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Developer:
CyberConnect2
Publisher: Bandai
Platform: Playstation 2
Release Date: September 9, 2003

by Ronald Wartow




Once more, with Part 3 Outbreak, the ongoing saga that is .hack continues the appealing gameplay of its predecessors and sets the stage for Part 4 Quarantine, the final episode just released. Given the ongoing gameplay engine across the first two .hack parts and now in this part, it was all I could do not to simply refer you to my prior takes on the series. (See the Reviews Section of this site, where both .hack Part 1 Infection and .hack Part 2 Mutation received B+ ratings.)


Like Mutation, Outbreak offers some minor innovations to the familiar gameplay, combat, skills, graphics, world features, available characters, and travel systems employed in Infection. The plot is as gripping and creepy as ever, as the hero wanders and gate hacks his way through the MMORPG, The World, where terrible things are happening to players. In this game, the plot intensifies and zooms towards the eagerly-anticipated Part 4 denouement. (I waited my whole life to use this word!) (As with its predecessors, Outbreak includes a separate anime DVD which provides story background and clues to unlock secret areas.)


So, what is new? Not much. New characters are accessible to help Kite. There is another town housing a fresh server. More powerful, versatile equipment is plentiful. Combat is becoming downright nasty, with plenty of mint, much tougher, foes to fight. Grunties now have the “Search” ability on The World’s fields to hunt for the portals, dungeons, and special items. Obviously, there are spanking new story interludes advancing the plot. Time for completion seems a bit longer than the others, in the 20-hour range for a focused plot run through the game. This increased length resulted mainly from my having to replay quite a few tough battles.


If you enjoyed and completed Parts 1 and 2, then Part 3 is for you. If you are thinking avoiding the first two games and beginning this series with Outbreak, you have a long and tough road ahead. Trying this required many hours of busywork to improve my character to powerful enough experience and equipment levels to tackle the very first plot dungeon. Worse yet, the main character must defeat the first plot dungeon alone. So, only characters developed by finishing the first two episodes, or Part 2 alone, can leap into the main plot right away.


With the end of the .hack series in sight, I enjoyed Outbreak. I rate the game just like the others: 87%. The absorbing plot and compelling gameplay held my interest the whole time. But, please remember, this rating is based on playing the game with a character that completed Mutation.


Final Score: 87%




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