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   .hack//Outbreak - Reader Review  

Things Get Serious
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
10-25 Hours
OVERALL

3.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Yup....another .hack game. You know what that means: going through very similar dungeons in order to progress the plot. I must add though, that the plot in volume 3: Outbreak is really good. The dungeons aren't too bad this time around either. Nice how that works out, huh? This is also the shortest game in the series. It's far to late to start in the middle of the series, I don't know why they even have the option. If you start now, you'll be missing out on over half the plot of the series, tons of e-mails, and dozens of power-up items. Despite it being yet another .hack game, there are many differences. The AI is vastly improved in this one, which is a big plus. No longer do you have to monitor every move your party makes. You still have to keep an eye on them, but it's not too bad. Enemy AI seems to have improved as well. The limited inventory becomes especially annoying due to the massive amount of rare items you obtain and nowhere to put them. Goblin tag has gone from a fun mini-game to an incredibly annoying one. Through the good and the bad, the plot keeps this series going though.

   The battle system is actually quite improved over the first two games. It may just be my imagination, but friend and foe alike seem to have better AI. You can concentrate less on your allies less and more on the new and improved enemies which is a lot more fun than the other way around. There are a few new abilities for your party, but none are very unique or revolutionary. Still, no longer needing to babysit your party is a huge plus. There are also several new classes of enemies and brand new bosses each with their own set of interesting and cool techniques. The interface is very similar to previous volumes, but it seems they've also improved it a bit as well, which is nice. You have to use it even less due to smarter allies and when you do have to use it, it's better. Yay.

Bring it on! Bring it on!

   The music remains much the same as in older volumes. The cool new music added for the bosses and new locations only slightly cancels out the music from dungeons and fields which by this point the player has heard at least one too many times. The visuals seem slightly improved, especially the higher level spells, but are barely keeping up with the improving graphics in other games.

   Once again, the newest .hack is also the easiest. Despite better enemy AI, the ludicrous amount of power-ups they shower on you makes you virtually invincible. The better ally AI also kicks in and they will actually heal you at an acceptable rate which makes things easier too. Once again, there is very little reason to replay this installment of the .hack series unless you intend to play the entire series again or to play it in another language. This is due to the fact that upon completing the game you can unlock virtually every important cut-scene from the game. As I mentioned earlier, this is the shortest of the .hacks. Despite it being full of massive amounts of story, there just isn't that much to do. It's quite easy to finish it in ten hours even if you do quite a few side-quests.

   Once again, .hack//Outbreak boasts wonderful localization. Great dialog, well translated story, and plenty of reasonably accurate jargon. You can still play the game in Japanese too if you'd like. There isn't really much to say since there aren't really any noticeable problems. They did a good job, yet again.

I didn't do it! Really! I didn't do it! Really!

   Outbreak has a great storyline like Mutation did. It picks up Mutation's baton and runs long and hard with it. Okay, maybe not that long since it's the shortest game in the series, but they still make good progress. This is still the number one reason to play the .hack series. As I mentioned earlier, this installment is a bit shorter though in order to make room for the final volume, (I think) so it has less of a story than Mutation, but just as good. New characters arrive, though fewer this time, and old characters each have their e-mails and/or side-quests that reveal a lot about their personalities, motives, and what they are like in the real world. It's pretty impressive to juggle this much character development with this much plot this late in the series and still keep it all interesting. The story is still pretty original and good, but it's just too short and a bit more predictable than Mutation's so I didn't rate it quite as highly. The series is still quite original and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting.

   Yup, another .hack game complete. They've learned from their mistakes and created new ones. Those of you who like to collect every rare item will have to come to terms with the fact that there just isn't enough space and for anyone who is still playing the goblin tag, well, it's a lot more annoying this time, but you'll get it! Unfortunately the very short length of Outbreak prevents me from giving it any higher than a plain 7, but the story's good and that's the reason you're probably interested in this series in the first place.

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