With five books, three movies, and four games under its belt, the Harry Potter franchise is certainly a force to be reckoned with. One more of each is due out this year, including the video game version of the upcoming movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Once again, Harry will team up with his magical cohorts, Ron and Hermione, to take on a Triwizard Tournament. EA will have Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at E3, and we were given an early look at the demo it'll be showing off.
EA's goal with the latest Harry Potter game is to create a more action-oriented title. In the game, you'll have the ability to play as any of the three main characters. All three will be involved in each level at some point, and if you've got some friends nearby, they can join in to make a three-player co-op experience. Though the game is less puzzle-focused than the previous titles, you'll still need to cooperate with your friends (or AI-controlled characters) to move objects and such using charms. Charms are unique magical spells that, when combined, let you, for example, move a large log or big boulder out of your path, as we saw in the demo EA showed us. In combat, you'll use jinxes to attack foes. There are around a dozen different creatures in the game, and each has four different types of jinxes it's vulnerable to. You and your friends can combine jinxes to create more powerful attacks.
The basic gameplay shown to us in the demo consisted of Harry, Ron, and Hermione fighting off creatures while trying to run through the Quidditch World Cup campsite. We saw examples of the jinxes and charms in action, all of which seemed easily executable. The look of the demo seemed to be an improvement over the visuals found in last year's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The models of the characters all showed a nice level of detail, and the various visual effects assigned to each spell were colorful, as well as plentiful. We did notice that the frame rate had a tendency to hitch up when too much was happening onscreen, but with several months between now and the game's release, we expect that those issues will be cleared up.
Everything we've said up to this point applies to the console and PC versions of Goblet of Fire, but what about the handhelds? The PlayStation Portable version of the game is going to be pretty much the same as the console versions, with Wi-Fi support for up to three players to maintain the co-op play. On the Game Boy Advance, EA has opted against going the RPG route this time around, instead making an isometric action adventure that follows the same events and story progression of the console games. The GBA game also features something of a virtual pet system, which will let you take a chosen pet into battle. The DS version is effectively the same as the GBA version, but with a different combat system. The GBA game features simple real-time combat, whereas on the DS, when an enemy is presented, the screen cuts away to a turn-based battle, where you'll use the stylus in specific, rhythmic motions to conjure attack spells.
At E3, EA will be showing off the same demo level we saw, which is the opening level of the game. The DS and GBA versions will also likely be on hand, though the PSP version will probably not be shown. Expect to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in all of its many iterations in stores this November. We'll bring you more on the game soon.