Capcom’s crown jewel franchise for me has always been Monster Hunter. Despite Resident Evil being more successful and popular as an IP, I’ve always consistently enjoyed playing Monster Hunter from them. This series began on the PlayStation 2 and only really hit its stride with the PSP release. Monster Hunter has also been more successful on portables because it traditionally has sold more in Japan and that’s a portable gaming market. The series has seen releases on both PlayStation and Nintendo hardware and recently done really well in North America and Europe with the 3DS entries. Capcom decided to push it to the next level with Monster Hunter: World and this entry has been built for home consoles from the ground up and it shows. Monster Hunter: World is a new mainline entry that blew me away and only suffers because of one minor online design choice.
Having played through most of the releases and spinoffs, I was a little concerned that this entry would be a toned down release made to appeal to action RPG fans kind of like how Resident Evil has switched between catering to the hardcore fan base and casuals across the last few games. Thankfully, they proved me wrong and Monster Hunter: World is everything I love about Monster Hunter with a ton of improvements and enhancements making it easy to get into for new players and fresh for old timers. Unlike Final Fantasy XV that lost the identity of the franchise to cater to new players, this release nails the gameplay and everything that makes Monster Hunter great.
One big change here is that the game saw a worldwide release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the same day. Earlier, English speaking fans have had to wait months for a localized release. This time, PlayStation 4 players worldwide can play with each other and for the first time, Japanese players can play online with the West in a Monster Hunter game.
A big draw for Monster Hunter has always been the amazing online aspect of it. The community is great and always willing to help out newcomers unlike some other franchises. But if you aren’t interested in that bit, there’s a meaty solo campaign that will last you over 60 hours and there will still be loads of stuff to do after beating it. The campaign is structured well but the actual story is nothing amazing. Gameplay involves the core loop of exploring, discovering the monster you need to hunt, learning a bit about it, taking it down, looting it, and moving on. The different areas are also very well designed and pretty massive so I’d recommend trying some older quests as well just to explore and get used to the living environment.
The big monsters and the ones you need to usually hunt or capture have their own quirks and traits. Taking down a monster isn’t as simple as button mashing your way near it or anything. The weapon you’re using and your skill plays a big part. In fact the various weapons available can be considered different classes or equipping each one is like finding another character to play as in a fighting game. Each weapon is different and requires skill to master while some are easier to approach than others. Thankfully there’s a robust training area here where you can experiment with each weapon before deciding on one to continue with.
I’ve been playing this on both PS4 and Xbox One and playing with different weapons on each console has been fun. It helps that you know how a certain monster behaves but using a new weapon always keeps things fresh. On the 3DS I never really bothered with more than a few weapons but I can see myself learning all of them here or at least trying to while playing more with friends.
One of the biggest problems with Monster Hunter on 3DS for many people was the camera and just how the handheld felt for a fast paced game like this after prolonged use in a single sitting. Playing a Monster Hunter not just with a proper controller but with the addition of newer control interfaces and schemes has been amazing. If you want to play it like you did on the 3DS, there’s an option for that and Capcom has smartly implemented another interface that is also active at the same time if you decide to use it. Items can be cycled through like before but you also have a new radial option that is more suited to players on home consoles. Even using items is a lot snappier now and quality of life improvements like this go a long way.
Visually, this is definitely the best looking Monster Hunter game. The locations look stunning and the monsters themselves are even more magnificent. It runs very well on both standard consoles but there’s definitely an image quality reduction on Xbox One S compared to PS4. This game uses Capcom’s own engine so I expect it will run and look fantastic on PC when that version releases later in the year. The only problem is in the clipping and sadly this is a design decision. Seeing weapons pass through monsters as you swing kind of breaks immersion. Just like the visuals, the audio design is excellent and playing with a good pair of headphones will go a long way. The soundtrack gets you pretty pumped up as well.
The big problem I have with the current state of Monster Hunter: World is the online setup for playing with friends. It is needlessly complex. Instead of using the system party options or direct invitations to friends, there’s an SOS system and a squad system and an online lobby system. I hope this is worked on because it is the only flaw the game has right now.
Now is the best time to jump into the world of Monster Hunter. Online is full of players on both platforms and Capcom is adding various timed quests and new content already. I’m glad they took a risk bringing Monster Hunter to home consoles because looking at sales, it has definitely paid off. I can’t wait to see how this evolves in the future because I already have a game of the year contender.