.hack infection part 1 Review
Aside from the unusual premise, it's an average action RPG, reminiscent of but definitely not as good as last year's Kingdom Hearts.
It's difficult to write about .hack, not only because the game has such an unusual concept--it's a role-playing game that takes place in another role-playing game--but also because that damn title breaks up your sentences something awful. So we're just going to refer to it as "the game" from here on out. Published and produced by Bandai, possibly the world's most recognizable name in Japanese animation and the company whose properties include everything from Hello Kitty to Mobile Suit Gundam, the game features character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Evangelion) and a story line by Kazunori Ito (Patlabor). For good measure, the game comes bundled with an anime DVD that Bandai created as a tie-in. There's even an animated series based on this material that's currently airing on television, and the game itself is only the first of many--so Bandai is definitely making a big push with this one. It's unfortunate, then, that the game itself doesn't quite live up to its clever concept or its potential. It's a simple, repetitive experience that's over fairly quickly for an RPG, and its story doesn't go anywhere at all. Nevertheless, it's pretty fun while it lasts, and anime fans probably won't be able to resist it.
The game actually takes place in the near future, when seemingly everyone is addicted to a massively multiplayer online role-playing game called The World. The World, as it turns out, is highly reminiscent of 1998's EverQuest. It's a swords-and-sorcery game, filled with character classes like wavemasters, twin blades, and heavy axemen. "Player characters" can be seen running about towns, trading items with each other, and often speaking out of character and with plenty of emoticons. They all seem to be having a good time. But something is amiss in The World: Rumors abound that some people are falling into comas while playing. As someone with a friend who met such a fate, you--whose "in-game" character is an upbeat and spiky-haired twin blade named Kite--set out to discover what happened. You'll spend the vast majority of your time with the game actually playing The World, though you'll sometimes quit out to check your e-mail and scour The World's message boards for clues.
That probably sounds really strange, and it is. But once you get past the whole metagaming thing, you're left playing an average action RPG, reminiscent of but definitely not as good as last year's Kingdom Hearts. You'll always control Kite directly, though he can travel with up to two companions at a time, and you'll meet many characters who'll be willing to join you later on. The game is easy to play. You view the action from a third-person perspective, and you use the left analog stick to move your character around, the right stick to control the camera, and the R1 button to quickly reset the camera at your back. Should an enemy move offscreen in the middle of a battle, a convenient indicator along the edge of the screen will point you toward it, and there's always a minimap to keep you from getting lost.
The gameplay itself essentially boils down to traveling to a series of randomly generated battlefields, each of which features a randomly generated dungeon that is filled with monsters and treasure chests. Though there are a number of different "skins" for the battlefields and dungeons, and though the makeup of these areas is always somewhat different, they all become effectively identical after a while. Even the plot-critical areas of the game feel like they were randomly slapped together--because they were. In between slogging through battlefields and dungeons, you return to town to buy or trade for new equipment, especially healing items. There are only two towns in the game, adding to the sense that the game is really threadbare.