Mon­ster Hunter: World PC, PS4, Xbox One

Why Cap­com’s cult favourite isn’t dumb­ing down, but open­ing up

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher For­mat Ori­gin Re­lease Cap­com PC, PS4, Xbox One Ja­pan 2018

Cap­com may have rung the changes for

Mon­ster Hunter: World, but the big­gest of all was the an­nounce­ment it­self. An E3 re­veal, af­ter all, says much about where the pub­lisher’s pri­or­i­ties lie, as it looks for ways to match the se­ries’ phe­nom­e­nal Ja­panese suc­cess on for­eign shores. What bet­ter way to prove your com­mit­ment to over­seas play­ers than by show­ing off your new game to the huge au­di­ence watch­ing the west’s big­gest videogame show? When se­ries pro­ducer

Ry­ozo Tsu­ji­moto talks about “keep­ing an eye” on the re­ac­tion back in Ja­pan, an ac­knowl­edge­ment that Cap­com hasn’t yet had a chance to talk di­rectly to its largest fan­base, it’s clear the com­pany means busi­ness.

Tsu­ji­moto at­tributes its suc­cess at home to a “per­fect storm” of con­di­tions. The se­ries only re­ally took off with the first PSP en­try, since Ja­pan’s pop­u­la­tion den­sity and the preva­lence of por­ta­ble hard­ware made it eas­ier for peo­ple to play to­gether. Join­ing a hunt was sim­ple when you al­ready had al­lies nearby with­out hav­ing to specif­i­cally seek them out. He ac­knowl­edges that the sit­u­a­tion is rather dif­fer­ent over here. “In most western coun­tries out­side of the largest cities, find­ing an­other per­son who even has a por­ta­ble game con­sole, let alone owns and wants to play

Mon­ster Hunter, is a lot more chal­leng­ing for a lot of peo­ple,” he says. “I think that’s al­ways been some­thing that’s held back the ex­plo­sive suc­cess of Ja­pan trans­fer­ring to the west.”

He hap­pily con­cedes, too, that lo­cal­i­sa­tion de­lays and sep­a­rate servers for each ter­ri­tory have made it chal­leng­ing for Cap­com to fos­ter a truly global hunter com­mu­nity. “I think the small­est gap we’ve had has been about six months, but of­ten up to a year or more has passed be­tween the Ja­panese and the western re­lease,” he says. “A cou­ple of it­er­a­tions ago, we merged the western servers, so you’d have North Amer­ica and Europe to­gether, but Ja­pan was still sep­a­rate. With Mon­ster Hunter:

World, we’re not only merg­ing the servers into one global on­line com­mu­nity who can all play to­gether, but we’re also go­ing to have a si­mul­ta­ne­ous launch win­dow where the ti­tles come out pretty much at the same time around the world. I think that’s go­ing to have a big im­pact on how the game does in the west.”

Any lin­ger­ing doubts, mean­while, that this wasn’t a ‘proper’ en­try in the se­ries, but rather a spin-off along the lines of Mon­ster

Hunter Fron­tier, have been quickly dis­pelled. That ini­tial footage was no­table as much for the es­tab­lished idio­syn­cra­sies that were ab­sent as the new ad­di­tions. We have to ad­mit, we’ll miss the mus­cle-man pose your hunter would pull off af­ter glug­ging down a restora­tive. But per­haps we’re just fusty old

tra­di­tion­al­ists, and most of the mi­nor changes seem em­i­nently sen­si­ble. You can now pick up items as you pass by them rather than need­ing to stop, while cer­tain en­vi­ron­men­tal items will ac­ti­vate as soon as you grab them – such as plants that in­stantly heal you or boost your stamina. “It’s about hav­ing a smooth­ness to the ex­pe­ri­ence that re­duces that slightly stop-start, stac­cato style we’ve had in the past,” co-di­rec­tor Kaname Fu­jioka ex­plains. “By elim­i­nat­ing those lit­tle bumps in the road, we can make it eas­ier to get to the more en­joy­able parts, like the hunt­ing ac­tions.” That stream­lin­ing has led to a sig­nif­i­cant change in how Mon­ster Hunter han­dles tu­to­ri­als, help­ing chivvy things along for a se­ries no­to­ri­ous for be­ing a slow starter. They’ll now be fully voiced, so rather than hav­ing to tap through reams of text be­fore you can prop­erly be­gin, your han­dler will bring you up to speed, from de­tailed com­bat tips to ba­sic ex­pla­na­tions of the nat­u­ral flow of a hunt. “Hope­fully that smooth in-game ex­pe­ri­ence of learn­ing while you play will as­suage the is­sues peo­ple have had with the game in the past,” Tsu­ji­moto says. “When you ac­tu­ally get into the meaty ac­tion of the game, it’s re­ally sat­is­fy­ing to play. But per­haps in the past some peo­ple have not been able to quite make it that far: to re­ally get to grips with the con­cepts the game is built around, and learn how the game­play flow works.”

It is, of course, a mat­ter of bal­ance, and Tsu­ji­moto is well aware that any sops to new­com­ers will be viewed by some as dumb­ing down. When he says his team is “not about to throw out the baby with the bath­wa­ter” it’s ev­i­dent that he’s con­cerned about the re­sponse to the changes they’re mak­ing. “The core ex­pe­ri­ence is pure Mon­ster

Hunter through and through,” he in­sists. “We just want to take a look at the stuff out­side of that core, and crit­i­cally reeval­u­ate it.” Which means, es­sen­tially, bring­ing it up to speed with mod­ern western games. Rather than be­ing seg­mented into zones, the map is seam­less, but while hunters can move freely around, so too can the mon­sters. If the idea of heal­ing on the go might be anath­ema to some play­ers, con­sider that you can no longer re­treat to a ‘safe’ zone to re­cover and re-sharpen your weapon. In other words, don’t ex­pect Cap­com to sud­denly go easy on you sim­ply be­cause you now have ra­dial menus and the abil­ity to switch weapons mid-hunt.

Ah yes, the weapons. All 14 types are here, and though Gen­er­a­tions’ hunter arts and styles are no more, a few moves have been lifted from it. Be­yond a new for­ward hop, the Lance doesn’t ap­pear to have changed much, though the Ham­mer now has a quicker pum­melling at­tack that’s ideal for land­ing a suc­ces­sion of hits on downed crea­tures, and there’s a gor­geous, ex­ag­ger­ated hit-pause on its whirling at­tack. Dual Blades are more ac­ro­batic than ever, with a spin­ning move let­ting you cart­wheel over the back of mon­sters, while re­fined move­ment and aim­ing con­trols might even con­vince some to switch to the Bow for the first time. Then again, why leave be­hind the In­sect Glaive, when it now al­lows air­dashes, prompt­ing the kind of flashy com­bos that would look at home in a Plat­inum game?

Grap­ple hooks and ghillie suits of­fer new es­cape and stealth op­tions re­spec­tively, though we’re rather less sold on a third ad­di­tion to your hunter’s arse­nal. In­ves­ti­gate a mon­ster’s foot­print, for ex­am­ple, and you can send out a clus­ter of fire­flies that will leave a neonyel­low trail that should guide you to your quarry. Though World has mostly bor­rowed in­tel­li­gently from western sand­box games, we’re not con­vinced it needed a de­tec­tive mode. We hope that this will be op­tional.

Still, tellingly, the re­ac­tion from fans so far has grown more pos­i­tive as more has been re­vealed, ini­tial ret­i­cence shift­ing to a wider ac­cep­tance of the tweaks to the se­ries’ long­stand­ing for­mula. “All the things we’ve de­scribed are go­ing to make it eas­ier to pick up,” Fu­jioka says. “But at the same time, once you’re in, you won’t want to put it down.” Time will tell whether Cap­com can in­deed have its cake and eat it, but the prospect of a truly global com­mu­nity of hunters for the first time is a mouth­wa­ter­ing one in­deed.

Na­ture of the beast

It’s ob­vi­ously the best­look­ing Mon­ster

Hunter game to date, but Cap­com’s us­ing more pow­er­ful hard­ware for more than just shinier, fur­rier mon­sters. “We wanted to see how we can use that not just to up our game with the vi­su­als, but in terms of cre­at­ing a liv­ing, breath­ing ecosys­tem, with rich in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the dif­fer­ent mon­sters in the game,” Tsu­ji­moto says. The idea of a proper food chain has been only hinted at in past games – a Seltas Queen will eat her male coun­ter­part for sus­te­nance, while Deviljhos aren’t fussy about who or what they’re at­tack­ing – but the sight of a Great Ja­grass (a lizard-like new­comer) gulp­ing down a lum­ber­ing Aptonoth sug­gests you’ll be able to use other mon­sters as a dis­trac­tion dur­ing hunts. In­deed, plenty of the big­ger crea­tures won’t even ac­knowl­edge you un­til you start at­tack­ing them.

“When you ac­tu­ally get into the meaty ac­tion of the game, it’s re­ally sat­is­fy­ing to play”

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Se­ries pro­ducer Ry­ozo Tsu­ji­moto (top) and Kaname Fu­jioka, co-di­rec­tor

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