The bastard child of NHL Hockey, International Superstar Soccer, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup is the best Quidditch game currently on the market. Hopefully this situation will be rectified in the coming years; but as of now, if you wanna fly around on your Nimbus 2000 and whack Bludgers at Draco Malfoy, this is the game to get.
The rules of Quidditch have been explained again and again by J.K. Rowling, so I’m not about to do it again here. Fans of Harry Potter don’t need to hear it for the umpteenth time, and non-fans should consider reading the books before looking into games based on the books.
Quidditch World Cup features three main modes of play: Hogwarts, World Cup, and Exhibition. In Hogwarts, you pick any of the four house teams and vie for the Quidditch Cup. Along the way you are given a tutorial on how various aspects of the game work, which is infinitely helpful for the new player. If you tried to launch right into World Cup without first playing through Hogwarts, you wouldn’t have a bloody idea what was going on (though you’d probably end up winning anyway; it takes a lotttttt of plays before this game gets remotely near anything that could be considered “difficult”).
The controls for QWC certainly detract from any “pick up and play” aspect it might have going for it (which could be a possible deterrent for casual gamers), but you shouldn’t have trouble figuring them out if you first play through Hogwarts mode. In World Cup, shockingly, you pick one of several national teams that are available, and broom it up for the Quidditch World Cup; and in Exhibition mode, you can go head-to-head with one of your buddies (or an enemy, or a complete stranger, I suppose) in the sport of wizards.
QWC sports a fun orchestrated theme lifted straight from the movies, and while the main theme is a bit overused, the songs that play during gameplay fit the action awesomely. The sound effects are perfectly acceptable, and given that I’ve never personally witnessed a game of Quidditch, I’d say that they sound pretty much like the real deal.
The commentators, of course, are really annoying. Has there ever been a game where the commentary has actually added something positive to the game? I kept having flashbacks of Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey (“Robin Hood and his merry men are up to it again!”) while playing this title.
Each of the international teams has its own arena to call home, which are all more diverse than you’d expect from a sports title, and look fantastic to boot. The characters don’t look so fantastic, appearing a bit blocky and lacking in detail (and somehow frightening), but they are still more detailed than your average sports title character. There are also a few cutscenes that appear during the game, and while they look quite attractive, they’re extremely repetitive, and they interrupt the flow of the match, making them more of a nuisance than anything else. Luckily, you can skip through them with the push of a button, but it’d be better if they just weren’t there at all.
Unfortunately, all of the pretty graphics and pretty music in the world aren’t going to save a fundamentally flawed game, and the same goes for QWC. The gameplay is in need of severe alteration. The way it stands now, you play as one of three chasers, being able to alternate between the three as needed. You score goals and steal Quaffles and do all sorts of other Seeker stuff until you fill up your Golden Snitch meter enough for the snitch itself to be released. The way you do this is by making use of “combos” when you score goals; but combos amount to nothing more than holding down the R button when passing. You’ll find that if you just hold down the R button throughout the entire game, you’ll be able to fill up that meter in no time. That is, of course, unless you get targeted with a Bludger; despite what the game tells you, there doesn’t seem to be any way to actually avoid getting smacked by the buggers, which makes you automatically lose the Quaffle.
Once you utilize enough combos to fill out the Golden Snitch meter (which could take anywhere from five minutes to three hours, depending on how engrossed you can get yourself in the game), the Snitch is released, and you switch play from the Chasers to the Seeker. From there, you and the other team’s Seeker follow a path all around the stadium, somewhat like in a kart racer, until one of you gets close enough to the Snitch to actually catch it. Whoever catches the Snitch typically wins the game no matter what the score is; however, the team that has filled up more of the Snitch bar gets a bigger “boost” to use, which makes you go faster along the Snitch’s trail.
Right around here somewhere is where my problem with the game lies. I don’t care that whoever gets the Snitch pretty much always wins the game—that’s true to the books, and how it should be. However, the whole Snitch bar thing doesn’t fly with me. It’d make more sense, before you start the game, to allow you to pick whichever character you wanna play, be it Seeker or Keeper or Chaser or whoever, and have the Snitch released right at the beginning as it should be. If you’re the Seeker you can fly all around the stadium looking for the Snitch (without the dumb Snitch path to follow), and you spend the entire game just doing that. Something along those lines. If the current setup actually made the game more fun than would a setup that stays true to the books, that’d be fine; but there really doesn’t seem to have been any reason to toy with it like Electronic Arts did.
I really wanted to like this game, and it would be a lie to say that I didn’t at all. I enjoyed it more than I enjoy most sports games (like that’s saying much), but I feel that the gameplay itself needs to be altered before this can really be considered a fun game. Two-player mode isn’t too shabby, but you’ll have difficulties finding somebody else who knows how the game works and can offer you some fair competition; you can’t just pick up a controller and play well from the get-go. My guess is that EA will release another one of these at the end of this year, or next year at the latest, so my advice is to just wait until then to satiate your Quidditch needs. Quidditch World Cup certainly has the potential to be a fun game, but its current iteration needs some serious improvement.