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   .hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption - Staff Review  

Save 'The World'
by Adriaan "omegabyte" den Ouden

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
PS2
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
5
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
30-40 Hours
OVERALL
4.0/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Haseo has had quite a journey so far. From his humble beginnings in the Twilight Brigade as seen in the anime .hack//Roots, the power-drunk vendetta of .hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth, and finally the world-shattering revelations of .hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce, his adventure finally comes to a close with the arrival of .hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption. The Terror of Death's fourth and final story neatly wraps up all the loose ends of the series, and is a satisfying conclusion to a remarkable and wholy enjoyable story.

   Redemption begins, as one might assume, where Reminisce leaves off. Not only did Haseo fail to finish off Ovan, but it seems that Sakaki, now infested by AIDA, has also returned, seeking vengeance for his prior defeat. With two dangerous enemies on the loose, not to mention the ever-looming threat of AIDA itself, Haseo has several battles ahead of him. Internal problems within the G.U. and CC Corp. only further the difficulties, and what's more, a new tournament has arrived with new rules that causes a mass panic among the players.

   With a cast numbering in the dozens, it's very easy to get swept up into G.U.'s story. While it is generally a good idea to start from Vol. 1, those who wish to skip right to the ending will find a decent summary of the story thus far at the beginning of the game–if lacking somewhat in the details. Redemption's individual story is just as good as the first two volumes, if not better. Fans of the series should be completely appeased by the eventual ending, although some elements towards the end feel a little hokey. Knowledge of the original .hack quadrilogy is significantly more helpful in this volume than in the others, but it is not necessary to fully enjoy the game.

Haseo Haseo's fourth and final weapon, the Dual Guns.

   Gameplay remains mostly the same as in the first two volumes, but just like in Reminisce, several new additions manage to keep the game fresh and exciting throughout. Haseo once again receives a job extension (although it occurs irritatingly late in the game), granting him access to his fourth and final weapon type. These dual guns add a whole new level to combat. In addition to being able to attack from a distance with these guns, Haseo can now dash around the field at great speed, and also finish off any skill with a "double trigger" attack. Double triggers do extra damage and also re-equip the guns if a different type of weapon is currently in use. These weapons also attack far faster than any of his previous ones, allowing for combos that number in the hundreds, and even allow him to juggle lighter enemies in the air virtually indefinitely. As the different battle elements of the previous two titles converge with his new skills, the final structure of combat is both unique and enjoyable.

   Unfortunately, despite having several new powers at his disposal, battles have grown significantly more drawn out than in previous games. Because the amount of damage dealt is relative to character and enemy's comparitive levels, damage does not increase significantly while health points do. The result is that most normal battles can take as much as two to three minutes to complete. While this does add more strategy to the battles, for the purposes of leveling up it can be rather irritating. In addition, characters will regularly be flung around the battle area by powerful attacks, some enemies can summon reinforcements and even heal themselves, and others have armor and flight capabilities that protect their hit points, further lengthening the combat.

   Avatar battles also make a return with Redemption, though they are not nearly as numerous as in the first two games. With his new form, Haseo's avatar, Skeith, also gains new capabilities: specifically, his melee attack can now strike from a distance, and his shooting attack can be charged up to lock on and fire at multiple targets, which the player will need to make good use of in at least one battle. While most of the game is fairly easy, Avatar battles, much like in the previous games, can be surprisingly difficult. Though this difficulty can be alleviated rather easily simply by spending some time leveling up, even then a significant effort needs to be put forward in order to win. Avatar battles once again manage to be an entertaining distraction from the main combat system without becoming a nuisance.

   Beyond battle, there are several new additions to both gameplay and "The World" that players can look forward to. In addition to two new roots towns, there are also two new dungeon types, the forest dungeon and the "outer dungeon," which is a hacked area that looks like something out of the movie Tron and can only be visited at certain points in the story. Haseo also gains the ability to scan for anomalous data, which can lead to outer dungeons, grant items, and occasionally "cheat codes," which can be used to alchemize rare five-star equipment, previously unalterable. Several new party members also make an appearance, bringing the final total to fourteen, with another five being granted upon completing the game.

Round 2: Fight! Round 2: Fight!

   All other features previously introduced make their return as well, including e-mail, forums, news clips and new episodes of Online Jack, Crimson Vs. (now with new cards), and of course the wide array of collection side-quests. New desktops and background music can be unlocked as well.

   Sadly, one element of the game that was a lot of fun to play around with in the previous entries has become all but useless in the final installation. While playing around with weapon and armor customization and alchemy was once a lot of fun, players who completed certain side-quests in Reminisce will find virtually all new equipment acquired throughout the third volume subpar by comparison. In fact, the only equipment found in Redemption that can truly best it is acquired, once again, through side-quests done after the game has been beaten, and through a select few storyline events.

   As with the previous games, the sound quality in Redemption is top notch. Voice acting is plentiful and well done, featuring fan-favorite actor Yuri Lowenthal as Haseo, among many others. Music is also excellent, though by this point fans of the series may have grown tired of some of the dungeon themes. Several new tracks are added for this volume, so it shouldn't be a large concern for most people. Sound effects are particularly well used, such as static "noise" sounds around glitchy data within The World, and of course .hack's trademark tuning fork sound.

   Visually, G.U. is quite unique as well. All three games have presented the same low-tech mechanical style to the areas seen in 'The World', and it does an excellent job of presenting itself as an MMO, with many players sharing the same model, while a few, such as Haseo, Kuhn, and Pi, have custom-designed unique models. To further enhance the feeling of playing a game within a game, glitches within 'The World' can cause graphical bugs such as screen tearing, and logging into the game from your desktop PC takes a few seconds as your "password" is authenticated and a "connection" is established. Story events are frequently punctuated by attractive FMVs, which, while nowhere near the quality seen in games such as Final Fantasy XII, are still a sight to behold. The graphics have not changed significantly, if at all, from the previous volumes, but they still manage to hold their own.

   Like its predecessors, Redemption is not overly long, finishing up at anywhere between thirty and forty hours. The game can be surprisingly challenging if players choose to attempt each event at the appropriate level; however, like Rebirth and Reminisce, a few hours of leveling can make any fight trivial, leaving the game extremely easy to beat. .hack//G.U. has been an interesting and enjoyable series, and while each individual game is good, the entire series, which spans three thirty-hour games and a twenty-six episode anime, is truly excellent, and is a significant improvement over the previous .hack quadrilogy. With Redemption, fans of the series will finally have all their questions answered, and will be able to see what becomes of all of the many characters they've grown attached to over the past year.

   Only one question remains unanswered as Redemption draws to a close, and it is one that surely everyone has been asking since the moment the games were announced: Just what does G.U. stand for? We may never know for sure, but perhaps, like Haseo, we simply have a little growing up to do first.

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