.hack// goes online

For real this time.

The next game in the .//hack franchise will take the series online for the first time, according to Famitsu magazine.

.hack//fragment, currently in development from Bandai, Cyber Connect 2 and Artdink for the PS2, will allow you to design your own character - choosing their name, gender, job and physical attributes. You can then go online and team up with two other players to embark on a group quest.

We're promised a fully-fledged online experience - you'll be able to chat, send email, read news and even set up your own guilds - and Bandai won't charge you a monthly subscription fee for the privilege.

Offline you play alongside two CPU characters, who may well be familiar faces from the .hack comics, anime series or games. And you can take a character you've developed offline into the online game, too.

You'll need a network adapter to get your PS2 online of course, but that's not all - you'll have to connect your console to your PC, which will act as an "area server". Plus your you'll be able to create your own dungeons and environments using special tools on your PC. It's not clear how all this will work at present, but it sounds rather exciting if you ask us.

.hack//fragment is out in Japan later this year - no word as to whether we can expect a European release, but we're keeping our fingers crossed.

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