.hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption «

We were tremendously interested in the multimedia .hack project when it began. Unfortunately, that was five years ago, and as the second videogame series wraps up with .hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption, we’re just as exasperated and bored. This is a series that has shamelessly bled fans dry since 2002, and frankly, we’re happy to see it go.

Poor Old Michael Finnegan Begin Again

Like a dream of running that turns into a nightmare as you realize you’re not getting anywhere, Redemption‘s gameplay revolves around the same real-time combat that you’ve experienced in the previous games. You wander through dungeons, spot enemies, slam a button to begin combat, and kill enemies for experience points. And, even more importantly, because you have no choice.

Just like the previous games, playtime is artificially padded by forcing you to fight through long dungeon slogs. And just like the other titles, the only reason to play Redemption is to get to see where the story goes. If the gameplay wasn’t so deeply bland, being forced to endure long periods between plot points wouldn’t be such bastardry. But without those long, dull mandatory dungeon sessions, all seven games could have shipped as one decently enjoyable RPG, instead of $350 worth of what is essentially mediocrity.

There are some changes to the gameplay, but they’re fairly minor additive changes, not the reactionary redesign the series really needed to finish with a bang. A new Avatar awakening increases your special attack options and rewards you with weapon upgrade components. Area hacking, where a button press after the visual que of the screen turning fuzzy leads to strange dungeons representing the “machine code” of the game-within-the game, is interesting but really just a way to introduce another dungeon background.

At this point, releasing the same grind-reliant combat, plus a few new bits, isn’t enough to bring the .hack series past the low bar it’s set in previous installments. And as another 30-hour game with five hours’ worth of story, Redemption doesn’t redeem the game’s pacing either. The only real joy in it is the assurance that once you’re done with it, you’ll be done with the .hack//G.U. games forever.

This is probably worth picking up for people who have sloughed through the series so far, under the assumption that if you’ve spent 300 hours trying to find out what the heck is wrong with “The World,” it’ll be worth another 50 to you to find out what ends up happening. Anyone who has really clicked with the previous games will find plenty more (of the same) to enjoy here. But for most gamers, there are just too many other RPGs out for the PS2 to justify picking up something as routine, and routinely mediocre, as the final edition of .hack.

 

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