Ah, yet another .hack game. Do you feel the love you felt when you picked up Infection? Yeah, you should. Mutation? No, you shouldn’t. While Mutation was a big-time improvement over it predecessor, Outbreak devolves back to Part 1. Plot-wise, Outbreak should be the most exciting part of the series, but the constant virus core hunting, the lack of new characters (only two?!) and the once again linear mission setup back up the works in the series.
The plot picks up at the cliffhanger from Mutation. The World is completely infested with the virus, and it is starting to show with bunches of raw code appearing all over the walls, floors and fields. Mia, one of your party members, is acting oddly and disappears from your crew. Wiseman and Helba have team up and are now plotting together to stop the Phases from putting more players into comas. At Phase 4, you learn that the corrupted data is flowing into reality (as seen in .hack//Liminality Part 2 from Mutation). Balmung, the legendary hero who pesters you constantly in the first two games, decides you don’t suck and ends up joining you. Do note, this all takes place in the first two hours of the game. However, after this is over, it is back to the linear missions with you. Now, with Balmung fighting at your side and Terajima Ryoko, acting like a waste of existence, you are forced to chase the newest Phases from field to field, collecting dozens of virus cores in the meanwhile for the entire game which just gets boring. This really separates Outbreak from Mutation.
The AI, graphics, sound, etc. still have no improvement. As for how Bandai ties things to .hack//Sign?well?instead of the really cool remade scenes from Sign, you get some stupid little tracking job where you have to find the Sign character’s ghosts and if you are lucky enough to stumble upon them, they say one of their more famous quotes and give you a generally useless item. Also, the bonus DVD is just lame, and doesn’t even have the nifty little informative facts that Mutation’s DVD did (did you know Piros is actually a CC Corp. worker who edited the hell out of his character?).
The sidequest setup is the same as the other .hack games. The Books of Ryu have once again gotten an expansion, allowing even more useless trinkets to be unlocked. You still have to clear all the fields and such, but they added new books for trading and grunties. There is one cool side job that is in Outbreak, though. SORA! That super cool, annoying, hormonal Twin Blade is back and being tortured by your old pal, Skeith and you need to go save him. Lastly, you can once again import your Kite and co. from Mutation, but this time if you start out without imported data, you need to work your team to level 50, so just play the other ones instead.
There isn’t that much to say about .hack//Outbreak. The plot continues, but the mission setup makes it impossible to enjoy as much as you (should have) enjoyed Mutation. You don’t get the nice influx of new characters like you did in Mutation. The .hack//Sign stuff in Outbreak is rather unimpressive, and still nothing new for the game play. Anyway, you should still play this game if you are an RPG fanatic, or if you have played the other .hacks. Think of it this way; the next one is the finale, and this series goes out with a bang.