Capcom’s most self-explanatory title is back after a lengthy absence. Monster Hunter has always flown under my admittedly blinkered radar, and though the game was originally released on the PS2, I’ve only ever known it in the context of handheld consoles. I mean heck, until last weekend I’d never played a Monster Hunter game, but in this instance, I’m gonna go ahead and play the preconceptions are bad card: it’s clear from the get-go that Capcom are looking to re-imagine (though not re-invent) their franchise, so what harm can it do to come to Monster Hunter World with fresh eyes?
Can we talk about the amazing theme music and in-game score?
Monster Hunter World involves hunting monsters (in other news: rain is wet). Much like previous titles, you’ll take quest after quest, tracking down fearsome beasts alone or in groups of up to 4 in a variety of gorgeous environments. The beta offered a small glimpse of the full game: 3 quests, 2 environments, and a host of equipment items to try out at your leisure. It was a snapshot, an opportunity to jump right into the only thing that really matters – the hunting and slaying of gigantic beasties.
The quest selection screen. Yeah, it’s a little dated-looking, but that’s endearing.
And oh boy, was it fun.
Monster Hunter World is a relatively user-friendly experience, and the beta took the chance to make tracking and properly locating the three included monsters as easy as possible. Just follow the glow of your tracker bugs as they hop from footprint to claw imprint to mucus deposit, and eventually they’ll lock on to the scent of monster. The environments were daunting, at first glance – you’ll spend most of your time in a twisting maze of a forest that offered massive verticality and no open spaces. But the opportunities for fluid traversal are endless, from crawling under logs to climbing up hanging vines, and before long you’ll be a knock-off Tarzan dashing about this stunningly pretty world.
Dark, confusing, but not endless. Actually, pretty straightforward.
There is a sense of anticipation to a Monster Hunter game, it seems, when the chase is on and the beast is getting closer. Even though these were clearly three of the more bog-standard creatures on the Monster Hunter World roster, they were still more than impressive: I was particularly keen on the bipedal rock-monster with steam vents on his head. The environments are littered with smaller critters, which only serves to add to the immense spectacle of seeing your target for the first time. I spent most of my time playing with a friend, asking over and over the same question: is that the monster? Is that it? That one?
No, Will. That’s a frog.
Oh, wait. That IS the monster.
Anyway. Once you’ve encountered your foe, weapons are drawn, and the Monster Hunter World brand of frenzied combat begins. It’s impossible to tell how much damage you’re really inflicting, but that’s okay – you’ll notice pieces of your target fall off every so often, and eventually the tell-tale limp will begin to show. The carnage can even occasionally be marshalled into some sort of strategy, if you’re lucky enough; the environment often comes to your assistance, and if you can find your way above the monster’s back, you can jump on and do some real – scripted – damage. For the most part though, it’s just a mad frenzy of hacking, slashing, and (if you’re lucky) dodging. And I loved every second.
Yup, there he is again.
I fought most often with the most powerful set of armour on offer, a set that in the full game would be constructed from materials scavenged from deceased monsters. The beta was simply showing off the variety, and explaining in brief how the stat system operates: some armours offer greater protection against elemental damage, for example, or improved stamina. As for weapons, well, there was only one option that really appealed to me – a spear, feathered in such a way as to allow for some seriously epic flying combos. But the game has all play styles covered, from fast dual-wield knives to warhammers the size of small hatch-back; again, you’ll find that some offer fast movement speeds, whilst others have unique abilities (such as my feathery spear).
There. There’s my feathery spear. Or, in MH speak: the Insect Glaive.
I could carry on like this for quite some time, but I’d be missing the point; this was, after all, only a beta, and any fully-formed opinions ought to be saved for the full game (note to self: call review dibs on this). That said, you’ll be able to tell that I had an absolute blast with my first ever Monster Hunter experience. The game is drop-dead gorgeous, the premise, as simple as the name suggests; I haven’t even begun to explain how enjoyable it was with a friend in tow, or why walking around with a bipedal feline companion was a special experience. Here’s hoping that the full game can deliver a full package of epic monster-hunting fun.
The Monster Hunter World beta ran on PS4 for PS Plus members only from December 8-12th. A second, open beta ran from December 22-26th (ish), and though there are no whispers of any future tests, the game is due for release in 2018 on Xbox One and PC, as well.