.hack//G.U. Vol. 1// Rebirth - PS2 - Preview
The first .hack is officially known as the game that launched the unofficial, offline MMORPG genre. It sounds like a contradiction – an MMO that you play offline? But that's precisely what it is. All characters and players, all stories told, all battles encountered – it's all conducted through a fictitious world controlled entirely by the game's AI. There are no real connections to the Internet, but the game does pretend to log you in.
.hack//G.U. Vol.1: Rebirth picks up where the last adventure left off. It's a whole new World this time around, and players will notice a greater emphasis on action and excitement. The story is once again based on characters whose players don't really exist. This limits dialogue variety for certain, but allows the developers to direct the story they want to tell. Events will occur that could not exist in an open, real-world MMO.
These events will lead our main character, Haseo, down a path of loss and revenge. He faces a tough situation at the beginning of the story. It won’t be easy for him to get back to where he was, nor will he have an easy time going deeper into The World.
Rebirth's combat is fast and very interactive. Forget the menu point-and-click hoopla you get with other console RPGs. Pre-conceived attack patterns and other turn-based aspects do not appear to be included. Though I've enjoyed many turn-based games, the action-oriented style of Rebirth is a nice change. To strike an enemy down, you will have to run over to him and press the X button. That's right – real action combat. Pressing the R1 button brings up a screen of your special attacks, four of which can be applied to the X, square, circle, and triangle buttons. Select one and some of your power will be drained, but the result is a devastating attack. Enemies will be more than caught off guard by these assaults.
Most of the attacks consist of combos, and that means more tapping of the X button. When you've struck an enemy a certain number of times, the X button appears on screen. Tap it multiple times (quickly) to deal damage.
The game feels more like an action title than a typical RPG with the exception that all battles appear to take place in an enclosed environment. Once enemies have been encountered, a circular force field forms around the area. You can't exit unless you have a special item. The only way you're going to get out of there alive is if you defeat all of the enemies.
Enemies are visible on the map before any battle begins. Other console RPGs have done this as well, but the only ones I remember start with "Chrono." Rebirth should change that.
If you're looking to dive into each battle with a bang (isn't everybody who plays in a faux online world?), lightly push on the left analog stick to slowly approach enemies. When you're within range the X button will appear. Call me crazy, but I think that's a sign to press it again. Sure enough it is – doing so triggers an entry attack that thrusts you into battle. You'll be the first one to deliver damage, and have the upper hand in following up with other attacks.
Graphically the game looks good, sporting characters with a semi-anime appearance, and a world that looks very "massive." In other words, you'll feel like you're in a PS2 MMO, more so than ever before. Character animations are looking good, and those of you who have played an MMO will recognize the genre's influence on Rebirth's camera angles.
The music is also coming along well, sounding dark and moody as previously reported. The opening track is particularly haunting, with a light, almost operatic vocal. The battle music is good but runs the risk of becoming repetitive. That's nothing new to console RPGs, which have been repetitive since the days of the NES. That will never change unless someone were to make game with 10,000 different music tracks. Not likely.
Scheduled for release on October 24th, .hack//G.U. Vol.1: Rebirth looks to redefine the way console gamers play online RPGs when they're not really online. Will Rebirth expand the popularity of RPGs? Its story is intriguing enough to entice those who could care less about MMOs. The action-intensive gameplay has the power to immerse players who don't like the genre at all, whether it's online or offline.