Monster Hunter: World
The Monster Hunter franchise is coming to Xbox One, PS4, and PC early next year, and after getting a substantial hands-on experience with the title I’m incredibly excited. Longtime franchise fans should be pleased with the adherence to systems, mechanics, and the spirit of the traditional dinosaur hunting jaunts. Newcomers should be even more excited – this is the most accessible title in the franchise, and it doesn’t sacrifice any of its adrenaline-infused adventure to get there.
Selecting one of my old weapon favorites, the heavy bowgun, I glace at my available accessories before the first mission. My options include a variety of defensive upgrades, from stealth enhancements to additional protection. But the most interesting option is a cloak that lets you glide, allowing you to turn jumps into blissful, slow-falling dips perfect for landing directly on top of enemies. If you’re a fan of the “rodeo” style of hopping on these huge creatures and smashing them up on their backs until they fall, this is a perfect choice for your play style. You can also move from posterior to head while you’re on their back, picking your section to score attacks on weak spots or to better hang on while the monster tries to shake you off.
Back to the bowgun. While I’ve been a fan of this clunky but powerful cannon over the course of the Monster Hunter games, setup and shooting has never felt so fluid. The heavy crossbow is still a lumbering piece of equipment, but I no longer feel like a semi-turret that must be planted down to get solid shots on a far-away foe. Now it’s much faster, while still retaining the sense that I need to pick my firing locations. Instead of being locked into taking a hit if I’m not ready, I can zip away in flash and dodge a dangerous attack. I have access to a variety of different kinds of ammunition, including an “ultimate” ability that lets me go Gatling gun style and tear off a barrage of shots. The end result is extremely satisfying – still one of my favorite weapons, but it doesn’t feel like a chore to carry around.
Finding the enemy no longer involves running around the map and slinging paintballs. Like a dino-detective, I use the environment around me to search for clues to the location of the massive beast I’m hunting, which in this case is an early-game dino called the Great Jagras. Footprints and other markings fill up a meter that gives me a bright swarm of insects that show me a trail – like “quest trails” in MMORPGs – that lead me to the beast.
I’m also pleased by how collection of common materials in the open-world island is streamlined. No more bending over to collect seeds; I can just grab them as I walk by. In fact, I can set up crafting rules to auto-create items when I have the required materials, so kiss those long sessions of making bullets or other essentials goodbye. Eventually, my swarm of luminescent bugs leads me to my mark.
As a veteran to the series, this entry-level opponent doesn’t offer much challenge, but it does a solid job at hammering home franchise mechanics – dodging around, unleashing hell on the enemy, and tossing a Palico pal into the mix to distract it. However, the combat introduced one new tool in capturing beasts – environmental traps. We’ve all set down our own traps for the giant creatures playing older Monster Hunter games, but now you can use things like downed logs, trees, and other areas of the map to help corral and defeat these wild, flailing creatures.
After my rousing single-player session got the blood flowing, I hopped into a multiplayer encounter with other G.I. editors to take on a saucier beast, the Anjanath. Selecting a paralysis hammer as my weapon and a defensive accessory, I frontlined the encounter, wailing on its head to keep it locked down, and even landing a few monster-riding rodeos by sliding around on the environments.
The battle got interesting as the enemy’s health got low. During its retreat it wandered around the map until it upset a Rathalos – a much more dangerous enemy. We could have engaged the Rathalos, but we let them fight it out for a bit. This weakened the Anjanath to its last legs, and we set to finishing off the beast and slicing off bits for our future crafting endeavors. Wandering around the “open-world” environments as opposed to those load screens for each section feels amazing from a freedom perspective, and watching the monsters defend their territory and battle each other is a real nice touch.
Multiplayer features pop-in, pop-out gameplay, so if one of your team bails on you, someone else can jump in to finish the mission. You’re also free to explore the various areas at will, without picking up a defined quest, to hunt for any monster that lives there.
To say my short time with Monster Hunter World impressed me is a vast understatement. This could be a defining moment for the franchise, as it takes things to bold new levels of fluid combat combined with accessibility. I don’t think I can go back to clawing and pawing at a 3DS after getting a chance to experience this modern take on the series on a full-fledged console. I cannot wait to play the full game early next year.
Hey, forget reading about it - want to see the game in action? Go check out our experiences with the game in video form here!