Paige FTW: ‘The World’ Is A Different Place
I was a big fan of the .hack games back in my formative years. The original tetralogy captured the feel and look of an MMORPG, and pioneered the “extended universe” model so enjoyed by so many franchises today.
So I was excited when .hack//G.U. Last Recode was announced for PS4, if only because I had never gotten around to playing the sequel trilogy before I retired my faithful PS2.
But more than a decade has passed since the series first made its bold, far-leaping predictions about a world where we are never offline, where the virtual has a vice grip on the physical.
What was once modern is now outdated — and painfully so, in the little details that contemporary games have hammered smooth.
The story is the same, outside of a brief epilogue chapter: Player-killer killer Haseo, “The Terror of Death,” is investigating a mysterious being called Tri-Edge, who put one of his friends in a real-life coma after killing her in The World. A deeper conspiracy ensues.
The game’s script is clunky and stilted, interrupting any sense of natural flow with endless cutscenes populated by largely unlikable heroes. Combat is repetitive and uninspiring, with battles playing out the same pattern (mash attack, do a special, mash attack, do a special) over and over and over. And it doesn’t help that visually this remaster still very much looks (and feels) like a PS2 game.
And yet, the game retains some of its charm. The perky emails you exchange with your party members and other characters are still a fun diversion, as are the extensive message boards and news reports that populate the game’s “real” world outside of The World. The randomly generated dungeons remain oddly compelling to explore. And despite the excruciating delivery, the game’s story remains compelling.
Perhaps the most profound legacy of .hack today, rather than prophecy, might be patience.