monst er hunter: world

Cap­com’s crea­ture fea­ture fi­nally hits it big

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Dave Meik­le­ham

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.

Fight for­ever

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.

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