Review by PentiumMMX
"The story continues on..."
After fans finished .hack//Mutation, the 2nd installment in the series, many (Including myself) where eager to know what happens next. Thankfully, Bandai stuck with their release schedule and released the 3rd game, .hack//Outbreak, only a few short months later. Is it any good, though, or is the series on the edge of jumping the shark with how long it's been drug out?
Similar to how Final Fantasy VII spanned 3 discs, .hack's story spans 4 separate games, released a few months apart from each other. .hack//Outbreak is the 3rd part of the game, continuing the story of Kite; a player who is on a quest to figure out why his friend, Orca, fell into a coma after being defeated in the game by a strangely powerful monster. Before the game begins, it offers a quick summery of the story so far to get you up to speed and ready for Part 3, though for the first-time player of the series, it's obviously better to have played the 2 previous games first.
I can't really go into much detail on what happens in this game to avoid spoilers for the previous .hack games, but the storyline is great; having you wonder what will happen next. The pace of the story in this volume is better than the last, which is good, seeing as the last one did feel like it was stretched a little too far.
Story: 10 out of 10
Sticking with tradition, .hack//Outbreak includes a bonus DVD, which contains the 3rd part of .hack//Liminality; an OAV that takes place during the events of the games, but following different characters in the real world.
After the events of both Mutation and the second part of Liminality, with Mr. Tokuoka (A former employee of The CC Corporation; the company that created the online RPG, The World) visiting a young woman named Kyoko (Who knows quite a bit about the Epitaph of Twilight; a poem that they believe holds relevance to what's been happening in The World), who receives a strange message from a person named Helba, who asks them to go to a certain location. This then leads them on a wild goose chase as they try to figure out where they are supposed to go next as they discover more about the mysterious Epitaph of Twilight.
Compared to the last part, this one is much slower in pace, though it's still worth watching if you're interested in discovering more of the story of .hack, and after all, it comes free with the game.
Bonus DVD: 9 out of 10
Music \ Sound Effects
It's basically the same as before, but I'll go over it again just in case. The soundtrack is actually not too bad compared to some games I've played over the years, though it's far from being the best soundtrack ever. The sound effects aren't very impressive; it's mostly generic sound effects you've heard in other games. However, what is great about the audio is the voice acting; it's not overly cheesy, and the voices fit the personalities of the characters quite well. Overall, the only thing bringing this down would be the generic sound effects, as always with .hack
Music \ Sound Effects: 9 out of 10
There have been no graphical updates to the game at all from the last part; while it still looks great with detailed characters, the problem lies in how rooms in dungeons still have a tendency to look alike. There is an on-screen map to make it easier to navigate, which does make this graphical problem mostly ignorable. There is still room for improvement, but it's still good enough to get by with the same score as before (Besides, if they took the time to improve the graphics with each installment, they wouldn't be able to manage releasing each part only a few months after the last)
Graphics: 8 out of 10
Thankfully, the controls have not changed at all; besides, it works great as it is. As always, you have 2 menus available (Pressing the Triangle button brings up the Main Menu, allowing you to use items, skills, change equipment, check your status, and form a party. Pressing the Square button brings up the Party Commands Menu, allowing you to issue out commands to your party members), the camera can be controlled with either the shoulder buttons or the right analog stick, and you can control your character using either the D-Pad or the left analog stick. There are still occasional camera problems, but if you get past that, the controls still work great.
Controls: 9 out of 10
Like the two games before it, .hack is a single-player RPG that simulates the feel of an MMORPG. There are 2 parts to the game; the real world (Your character's desktop, where you can check your e-mail, save your game, read the latest news, and customize your desktop) and The World (The main part of the game. You'll be spending most of your time here, exploring dungeons and fighting monsters as you follow the storyline). What is amusing is how on the message boards in the game, they actually have fights break out between users (They've captured the feel of an official message board for a game quite well)
If you've already played and finished .hack//Mutation, you can use the Convert feature to carry over all your stuff from previous game into the second game; this is great for the people who have already finished the second game to keep their rare items and powerful equipment, along with how powerful their character is. If you've never played the 2nd game, don't worry; you can still play .hack//Outbreak (The game has a quick recap of the major events from the first 2 games before you start playing, plus is starts you and your character's friends at around Level 50), though I'd highly suggest playing the first 2 games before you play this one.
All the features of the game from the previous installments are back; the characters still send you e-mails in the game (You can still reply to some of them; either being nice or a total jerk to them), the battle system is unaltered (You can still pause in the middle of battle to use an item or skill, which is always useful), Data Drain (The ability to hack enemies to weaken them and earn some items for yourself, though at a risk of your character receiving status effects and possibly getting a Game Over screen if used too much) returns along with Grunty Racing (With a new server to race on, too!), and you're still free to take a break from the main story to explore a randomly generated area.
This game isn't without some flaws, though; as always, the game does get a little repetitive after a while. Also, for those expecting some big new feature, you'll be disappointed to know there isn't anything major added to this installment.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
It's yet another great installment in the series, though for someone new to the series, I'd still suggest playing the first 2 games before starting this one just so the story will be easier to follow.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/08/09
Game Release: .hack//Outbreak Part 3 (US, 09/09/03)
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