monst er hunter: world
Capcom’s creature feature finally hits it big
Despite launching back in 2004, Capcom’s beastiebashing series has never really found a home on Xbox. Sure, spin-offs such as Monster Hunter Frontier G popped up on 360, but for almost 15 years, Team Green has been denied a full-fat mainline entry… until now. Enter the first game in the beloved action-RPG franchise that’s actively looking to lure in Western players with its kickass ways.
For those who’ve never experienced the series’ campy brand of dinoslaying slaughter, let’s run through an average hour in Monster Hunter: World. After creating a hunter with the game’s awesomely exhaustive character creator, you head out into thick, humid jungles, prehistoric deserts, and gloriously gaudy coral-strewn canyons with the goal of killing or capturing critters. Next, you scour the land for telltale clues of your target—a footprint here, a viciously clawed rock there—before letting a bunch of luminous scoutflies lead you to the monster in question. Once you track down the furry/ feathery/scaly culprit, it’s time to enter into quite the sizeable scrap.
Actually, perhaps that should be ‘seismic’ scrap. Make no mistake: Fights in Monster Hunter: World are epic (occasionally exhausting) affairs. Regardless of which of the 14 distinct weapon classes you choose, battling these behemoths is never brisk. Unless you team up with another three hunters using World’s pleasingly streamlined online features—more on that later—the game’s headline scuffles can often take in excess of 40 minutes to finish. Considering story-critical assignments impose a 50-minute time limit on pummeling proceedings, a frantic sense of hurried tension constantly looms large.
Even when your nerves are being shredded by the timer, the mechanics that power fights are rarely less than an involving, titanic treat. When the monster-murdering showdowns get into full swing, combat absolutely crackles. Whether you rock up to battles brandishing a seven-foot Buster Sword, long-range Heavy Bowgun, or the exhilaratingly athletic Insect Glaive—think a spear crossed with a homicidal vaulting pole—fights always feel responsive and impactful.
Predictably, Capcom’s array of dinosaur-shaped fiends are the stars of this sword-swinging show. Some hunts pit you against an Anjanath (a feathered T-rex wannabe), others see you tracking Radobaan (think a whale-sized armadillo) through the rocky caverns of the Rotten Vale, while the occasional battle has you stalking arguably the most imaginative monster to ever stomp onto Xbox. Said terror is called the Paolumu, and fighting this giant flying hamster/
eagle abomination is one of the most memorable gaming moments I’ve had in years. Territorial tussles These toothy terrors don’t just fight your hunter, either. One of the coolest elements of World is that you genuinely feel like you exist in a world that is shaped by its own fullyfunctioning ecosystem. Example? How about the fact monsters are only too happy to rumble with each other over territory. Early into the campaign, you’ll most likely witness the wallowing Jyuratodus get into a ground-shaking tussle with the rhino-esque Barroth, and the resulting battle is so spectacular, it’s impossible not to be hypnotized by the enormous encounter.
Sadly, not every monster-seeking mission is quite so exhilarating. Though many story quests pit you against creatures that are a genuine joy to fight, there are a couple of real stinkers. Said missions usually revolve around Zorah Magdaros, and fighting this skyscraper-sized dragon involves mindlessly bashing away at its stalactite-shaped weak points. Zorah, you’re a chore-ah.
Despite some low points in the main quest, the game’s primal showdowns benefit massively from the series’ newly open environments. In past entries, the world around you would be split into boxy environments separated by loading sections. Here though, exploration is seamless, and tracking creatures through the game’s sprawling forests and wastelands with nary a black screen in sight lends hunts an emergent quality that make battles feel truly alive.
The opening Ancient Forest level is often slap-you-around-the-face pretty. A dense jungle teeming with feral life and fantastical fantasy flora, it’s an absolute pleasure to get lost among the looping paths of its verdant sectors. Later environments are no less impressive. The subterranean Rotten Vale is a claustrophobic den of death and destruction, as the likes of the Odogaron (a sort of giant panther/ crocodile hybrid) stalks the bonecovered alcoves for carrion. The Coral Highlands is more dazzling still. Sure, all the monster murder makes the idyllic surroundings a smidge less civil, but it’s one hell of a dreamy location in which to lose yourself for hours on end.
Sadly, there is a downside to this expansiveness: Monster Hunter: World can be daunting to break into. This is a series that has always been built around interlocking, labyrinthine systems. Menu-heavy weapon crafting, stat-boosting meal preparation, and various strings of R&D quests all compete for your time,
resulting in a game that can often overwhelm, especially if you’re new to the franchise.
Travel back to Astera (the piratethemed central base of operations), and you’ll often be inundated with optional assignments. The Botanical Research department wants you to gather various plants while out in the field; the Smart Biologist makes constant requests that you nonlethally capture monsters—better bring some Trap Tools and tranquilizing darts; while the adorable wee chap over at Ecological Research forever wants to update your Monster Field Guide, which involves examining the tracks the game’s beasts leave over and over. It’s admirable that
World has managed to squeeze in such a heaving amount of content, but sometimes it feels like you’re getting pulled in a dozen different (slightly dizzying) directions. Monster mashed Even if you ignore the side distractions to concentrate on ploughing through the central story, it’s easy to feel outmatched. There are no quick and clean victories to be found here. Hunts against smaller creatures can still be glacial, and because monsters don’t have visible lifebars, there’s no concrete way to tell how long a fight will last. Playing solo, it’s all too easy to become demoralized, as you land hundreds of swipes on your prey with little sign of the beast weakening.
In the game’s defence, joining up with other online players to ease the big-boned burden is a doddle. Matchmaking is mostly hassle-free, and when you need assistance, it’s just a simple matter of firing an SOS flare, then waiting for other hunters to drop in and lend a helping blade/ modified Battle Horn.
Of course, you will have to look past some occasionally jarring technical shortcomings. For a series that has primarily graced handhelds platforms in recent years, there’s no denying
Monster Hunter: World is a hugely ambitious game. Still, all those elaborately animated monsters and visually rich hunting spots prove taxing on Capcom’s MT engine. On the base Xbox One, the experience never feels smooth, and the frame-rate often drops into the mid-20fps range during battles. Performance is noticeably better on Xbox One X—and hoo-boy does the game look special in the 4K ‘Prioritize Resolution’ mode—but even on Microsoft’s beefed up box, the action can still feel jittery.
Overly fixating on the rough edges feels uncharitable, though. After all, this is a game where you’re constantly followed around by a Palico: An adorable kitty companion who will gladly scratch up a Great Jagras should the pot-bellied iguana look at your hunter funny. Yes, fights might be riddled with copious clipping, but seeing as Capcom’s adventure lets me dress my little cat person up like a tiny Skeletor cosplayer, I’m willing to overlook my hunter’s sword passing through a Pukei-Pukei’s leathery wings.
Ultimately, Monster Hunter: World is a fascinating, utterly esoteric adventure. If you join a committed guild of online hunters, it could easily swallow your life. Yes, it’s technically a little janky, and it could well overwhelm new players. Commit to the hunt though, and wonderfully silly monster mayhem awaits.
“The headline scuffles can often take over 40 minutes to finish”
Above The main story sees you hunting the impossibly large elder dragon, Zorah Magdaros. The stadiumsized bastard is deadly.
right Nergigante is one of the toughest beasts in the game and hits like a truck. Downing it is a major achievement for hunters, and comes with great rewards.
top right Technically,
World can be a little shoddy, and fights are often blighted by clipping. Still, the sheer spectacle of it all never wanes.