Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate review: Friendly beasts
ALMOST 18 months after the original Japanese release of MH4, this slightly enhanced version makes it to the rest of the world. Why it took so long is anyone’s guess.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS); rating; 8.5/10; age: 12+
But then the West has never been that bothered by the peculiar charms of Monster Hunter, a heroically deep RPG pitting you against a host of mythical beasties.
Something tells me that could be about to change, thanks to MH4U’s determined efforts to engage new players instead of burying them beneath a blizzard of cryptic game mechanics.
From the sweeping opening cinematic to the gentle learning curve of the early missions, Capcom has twigged at last that its obscure formula for monster slaying needed tweaking for accessibility. That’s not to say that complexity has been squeezed out, just delayed until newbies get comfortable.
Paradoxically, MH veterans will probably choke on the hand-feeding of the early hours, with very little skippable in the way of tutorials. But to most players, it will feel right, smoothly introducing a merry band of companions who travel the wilds with you, providing quests, gear and assistance.
Less palatable is the fussy combat that makes hard work of beast-slaying. Like previous instalments, you must carefully time your attacks, watching for enemy ‘tells’. Seizing your opportunity can deliver a glorious strike but mistime your swipe and your clunky animation leaves you vulnerable. It calls to mind similarly awkward – but much-loved – systems such as Dark Souls or even Resident Evil.
Additionally, the camera regularly conspires to obstruct your efficiency, even when using the extra nub on the New 3DS. Capcom still has some way to go to fine-tune Monster Hunter’s controls to fit modern tastes.
But when you hit your stride and make peace with MH4U’s myriad idiosyncrasies, a feast of content awaits – potentially 100 hours of stalking, resource-gathering and drawn-out (sometimes too much so) boss fights.
Fans of the series will appreciate the increased verticality to the levels – your hunter can now climb. Though he can’t quite jump at will, he can leap on to a beast’s back from a nearby ledge. The famous local co-op mode has – finally! – been extended to online multiplayer. Up to four hunters can co-operate in takedowns that scale according to the number of players.
MH4U is still a franchise trying to shake off the clunky shackles of its past. You will remember its humour – such as the mewling dialogue of your pet assistants – and revel in the challenge of carving up huge dinosaurs. But you will not easily forget its awkwardness and frequently intimidating depth.