotte, who didn’t seem to have as much trouble as I did at casting the same spell. I think that after a while you’d get the hang of all the spells without too much trouble, and afterall, it was fun sitting there trying to get it to work. So even if you do have trouble casting spells, it’s not all doom and gloom.

The difference in graphics between this platform and the Nintendo Wii was quite astounding to be honest. I thought the detail on the Wii was superb, but the XBOX just blew me away. There is so much detail that it hardly looks as though you’re playing a game. You could just as well be watching the film!

I do not have a review of the PS3 game as I didn't spend enough time on it to be able to provide a detailed enough preview. But, from what I did see, and do, I can tell you that it is just as good as the other two.

.: Stefan's Preview :.

As many of you will already be aware, Leanne and I went to EA's Headquarters on April 26, 2007, in order to see how the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix videogame had progressed since our last visit which occurred in August of 2006. If you would like to find out about the entire day first then click here, while if you would like to read interviews that we did with the staff members then click here.

EA have certainly done their homework, since the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix videogame is undoubtedly going to be one of the best releases out this summer! I was fortunate enough to test both the Playstation3 and Wii versions and all I can say is...WOW!

After viewing the introduction to the PS3 version – of Harry and Dursley in Little Whinging encountering a Dementor – the player is transported to Grimmauld Place to learn the ropes, since this is where the first of numerous tutorials begin. Guided by Sirius, the player takes on the persona of Harry and is taught basic concepts such as how to cast some of the environmental spells like Accio (pull), Depulso (push) and Reparo (repair) on objects located around the room, such as chairs and shelves. What is particularly good about the spell casting on this format is that each spell requires a prominently different movement, hence reducing the chance for any spell being mistaken as another. Moreover, each spell is done using the right analogue stick; while a visual example is placed on the screen itself before Harry does the spell to ensure that the player knows exactly what to do.

Each spell is taught from Sirius to Harry, and then Harry teaches the spell to Ginny, due to the fact that the creators wanted to place the leadership role onto both the player and Harry from early on in the videogame, in order to carry on the leadership role for later, specifically when Harry is appointed head of the D.A. In total, Grimmauld Place has three entire floors that the player can look around, however these are not available to browse during the tutorial. However once the tutorial is completed then the player can go back on an exploration mission at any time that they wish.

Once the tutorial has finished at Grimmauld Place, the player is then transported to Hogwarts for another tutorial, this time to learn additional spells and processes such as how to run. The entire list of spells that are featured in the videogame are as follows:

Environmental spells

Accio (pull)
Depulso (push)
Wingadium Leviosa (levitating the selected object)
Reparo (repairing the selected object)
Reducto (blast)
Incendio (fire)

Duelling spells

Stupefy (stun)
Expelliarmus (disarm)
Rictusempra (tickle)
Petrificus Totalus (body bind)
Protego (deflection)

The duelling spells are especially fun to master, due to the fact that the player is taught them by Fred and George Weasley in the courtyard and testing them out on Fred, George and other Hogwarts students is immense fun, especially on the Wii, since dodging and diving around the place is what will occur!

Moreover, a major change that has occurred with spells from the previous videogames is the actual wand itself. No longer is the wand a fixed object in the avatar's hand, since the player is now given the decision when to take out the wand for use. Another use of the wand can be to "threaten" students and this will make most of them run away, however be careful to do this with a Slytherin student as a duel might be the outcome.

Once the player has completed the various tutorials at Hogwarts and free-roam comes into play, they will be astounded, due to the complexity in design and vastness of the building. In order to not be lost, EA have included the Marauder's Map on all versions and to access the map on the PS3, one must hit the "Select" button. The map is split into three different sections. The left-hand side of the screen is based on all the locations that can be visited, the middle an actual image of all the different locations, while on the right-hand one can find all of the characters that need to be located for certain missions. Once a location or a character has been selected from the map, the fun part comes into play. Little black footprints appear on the floor which the player simply needs to follow in order to find the item that they are looking for. The Marauder's Map also has another useful function, since it can be looked at to view the tasks and missions that the player has already started.

Roaming around in this videogame differs from all of the others, since it is one seamless shot, which means that the videogame does not pause for seconds on end to wait for the next "chunk" of surroundings to load. The screen has also had a makeover, since no icons appear at all apart from the saving icon – a Prophecy Globe – which appears in the top right-hand corner each time the videogame is saved either automatically or manually.

Another way in which this videogame will differ from the previous ones can be seen in terms of beans. No longer will beans have to be collected, since this has been replaced with "Discovery Points." Just about everything in all of the locations is interactive, meaning that if the player casts a correct spell here, or completes a certain task there, they will be rewarded with such points. A prime example can be seen with the statues and gargoyles, since each one has its own accent and personality, meaning that one will never get bored interacting with them. EA has also taken major concepts such as the bricks moving in Diagon Alley and the chess pieces in Philosopher's Stone and have re-purposed them to become interactive at Hogwarts.

The more points that one gains not only means that the spells will become more powerful, it also means that more prizes are unlocked in the "Room of Rewards." To find the Room of Rewards one must speak to Moaning Myrtle, since she will take the player to the exact location. In this room one can find a variety of empty trophy cases which undoubtedly need to be filled up, and by walking up to each of them the player will view commands such as "Collect X," "Collect Y," and "Collect Z" to gain the rewards. Such rewards which will be given range from artwork to interviews with the actors that recorded their voiceovers for the videogames and much, much more!

Roaming around Hogwarts one will also notice new and exciting things, the main one being the grand staircase. Players will be able to ride the entire staircase and move from floor-to-floor, however the player must be careful, since the staircase might move while they are on it, meaning that one has to think carefully to ensure that they are going in the right direction. In relation to the grand staircase, one will notice the vast amount of portraits that are present, each one alive and interactive!

Another new and exciting feature can be seen with wizarding games. Around Hogwarts the player will be able to have a go at games such as Wizarding Snap and Gobstones. Playing Gobstones is a lot like marbles, however more complex since you never know, a Slytherin student just might cheat! Furthermore, EA have used many tie-ins from previous novels and videogames such as being able to open the Chamber of Secrets – but not going in it – as well as having left over cages from the first task in Goblet of Fire.

In terms of missions, the player will certainly be in for a treat! Not only will fellow students give missions, but teachers and ghosts will give out missions, too. An example of one mission can be seen with Cho Chang. In brief, the mission is based on Cho wanting to send a box of heart-shaped chocolates to her grandmother; however the owl that has the chocolates keeps moving all around the Owlery. Therefore, Cho asks for Harry's help to get the box of chocolates. After clambering all around the Owlery and completing the task, a cut scene with a little romantic tension occurs. Again, tie-ins can be seen with this mission, since at the beginning Cho mentions the Quidditch team, the Tornadoes, ultimately proving that this videogame has been created by fans for fans. Another great feature of this videogame compared to the rest can be seen in terms of completing tasks. No longer does the player have to complete one task before they are allowed to start another, since if a fail occurs then the player can still carry on, meaning that this version allows multiple tasks being started and completed whenever the player wants.

Like the movies, EA were not able to include everything that they wanted to in this videogame, specifically taking OWL's and Quidditch for the current generation and next generation consoles. To also include instances from the "Order of the Phoenix" novel that are either too short for game play or actually moves the story forward is where "The Daily Prophet" comes into force. This wizarding newspaper will be seen throughout the entire videogame, while all of the content on each page that is shown to the player has been approved by both J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros., hence meaning that none of it is gibberish and is the real deal!

In contrast, the Wii obviously has some differences from the PS3 version, due to it being another console altogether. For one, there is not just one controller but two – the Wiimote as well as the nunchuk. Both are needed for this version of the videogame and, while the nunchuk is used to move Harry around all of the locations, each is needed – either as a pair or individually – to cast spells. For example, moving the Wiimote forward will cast the "Protego" spell, while moving both together will cast the Stupefy spell; moving the Wiimote in a circular movement as fast as one can will cast the Reparo spell. Like the PS3 version, each spell has a distinct movement, in order to ensure that the player does not get confused which spell they are casting. Moreover, the Wiimote vibrates in the players' hands to convey that the spell has worked, while the sound of the spell comes out of the Wiimote to again emphasise that the spell has worked.

Tasks which I tried out with the Wii on the tour day can be seen in terms of the courtyard. Brushing up leaves seemed simple enough; however to not ruin the mission, let's just say that there is more than meets the eye, so remain vigilant throughout the entire videogame! Another task which I did can also be seen via the courtyard, specifically climbing onto the roof to gain swamp bombs, in order to release them to create havoc for Umbridge's Hogwarts, all which made me feel rather mischievous like Fred and George!

All in all, the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix videogame is undoubtedly going to be a huge success, since all of the staff members have not only worked tremendously hard to ensure that it is a videogame by fans for fans, they have also tried to open it up to as many consoles as possible – nine in total – translated into as many languages as possible – 23 in total – and have used as many of the actors as possible to make the gaming experience as rich as possible!

Even though this exclusive report has come to a close, it does not end there! To view exclusive screenshots from the videogame as well as the package that the videogame will come in, click here.


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