Monster Hunter World Review
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Fall 2018)
Release Date: 1/26/2018
Disclaimer: This product was reviewed on the PlayStation Pro and played with High Framerate Settings with the copy of the game being provided by Gaming Instincts for review purposes
Monster Hunter World is finally here and gamers everywhere are diving into a new adventure. Released in January 2018 worldwide, this is the first Monster Hunter title to come to console since 2012 (Japan) when Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate came to the Wii U. While dominating in the handheld market for years especially in eastern markets, the Monster Hunter franchise has been considered a niche series in western markets but has slowly gained traction over the years. Now with Monster Hunter World releasing on the current generation of consoles, the spike in popularity in western markets has increased dramatically. Shipping over five million copies worldwide in the first three days of release, it has set a record for the Monster Hunter franchise.
Monster Hunter World’s single-player campaign feels much more fleshed out than previous iterations of the series. The game begins by having the player heading to a newly discovered continent to join the Research Commission to study monsters. On the way, the hunter is attacked by the Zorah Magdaros, an elder dragon the size of a small mountain. Learning that the elder dragons cross the ocean to this new world every hundred years or so, the Research Commission discovers that it is happening more frequently every ten years. This sets the hunter on a mission to discover why this is occurring so often and what has set the course for this change in behavior.
The story serves as the main progression point in low-rank hunter quests, moving the hunter up the ranks to discover more challenging monsters along the way. While the cutscenes can feel a little long at points, especially for veteran players, the story mode serves as a great way to get new hunters integrated into the mechanics and gameplay of the Monster Hunter series.
While hanging onto its roots, Monster Hunter World has updated its gameplay for a new generation. One of the most noticeable changes is the lack of loading screens between areas on the map. In previous titles, areas in each different map were numbered and each time a hunter would move from one area to another, there would be a brief loading screen before entering the next area. This was useful in certain circumstances when a player needed to back out from a fight to heal or sharpen their weapon but it always put the action at an immediate standstill. In Monster Hunter World the loading screens no longer exist between areas making the immersion in each new environment much more tangible.
In this iteration, the weapon arsenal has stayed the same giving hunter’s access to the fourteen different weapon types that have been present in the last few games. A few of the weapons have changed, mechanically, however, especially with the ranged weapons. The most welcome change has been the addition of the on-screen reticle for more precise aiming, giving a third person shooter feeling to the ranged weapons. The bowguns, specifically, have a fantastic change in mechanic; mobility. In previous Monster Hunter games, the hunter would have to be at a stand-still (Ala Resident Evil) to fire off these weapons, opening the hunter up for an attack. This was ever-present, especially during solo play. Now, the hunter can move around while shooting, making dodging much easier, and resulting in these weapons being a viable option for solo play.
The crafting system has also received an upgrade. Hunters now have the option to automatically craft items on the fly, once they have collected the necessary ingredients. The weapon crafting menu now has a tier tree starting at the basic weapon type, iron and bone, and branching off in different ways based on monster parts the hunter has collected. The armor crafting is now listed specifically by each monster the set is based on, streamlining a hunter’s ability to see which parts are needed to craft specific armor sets.
For veteran hunters of the series, playing on the console is almost a night and day difference in the smoothness of controlling each of the weapon types. Attacking feels heavy and combos chain together fluidly, adding to the epic feeling of taking on any of the monsters confronted during the journey through this world.
Monster Hunter World has done a fantastic job of bringing in classic favorites from the series and creating new monsters for this unique, new world. Bringing these beasts to console has given the series an extra boost to the scale of the monsters and the epic feeling of the battles. The high definition graphics bring out the small details that make each monster unique as well as provide a clear visual aid as to how much damage the monster has taken (showing torn off wings and broken parts on the monster.) While previous iterations of the series have done this as well, it is now much easier to see, providing hunters with a good idea of how close the monster is to defeat.
The upgraded power the new generation of consoles clearly show off the movement and attacks of monsters. Patterns can be easily read once a hunter has learned to identify different motions before a specific monster’s attack. Status effects can be seen clearly, such as poison dripping from the monster’s mouth or heavy breathing when exhausted. When a monster is close to defeat, the exaggerated animations of limping and weakness give a clear indicator that victory is right around the corner.
The upgrade in visuals and graphics in Monster Hunter World has given an extra layer of uniqueness between environments and has allowed them to almost become characters of their own. From the small animals running around and the bugs skittering along the ground, to the small monsters traveling in packs, the environments feel alive. Each area of the maps have different groups of monsters depending on the foliage and climate. Take the Ancient Forest for example: In the lower grassland areas, hunters will find herbivore packs grazing. As the hunter moves up the forest to the more humid areas, hunters will find more amphibian and reptilian based monsters.
The Ancient Forest and Wildspire Waste environments are pretty clear callbacks to previous maps in the Monster Hunter franchise, a rainforest and a desert area. Monster Hunter World has added two unique environments with the Coral Highlands and the Rotten Vale. The Coral Highlands has a crystal and coral based landscape covered in mushrooms and minerals with many flying small monster groups. The Rotten Vale is a deadly area covered in toxic fumes that are harmful to the hunter, with foliage replaced by piles of bones and remains of monsters. Groups of monsters in the Rotten Vale cause status effects as well, making every angle of this map deadly to hunters. The character of these newly designed environments create an extra layer of depth for player immersion.
One of the cornerstones for the Monster Hunter franchise has always been the ability to play with others in parties of up to four hunters. Monster Hunter World takes advantage of the PlayStation and Xbox networks to matchmake hunters together in sixteen player online lobbies. While in these lobbies, any player can post a quest and others can join. Players can join until the party is full and as long as that player has completed the main story up to the point of the posted quest. However, the matchmaking system does have some issues when attempting to play with friends. In regular online lobbies, it is difficult to pull friends together because of other players consistently dropping in and out. While playing with people online is a huge part of the game, forcing the players to all be at the same point of the game before playing together can be frustrating.
The formation of squads and the use of private online sessions help fix the issue of matchmaking. While in a squad with friends, players can go into the squad menu and instantly join in on a party member’s session without the need for an invite from the other player. Private sessions also seem to be more stable as the players are not constantly having random players trying to join in, taking up space in the lobby.
While the graphics of the environments and models in Monster Hunter World are amazing and look truly next gen, there are noticeable performance issues. When close to monsters, their movements are fluid, but at a distance there are clear frame drops and stuttering, making them look almost like a stop motion animation. In environments that have large amounts of particle effects and foliage, there are major frame drops from time to time which can throw off an encounter, especially since frame animations are key to monster confrontations. While the day-one patch did smooth out these problems a bit, there are still issues that need to be resolved.
Monster Hunter World is in every way the evolution the series needed. While hanging onto its roots, it has found a way to make the series more approachable for new players while keeping the best parts of what veteran hunters love about the series. The only things holding this game back are the issues with matchmaking and the frame drops in certain areas, which hopefully can be resolved by Capcom in the near future. For new players who have always wanted to give this series a try, now is absolutely the time to jump into the world.