.hack//G.U. Volume 1 Rebirth
The offline MMORPG is reborn into a whole new experience.
Preview by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
May 16th 2006
The Basics: The original .hack series was an experiment in creating a series of short-term RPGs to spawn accompanying manga and anime. It was built around the odd concept of an offline MMORPG, where players in the real world find real life consequences to events taking place in the game world. It must have been a success, because Namco has unveiled the first volume of the new .hack trilogy.
Two problems people had with the first series was the clunky turn-based battle system and the brief length, which felt a bit like a rip off even at the reduced price. .hack//G.U. features an all new action-based battle system similar to the one found in Namco's own Tales series, with a diverse weapon selection and a wide range of upgrade options. The length has also been leveled up, featuring 40-60 hours of gameplay, making it longer than the entire original series put together. And that's with the addition of the hover bike, allowing you to zip to your next destination at a speed that eliminates the tedious wandering found in most RPGs.
The story of .hack//G.U. delves deeper into "The World" with its impact on the real world. The main character is a new player leading a crusade against the Player Killers after nearly ending up as one of their victims, which in turn leads to a plot that threatens to destroy the very structure of "The World." Your options in this offline MMORPG have also expanded. More hacking abilities allow you to alter "The World" for your own benefit, while you recruit like-minded NPCs to form your own guild, to join you on the battlefield, or just to share information and trade items.
What we think: Similar to Yakuza, the high definition screens weren't doing the visuals of this PS2 game any favors, causing distortions in the bright and colorful game world, even though it wasn't the most demanding title on Sony's now last gen console.
The battles are actually fun this time around, where you take control of one character and smack around monsters with the assistance of your AI controlled partners. You can dish out a selection of special moves, each based around the weapon you currently have equipped, slowly building up tension that lets you do massive damage. The E3 demo was fairly limited in the scope of the game available, but it presents an RPG that's intriguing and easily accessible, which is nice for people like me who no longer have large chunks of time to devote to muscling their way through a demanding RPG. .hack feels like something you can play for a few hours a week, and then come back to whenever you feel like it without getting lost in the process.