Review by Exodist

"It's bland, repetitive, yet it kept me hooked..."

.hack is a very popular multimedia series, spanning anime, manga, books, all sorts. Being based on an MMORPG, the time has finally come for .hack to enter the gaming market. Infection is the first of four parts in a massive story, so it's kind of like episodic content, since each game was released every 3 months. Infection, is the first of these parts.

The story is fairly simple for Infection. Ages ago, there was a massive virus which caused the whole online world to collapse, and thus, a new ultra safe OS, called Altimit was released. The World was the first MMORPG to be released for this new OS, which has around 20 million players. You play as a 14 year old boy, whom is asked by his friend to join the game. You start out as he is joining, deciding a character name (but not the character itself, that's fixed) and an account name. He meets his friend online, and they go off into a dungeon. Something strange happens though, and Orca get's attacked in the game. You barely just survive it, but you soon find out that your friend is in a coma in the real world. You then find yourself with a mysterious bracelet, invisible, on your hand. You can suddenly data drain enemies and modify their data. You decide to continue playing the game to find out what is going on, teaming up with Blackrose, who is also trying to find the mysteries of the game out. It sounds slightly basic, but it's completely original, and the story is one of the main reasons to continue playing the series.

The gameplay plays like a dumbed down MMORPG. You play as if you're the person on the OS. You start on the Altimit OS screen, where you can select different unlocked backgrounds and music, check News, your mail, save and load, or go into the World. You can also check out a message board for the world before actually playing. Once inside the world, you can meet other players, trade with them, and buy stuff from the town. You can then use the gate, which takes you to other places. Infection uses a different kind of system for this though. By putting in different keywords, you can travel to different level areas (Infection goes up to 30, and it gets higher as the games go on), with different elements. Many keywords you actually get are story important, or for side-quests. When you're off to do a little bit of training, you can use the random option, which randomly selects an area for you. Once inside the field, you can fight, find treasure, food for Gruntys, and a dungeon. Each dungeon is around 3-5 floors, which just contain bland square rooms, which are highly repetitive and all look very similar. It's slightly like an MMORPG, but it's offline, and slightly different.

The battle system is slightly like Kingdom Hearts, minus the sometimes dodgey camera and platforming parts. When in a field or dungeon, yellow portals are seen, when you walk near them, either a chest will appear, or some enemies. This triggers battle mode, where you can still run around freely, and when you're close to an enemy, X will attack. By pressing Square, you can issue commands to your allies (since you can't directly control them), like abilities, first aid etc. You can also press Triangle to use your own abilities or items. It's not an incredibly fun battle system, but it didn't seem to bore me. On the RPG side of things, leveling up is fairly simple. Get 1000EXP points and you gain a level. The higher you get though, the less you get from lower level areas. For example, if you're level 30 and you're in a level 30 area, you will get around 100 EXP per enemy. If you're level 40 though, and in a 30 area, you get just 1 EXP. This must of been done to prevent people from getting up to level 99 in the first game, since you can transfer your data over to the next game. It's quite easy to get to level 30 pretty fast, but after that, it can be a pain.

A little extra is your characters mysterious bracelet. His friend is gifted with it, but after he is data drained, it is given to you instead. You will find out that some enemies are data protected, they have an infinite amount of HP, and are much stronger than usual. Because of this, you must attack them repeatedly until their protection disappears. When this happens, you can data drain them, which will over write their data, making them weaker, and giving you the ability to actually kill them. Of course, this comes with a price. The more you use it, the more the virus spreads, and it can do nasty stuff to you. It's only happened to me once, in which I lost 800EXP or so, but I hear you can also get game over because of this. You can use it on normal enemies too, again, once their protection is off. You can gain rare items from them, or Virus Cores, but it makes them small and weak, only giving you 1EXP. It's a nice addition, and also a way of making the game last longer, due to you needing to get loads of virus cores.

Your party in the game consists of just a few people. You can't get random players into your party, instead, you get fixed players. You meet most of them over time, some are playing just for fun, some are a bit more different and play for their own reasons. When you're in a group, the amount of EXP you get isn't affected, so it's best to always travel in 3, since it's much easier to do slightly higher level areas in groups. The AI for them isn't too bad, but it's largely based on your commands. For example, if you die, you actually have to select first aid from the command menu before they revive you, and heal their team mates. The only problem is, their supplies run out, and unless they have an ability, they don't seem to be able to heal anymore. Im not sure if they ever run out of revives to revive you though, because it would seem a little unfair. Another problem, is party members don't upgrade their equipment. You can go through the whole game with them and they can still have level 1 weapons and armour, it's up to you to trade with them, or give them gifts, which is slightly annoying. On the plus side, party members you don't use also level up when you're leveling up. For example, if I go into a party of 3 most of the time, my other members will also level up, but not as fast, so they're usually lagging behind a little.

The games length is kind of short for RPGs now. It took me about 15 hours to complete, and there are little sidequests to do in the game. To make the game longer though, the developers decided to add Gate Hacking, to try and make the game longer. Some areas are protected, and thus need Virus Cores. When you data drain, you have small chance of getting a Virus Core. You get a A core for small enemies, B for medium, and C for large. Any other Core is obtained through the story. It can be a real pain going around getting these cores, just trying to find the right enemies, and certainly makes the game slightly longer. The game isn't too difficulty, you still get full EXP even when in a party, so you will most probably be going around in a group of 3 most of the time.

The graphics aren't too good in Infection. Some of the major characters look alright, but others don't, and a lot of textures come out to be really blurry and of low quality. Dungeons are fairly bland and repetitive, rooms all look the same, and it gets rather boring. There are a couple of different types of dungeons, but you will soon get sick of them. Fields are just a hill landscape with a blurry background all around you. The music is alright, but usually loops over and can get annoying sometimes. Sound effects are OK, nothing wrong with them from what I heard.

PROS:

Addictive gameplay
Good story

CONS:

Rather rubbish graphics
Pretty repetitive

THE RATINGS:

Graphics: 6.6/10
Audio: 7.5/10
Game Play: 7.0/10
Life Span: 8.0/10
Difficulty: 5.0/10
Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 7.0/10

My Two Pence:


Overall, Infection is a great little game, and the DVD which comes with it for free is also good. The game takes about 15-20 hours to complete, offering a short little burst of RPG fun, but some may find it a bit too repetitive. RPG fans should love it though.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/01/07


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