Monster Hunter World review: Vegetarians need not apply
Monster Hunter World (PS4/XO) ★★★★★ Age: 12+
This might just have as well been subtitled "fantastic beasts and where to find them", for it's the latest in Capcom's long-running Monster Hunter franchise. Nothing to do with JK Rowling and everything to do with communal expeditions to track and slay gargantuan animals.
Vegetarians and bloodsport opponents should look away now. MHW revels in the thrill of the hunt, the chase of the monster to exhaustion and, after the triumphant kill, the carving of its meat for food and resources.
It has always been thus in a series dating to 2004 that never made much of an impact outside its home in Japan. But MHW is an effort to go global, to seduce the masses with newly streamlined gameplay systems and a more westernised, open-world approach.
You can see Capcom has strived to slough away some of the more obtuse trappings of the series, injecting a meaningful narrative, easing newcomers in gently with tutorials and making buddying up more seamless. But MHW remains quite eccentric, even silly, with clunky menus, clichéd character tropes and features that go unexplained to the novice.
Nonetheless, most qualms get swept away when you're caught up in the exhilarating pursuit of a 10-metre-tall T-rex or one of the myriad other leviathans. You might work with team members to chip away at the moving skyscraper until it falls. Or you might lure another lumbering beast to intervene and do your dirty work.
MHW offers such a complex interplay of systems, it rarely feels repetitive, even when you're grinding away at the same monster type. It's not an unqualified success but it's a meaty game with plenty to savour.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
(XO) ★★★★★ Age: 18+
It would be easy to overlook this belated port of a 2014 PS4/PC chiller, but fans of intense mysteries should give it a whirl. It belongs to a genre unfairly dubbed "walking simulators" but there's much more to the Vanishing than ambling from place to place, drinking in the atmosphere.
It threads the story of a missing boy into a frankly terrifying yarn about a great evil awoken in a small town. Undoubtedly, walking forms the core of the experience, but the eerily quiet forest-valley setting easily draws you in, the photorealistic visuals (particularly on Xbox One X) presenting one spectacular view after another. Even if that includes a dismembered body or the remains of a demonic ritual.
Vanishing tells you little, leaving you to intuit the correct path or significance of a discovery. Even the puzzles need not be solved (at least not until near the conclusion). But when it finally reveals its moving final twist, you'll feel it will have been all worth the confusion in the end.