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   .hack//Infection - Reader Review  

A Decent Introduction
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
15-30 Hours
OVERALL

3.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Let me say, first off, that this is a pretty good game. It serves its function as an introduction very well, giving the player a taste of what is to come in later volumes. There is a lot of attention to detail in virtually every part of the game. You are able to customize your computer desktop when you are “logged out” of the game, check the BBS, and many other things that are fitting for a MMORPG, without it even being played online. The biggest mistake that I think this game made, was the dungeon system. Although it’s a big step-up from random dungeons, the custom dungeon system does tend to get boring after a while, as most dungeons are 5 floors and very similar. The system is, however, good when you are trying to find something specific, such as an enemy that you want to data drain, and you understand the rules of the custom dungeon system. Making trips to storage every few dungeons gets a bit annoying too, but isn’t too bad.

   Battles are handled in real time, and are actually reasonably exciting. Despite what its name might suggest, .hack is more than hack and slash. There are a pretty decent number of skills, scrolls, and items for you to use which makes things pretty interesting. Sure, there are some battles where you use the same move over and over in order to exploit elemental weaknesses, but battles are generally over very quickly so it isn't a real problem. A interesting feature is that actions also have specific lag times as well. Using a item is almost instant, while using certain skills can take several seconds for you to recover from. The downside of the battle system is that you have to practically babysit any other party members sometimes. You'll probably find your party often using useless and/or wasteful skills on enemies that have tolerance to certain elements or types of attacks, even when you instruct them otherwise. The biggest problem I had was instructing my party to focus on first aid, yet they would still often rush into the middle of battle and attack anyway. There are, luckily, ways to get around that, but it requires a lot of time and generally isn't worth the effort unless you’re very desperate.

E-mails help you learn about your party members. E-mails help you learn about your party members.

   All of the buttons and menus do exactly what you’d expect. It’s all laid out quite well except in a few situations. The camera rotation buttons are usually fine, but in special events like goblin tag, they can turn a little slowly. Also, the in-depth party control menus can be a little time- consuming as well.

   The soundtrack for the game is pretty average. I thought it was pretty good how they seamlessly transition into battle music though. A nice feature the game has is its large number of field music which helps keep things from getting repetitive. Some special themes like Aura’s theme or the final boss’s theme are pretty good though. Also, the bonus DVD, Liminality has a slightly better soundtrack than the main game has.

   Any way you look at it, .hack is incredibly original. The plot and setting are unique, as is the way you deal with your party members. The plot starts out like how most people start MMORPGs: one of your friends who has played the game and convinced you to play it teaches you the basics of the game in a very well placed and well thought-out tutorial. After that, the plot really picks up, many questions are introduced, but only a few are answered. The optional sub-plots and e-mail system are great for better understanding your party members and gaining new ones. As it is simply the introduction to the series, the motives of many of your party members still remain a secret though. The plot is cut off at an odd point, but by that point it’s obvious that there is plenty of potential for greater plot growth in further volumes.

Customizable fields allow you to find what you're looking for without too much trouble. Customizable fields allow you to find what you're looking for without too much trouble.

   Not only is the dub better than most other dubbed games, the spelling, grammar, and pretty much everything is very well done. It also includes the original Japanese voices which is a real plus if you’re like me and enjoy that kind of thing.

   The graphics are pretty good overall. Some of the monsters look great, as do a few of the abilities. The “movies” in the game look very good as well. Unfortunately some abilities like gate hacking are so graphically complex that they lag the ps2 a little and ruin the mood.

   .hack//Infection in general is an easy game. It's easy to get high level equipment early on, which makes it incredibly easy to level up early on as well. For the first half of the game, your party will probably be incredibly over-powered. Normal bosses are quite easy to beat as well since they are usually just normal enemies with a massive amount of hp. It isn't until the last levels when certain monsters have the ability to revive each other that levels become even slightly difficult. The only real difficulty in volume 1 is when your party members have trouble following your commands and die as a result. The only battle that has any real difficulty is the final fight which is actually reasonably difficult.

   Due to the fact that half of the game is side- quests and special dungeons found through Liminality, not to mention the fact that most mandatory dungeons can be easily left half-complete to save time if you want, the game can be finished very quickly. Even if you bother doing everything in the first volume it probably won’t take more than 30 hours. Also, due to the fact that this is the first game in the series and that parody mode doesn’t exist in the US version, (to my knowledge) it is sadly left with very little replay value whatsoever unless you intend to play the entire series again.

   Overall, .hack//Infection served as a great introduction to the series. It seemed to sacrifice itself as a stand-alone game in order for the series to be good though, as the plot is cut off in a strange place and very little is resolved.

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