- Format: Xbone (version reviewed), PS4, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now (Xbone, PS4), TBC (PC)
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Players: 1 (offline), 1-4 (online)
- Site: http://www.monsterhunterworld.com/uk/
- Game code provided by Xbox
Monster Hunter is one of those franchises that its fans fall utterly in love with – piling many dozens, or even a few hundred, hours into each title – but a significant number of newcomers find almost impenetrable. With World, Capcom have achieved the seemingly impossible, and delivered a new entry that welcomes new players while making existing fans jump for joy. Veterans may find it all frustratingly slow to begin with, but soon enough it turns into the open-world fantasy-dinosaur-murdering-simulator that they know and love.
At a fundamental level, Monster Hunter is about killing huge beasts and turning them into hats and trousers. It is also however about progression, something that is captured here perfectly. It’s not uncommon for your first encounter with a new monster to be overwhelming; you get a few hits in, it tramples you, you get a few hits in, it electrocutes/burns/poisons you, you try to get a few more hits in, you fail, you die.
Return to that same beast many hours later, and you may well find that you slay it almost without trying (our record currently being killing a Tobi Kadachi and a Grand Jagras within about ten seconds total). As ever, this is achieved not through upgrading your hunter (and their cat-like Palico buddy) directly, but through forging and upgrading new weapons and armour. The upgrade trees are laid out in a user-friendly format, freeing up your concentration and frustration for gathering the materials needed. As you progress through the story, you open up new areas and, therefore, new monsters and ingredients to harvest.
Plants and bugs can be picked up as you find them, and metals can be found at mining outcrops. Monsters come in various sizes, but it’s the biggest and baddest ones that offer the most valuable materials. Combat is more akin to a dance than a battle; wade in bashing buttons, and you will get your backside handed to you by a clawed foot very quickly. With fourteen different weapon types, each with their individual forge/upgrade trees, there’s plenty of scope to find the ideal one for your play style. You’ll soon learn that it’s wise to maintain a few, even if it’s just to keep a ranged option as plan B to your melee tool of choice.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the monsters themselves are the stars of the show here. Each and every one is a remarkable achievement. Their designs and, especially, their animations are full of life and malignant personality. Although programmed patterns to their behaviour are easy to see (telegraphed tells for their attacks, intermittent retreats from combat as they weaken, culminating in sleep at their nest), it feels as though you’re fighting a living, breathing thing each time. Often, the odds are not in your favour.
Although you can see virtually everything MHW has to offer solo, the series has always been intended to be experienced as a co-op adventure. This is made clear in no uncertain terms with the difficulty of later monsters (which become tougher still once you have at least one person helping you). It’s a shame that online functionality of the Xbox version is still partially busted at time of writing, but we’ve been able to connect with others by sending and answering SOS flares (essentially a request for others to join while out in the field).
The great thing about MHW co-op is that everything about the design essentially forces people to help one another out. When 1-3 other people are on a quest with you, chances are you’re all after the same thing in terms of monster materials. Although you can only harvest a limited number of times from fallen monsters and mining outcrops (and bugs and plants can only be picked up once each), every player can harvest each point. Therefore, you’ll all help one another to take the monster down – which is in each individual’s interest – and then there’s no first-past-the-post rewards. So long as you can get to the corpse before time runs out, everybody can carve it up.
There’s a lot to get a handle on. Elemental strengths and weaknesses, the intricacies of each weapon and monster, the importance of upgrading weapons and armour (including what the best options are for you, and why), ammo and potion crafting, and more. No need to panic if you’re new to the series, though. Although a few things aren’t made as clear as they perhaps should be, you’re given ample time and space to master it all well before a failure to do so threatens to suck the fun out of the experience.
Part of the appeal is that you can, to an extent, decide what type of hunter you’re going to play as. If you want to find just one weapon type that you then stick with, and upgrade your armour loadout so that it has a balance against all elements, that is totally an option. If you’d prefer to repeatedly farm every monster there is, to cultivate a huge range of armour sets and weapons, that is also a perfectly valid option. When it comes to the actual hunting of monsters, you can just keep hitting them until they don’t get back up. It’s a tactic that works. But, you could also exploit territorial fights between monsters, lay (and lure them into) traps, craft and use items – or the right elements of the environment – to poison or paralyse them, or send them to sleep.
You’ll still have to keep hitting them until they don’t get back up, though.
Going back to kill the same monsters again and again should get repetitive… but it doesn’t. This is partly due to more powerful versions being introduced later in the game, and a reshuffling of the environments in which they appear. Plus there are always variables which ensure no two fights are identical. Having opened the door wide enough to let more people in than ever before, Capcom have produced what is easily the best Monster Hunter so far.