Review by Xenon

"Stumbles abit on the way to the finish line."

If you haven't played .hack//Infection (Part 1) and .hack//Mutation (Part 2), then leave (get out). Harsh, I know, but there's absolutely no reason to start here. Play Infection and then Mutation, and THEN you can move on to this one. Bye. For the rest of you, welcome to what you already expected. .hack//Outbreak (Part 3) is the third of the four original .hack games. An interesting part of the project .hack collaboration, this is the focus. If you can get a new copy, you can get the next disc of the OVA .hack//Liminality, with the remaining parts being a prequel anime (from which several characters appear in this game), and a sequel manga. I mention these because this overarching story is probably one of the big reasons you will want to go through .hack, so being familiar with them isn't bad. That, and the fact that if you've played Infection and Mutation, you know exactly what to expect here.

We've been down this road before

I was mostly serious before. If you haven't played Infection and Mutation, you really should before hand. Don't worry. Despite being made a couple of years later (well, released), Outbreak doesn't contain any gameplay enhancements. This is the same game as Infection and Mutation, just with more/new story. After you convert your data from Mutation, the game will give you a quick recap of the story from the past two games (very vaguely) and then drop you in the same place that the last one left you. The mechanics are the same. Story progression is split between your e-mail, the board, and actually traveling to the various zones and reaching specific parts of the dungeon. Gameplay is also identical, featuring the same pros and cons as the past entries in the series. Your item bag is still too small, you still can't move when spells are being cast on you (annoying), and caster enemies still run away at blinding speeds when you approach them (MORE annoying).

It seems, however, that there is even less content this time around. While last time there was only one new character that you had to recruit, there were three others that could be picked up if you went through a little effort. Here there are two. One story, one optional. Granted, the one story is the one guy you've wanted since Infection, and the optional one is so sweet, but still. Only two? I guess the roster IS getting kind of bloated, but they also don't allow you to use several characters this game (Mistral, Mia, Elk) AT ALL. Another Wavemaster would have been nice, since all but one of them is unavailable (and the one that IS available wasn't until the end of Mutation). In a game where there's basically two types of characters (Wavemasters and Non-wavemasters), this is an unfortunate oversight. The game only took 20 hours, same, roughly, of my total time with Infection and Mutation each, but five to ten of those hours were spent just grinding for the appropriate Virus cores. While gate hacking has always been a part of the game, it seems especially prevalent in this one, and the cores seemed even harder to get. Previously, Gate hacking was usually Nearly every new story area wanted me to hunt down several virus cores of several types. This was a frustrating way of extending the length of the game. On the positive side, the levels seem a BIT more balanced out than Mutation, where you had to suddenly jump five levels (causing hit problems, though since I have better equipment now, I'm not sure it would be a problem). If anything, the level spread seemed a bit too conservative, as I was much stronger than the story levels because I had to grind for Virus Cores. There's just not as much content here, and if you're carrying over some of the better stuff from Mutation, there's not even much new equipment to throw in.

Summary

Pros
++ Continues the adventures of Kite and the whole of Project .hack
++ The way each game just picks up where the last left off is kind of neat.

Cons
--- Doesn't fix any of the flaws of Infection and Mutation
-- The four .hack games seem to be just one big game broken up into four small ones. Why do I have to buy the same game four times over?
-- Battle gameplay still features some extremely annoying points.
-- Even less content, bloated by stupid fetch quests for items that come out randomly.

By this point in the .hack saga, if you've gotten this far, you're almost assuredly going to keep going. But if you were holding out to see if they made improvements, you can just give up. .hack//Outbreak is the same game as .hack//Mutation and .hack//Infection. This is Disc 3 of 4. Storywise it's an important chapter, but just a chapter. .hack fans can keep going. But this certainly won't change opinions. Just the next disc of that game you wanted to finish. It's safe to say that this is the weakest chapter so far, and all the virus core grinding seems to cement this fact. There's simply no other reason to add in all those requirements. Still, they really should make improvements at some point.

5/10


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 05/29/09

Game Release: .hack//Outbreak Part 3 (US, 09/09/03)


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