Monday, 23 February 2015

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Over the past year or so, there have been a few titles released for the PS Vita that are obviously doing they're best to replicate the success Capcom is having with Monster Hunter. The one that sticks out in my mind recently is Freedom Wars, a fun futuristic game that was essentially Monster Hunter with a sci-fi twist. But all of the imitators are just that- imitations. Since the first Monster Hunter game on the Playstation 2 was released just over a decade ago, the series has been a massive success worldwide. With it's gameplay that is a bizarre blend of different genres and plays like a MMO, this latest entry in the series retains the greatness of what came before. While it may be too samey for some out there, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is here to take away a chunk of your life.

Developed by Capcom and out now for Nintendo 3DS comes Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, possibly the best entry in the series to date. I haven't played all of the games myself, but it betters Monster Hunter Tri in every way from graphics, gameplay to monsters. Throughout the series Monster Hunter has always dodged the idea of containing a real story, as the game generally pointed you toward a monster, gave you a shitty sword and said, “Go fight that and then fight some more. See ya later!”. But that has somewhat changed in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, as the game now contains a story mode. It's generally there for newcomers, and despite being incredibly text heavy, it will get newbies up to speed with what's available in the game. In the story you're part of a caravan of hunters that must investigate a mysterious artifact someone in the caravan has found. This quest will bring you from location to location and town to town, all the while hunting huge badass monsters in between. Naturally, the game can also be played with other players, which as seen before in the series can make for some pretty excellent moments.

On the surface gameplay looks the exact same as what we saw in Monster Hunter Tri and other previous entries. Essentially gameplay focuses on three main areas- exploration, combat and customization. These are the three pillars to the franchise, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate perfects them. First off, throughout your time with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate you'll explore various  locations, both out in the wilderness filled with roaming beasts, and towns that are populated with villagers, quests and shops. A great update to getting around is the fact that now movement is far more fluid and free-form than it was in Monster Hunter Tri. From leaping off platforms, landing on the ground and continuing to run without stopping, to being able to quickly scale walls and climbable surfaces, getting around is now far more responsive and pleasing.

Then there's the fighting, which come about in response to the quests you pick up during your down time in a town, mostly from villagers in need of help. These quests always have a bit of a unique spin on them, but beyond window dressing the goal of any quest is to simply kill a particular monster. It's at this point that you'll need to stock up before heading out into the wilderness in your bid to hunt down the monster. After arming yourself and making sure you're stocked up with potions and whatnot, hunting the monster can take time, patience and skill. Then the fighting kicks off, which much like Dark Souls, is anything but an exercise in button mashing. It's one of those games that if you go in repeatedly slamming the attack button you'll be dead in seconds. Instead you'll often need to rely on dodging a monsters attacks entirely, and simply keeping an eye out for what kind of attack pattern they have. If taken seriously and mastered, combat is incredibly nuanced and ultimately very rewarding.

Customization is the icing on cake in Monster Hunter Ultimate 4. You can kit out your character in every way imaginable, but the true genius here is that you're able to craft weapons and armour from the skins, bones, teeth and scales of monsters you've vanquished. Though some weapons require pieces from multiple carcasses, there's nothing quite like focusing on a monsters tail, only for it to break off in mid-battle. If you want to upgrade your armour and weapons, focusing on key parts of a monster- and not necessarily parts of its body that are the weakest- is the key to becoming a truly great hunter. This is where Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will keep bringing you back for more, as there's no levelling up and your character technically remains the same through the game. Instead, in  Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate you become a better hunter through hard work, fighting well and in turn crafting good weapons, and not by some invisible XP system.

Overall Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is basically the best Monster Hunter to date. It's packed full of adventure and action, and contains enough badass bosses to go toe-to-toe with that it'll hold your attention for a good while. Though the game is fantastic as a single-player experience, playing it on multiplayer with a few mates around  ramps up the greatness tenfold, and makes for a gaming session that is often unforgettable. Just be prepared to get sucked into its world.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate slays the competition and gets a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

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