.hack//G.U. Vol. 1//Rebirth - hands on

We got more hands on time with an early build of .hack//G.U. Vol. 1//Rebirth and we’re pleased with how this simulated MMORPG game is shaping up. The game takes place in the not so distant future where a fantasy based online role-playing game called The World has become a cultural phenomenon. You control Haseo, a brash and somewhat rude Adept Rogue who needs to find a way to save his friend Shino from certain death by defeating Tri-Edge, a mysterious PK (Player Killer) who put Shino into a real-life coma with his in-game attacks. The idea of having to save a loved one and The World - this time literally - has been done before. But it’s the way that this boxed story is told that truly sets .hack apart from the crowd.

.hack ’s novel approach to storytelling works by convincing you of its setting. You really do feel like you’re playing an MMORPG. From the desktop, you have full access to the internet and can check your email, browse the forums, and catch up on the news.

On one level, these features add depth to the game’s background when you read a news story about how outdoor introverts who take their addiction to online RPGs outside with mobile modems and headsets are becoming social concerns. On another level, information found on the forums and the web can provide leads to your investigation as well as hints on how to find useful items and quests in The World.

At the same time, these features play an important role in gameplay and plot development. When your investigation leads you to believe that Endrance, the Emperor of the Arena is somehow connected to players of The World suffering from comas, Haseo decides that he must enter The World’s PvP tournament to defeat him. However, you’ll need to have a Cleric join your party before you can hope to stand a chance against him.

Unfortunately, just like traditional MMORPGs, healing classes are hard to find when you need them in The World. After emailing your in-game friend Silabus, you’ll wind up hooking up with a Cleric by posting a request on the in-game forums. It's an odd reflection of real life, but it's definitely accurate.