Review by FenderStrat492

"An engrossing story line that will take you in and never let go!"

Note: I am writing this review in the sense that you know absolutely nothing about this game.

.hack//INFECTION is a game unlike any other - it is a simulated mass multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). The idea seems cool when you first hear it: a boy (named Kite) and his friend (Yasuhiko) play the hottest online game on the market, and they are attacked by an unknown monster in an early level. This monster destroys Yasuhiko's character and when Kite logs off of the game, he discovers that his friend is in a coma! Kite believes that the reason was because of the game, and he is determined to find out what happened and seek out a cure for his unconcious friend.

... ''Wow'' is probably the first word that comes to your mind. ''But how deep can the story go?'' Believe me, it gets deep!

Please continue through my review to learn more about each feature of the game to help aid you in your decision of purchasing/renting this game. If you have any further questions, refer to one of the FAQs on GameFAQs, because they answer all the questions very well. This game also came with a 45-minute DVD which I will review below all the game features.

~ STORY ~ (10/10)
An engrossing story unlike any other! It keeps you hooked!

I have already described the story line in the opening paragraph, and it may seem a bit confusing at first and require a second read, but that's the beauty of it! Never before have I played a game with a story so different and deep that it's made me think so much! You begin longing to know what will happen next and will stop at nothing to progress through the game.

As you continue, you will meet many characters that will aid you in the mystery and add totally new flavor to the story. Another great feature in the game (which simulates online play so well) is email and a message board! The game does a very good job keeping the system seeming as real as possible; you receive emails that can help you go through the game, give you access to new areas (via keywords) and you can even choose the ways to reply to these emails! The message board is great as well, because you can read new posts and learn more about the story just as you can in email. The message board also serves as a great way to learn advanced tips in playing the game.

The story is amazing! It soars over the gameplay, graphics, sound, everything! If there is ever a tedious moment in the game, you will continue no matter what to learn more of the story. I can't stress enough how awesome the story line is!

~ GAMEPLAY ~ (9/10)
A little confusing at first, but is mastered with practice.

After reading the story section, you most definitely want to learn more about this game, and I don't blame you! The gameplay was given good thought by the creators and it near-perfectly emulates an MMORPG! If you've ever played an online RPG before, you'll notice some great similarities in this game. For instance, other characters. People walk around the main town (Root Town) and talk to you like they are actual people also playing the game. You receive the occasional ''Hello!'', ''What's up!'' and even ''Oh, sorry!'' You can talk to these players by choosing talk, and they will tell you a bit more about themselves. For example, there are characters that are cranky and are losing sleep over the game, characters that show their love for cats by saying ''he-ow'' instead of hello, characters that are looking for the spoils and right off the bat tell you what item/s they are looking for and even characters that act in complete solitude and might continue in silence! Some characters you meet in the game will give you their member addresses so that you can add them to your party and go adventuring with them. These characters add to the feeling that you are actually playing an MMORPG instead of an offline console game! It's really amazing!

The battle system is quite fun as well, putting you in complete control of Kite. It doesn't feature a turn-based or ATB system like most RPG's, but it is still great! Although it takes a bit of getting used to, you will begin to zip through battles using special tactics instead of going on a hack 'n slash marathon. There are a multitude of items you can use that heal your wounds, items that temporarily enhance certain stats, many key items for sidequests and secrets, tons of equipment to use in battle, scrolls, books, and food for creatures called Grunties (you can raise these later in the game). You can also use a skill called Data Drain to rewrite an enemies game data, and this becomes an essential skill to continue through the game, and I might add it is VERY cool!

Boss battles require you use this Data Drain, because certain monsters have infinite hit points (HP) so you must bring them down to a ''Protect Level'' before you can use the skill and then you take the enemy down from there. It's really interesting and very fun, because you can earn special items like high level weapons and virus cores, which you use for Gate Hacking, another skill that allows you to go into protected areas in the game. I don't want to go any further on these skills, because I don't want to spoil the game for you!

Exploration of dungeons and fields is a must. Fighting enemies allows you to level up and use stronger weapons and use more skills in battle. Building up your character is always fun, and is the core of most MMORPG's. One problem (which really has to do with graphics, but takes away from game play) is camera control. You have complete control of the camera, which seems like a good thing, but you have to continually be moving the camera around you to see everything around you and battle all enemies. It gets a little frustrating, but I've found that it soon becomes a natural thing and you sometimes don't even think about it since you do it so much. It's not a big problem, but enough of one to be mentioned. The gameplay is very cool, but like I said before, it does take getting used to.

~ GRAPHICS ~ (9/10)
The visuals are beautiful and special effects totally add to the atmosphere!

The characters are beautiful in the game! The animation flows very well, and, while emulating an MMORPG, isn't as clunky as online graphics often are. Graphics are great in this game, but they aren't the best thing about the game. The camera, as mentioned before, takes away from graphics, even though they are great looking.

One great thing about the visuals are the special effects. Certain areas are cut off from game administrators, but that doesn't stop Kite! Continuing through some of these levels, you will notice that they have various codes floating around in air. Always jibberish, like ''f51m#12s*%hq&'' but it is still cool. And the game flickers every once in a while when on these levels. It totally adds to the feeling of the game.

Areas are beautiful, but are a little plain. Hey! Just like an MMORPG! :-) That won't stop you from exploring them though. There are certain dungeons that are very cool though, like the inside of a beast, you will see the ribs on the wall. I'm talking about the fields that are more plain than anything.

That's really about it for graphics. They look great and the animation is smooth and flows very nicely. I gave graphics a 9/10 simply because of the camera control. You do get used to it, but honestly, it does get VERY annoying at times, especially in battle.

~ SOUND ~ 10/10
Wow! American voice-overs are great and the soundtrack is good too!

The soundtrack isn't bad at all! While it's not quite as good as Nobuo Uematsu's famous tracks in the Final Fantasy series, it is very good. Most of the time you will hear the same music while going through the floors of a dungeon, but only rarely will you be annoyed. The music is actually pretty good because it might go on for a while and repeat itself, but it's often a good track that really adds to the feeling of the area you're in! I haven't really found any really catchy themes, but I'm definitely not complaining!

I am a person who watches my animé (japanese animation for those of you who still don't know ;-)...) with the voices in japanese and subtitled in english. I decided to give this game a try with the regular english voices instead of the japanese (you have the choice!!) and the voice overs were actually REALLY good! Each voice fits the characters well, however, the voice of Mistral is a bit annoying sometimes. The voices were great, and the sound effects were good too!

Sword slashes sound as good as ever in a game, and footsteps. Footsteps. Footsteps. I'm okay with footsteps, but sometimes you just have to be kind to the player! If you have three people in your party, and you're walking on rock, almost always the footsteps aren't together and you are immersed in a continuing ''vibration'' of footsteps. It's okay, but at first I was really annoyed. I guess you can tell I'm not a big fan of footsteps in a game! You'll soon tune it out if it annoys you, though. Magic effects sound good too and some enemies grunt when they are hit.
The sound was a big success in this game, at least for the voices. I haven't tried out the japanese voices yet, but when I do I will update this review.

~ A QUICK NOTE: I have not completed this game yet, but as soon as I do, I will update the review and add any changes or second opinions.

And I mentioned before that .hack//INFECTION came with another animé DVD. The DVD is very nice in itself, and adds value to the game package! It was created by those who made Nadia, Evangelion and Ghost In The Shell, if you are familiar with any of these titles. The animation is great and it adds to the story a little more. Most people are asking on the message boards whether or not to watch the DVD first or wait until after you beat the game. I say go ahead and watch it and stop torturing yourself! It doesn't spoil the story at all, but it does help you have a bit more of an understanding of what's going on when you begin playing.

The name of the animé is .hack//LIMINALITY and is about 45 minutes long. The point is pretty much this (and I'm not spoiling any of the story): A girl named Mai is trying to figure out why her boyfriend isn't waking up from a coma when they played the game, THE WORLD. She looks for more clues and gets the help of two other people to solve the mystery.

Now that is a very vague description of the animé, but it's much more than that. It's got a great story and excellent dialogue. Watch it either english dubbed or subtitled with japanese voice, only a few words are changed in each (ie. ''dream'' and ''fantasy'').

Another cool thing about the DVD is that you can see some more multimedia about .hack//INFECTION and also see an interview from two of the people who made the game possible (courtesy of G4, a TV channel all about videogames on cable, for those of you who don't know).

~ OVERALL ~ 9/10
An excellent game with a great story line that keeps you hooked the whole time!

I wanted to add this in before the review is finished: you can take save data from this volume and load it into the future volumes that are being made in the .hack series! Isn't that great?

Now, I hope you enjoyed my review. I hope it helped you in your decision to rent, buy or stay away from the game. I really have enjoyed the game thus far and I can't wait until the next installments in the series come out!

The infection begins.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/15/03, Updated 02/15/03

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