Monster Hunter Review

When Capcom announced that the next Resident Evil game would be an online game, gamers everywhere salivated at the thought of an online community of gamers that rivaled Final Fantasy XI or even EverQuest Online Adventures. The truth was that while Resident Evil: Outbreak did support online multiplayer fun, it didn’t quite live up to everyone’s expectations thanks to a number of things that go well beyond the fact that the game didn’t allow voice chat. But leave it up to Capcom to pull something entirely new out of their hat and bring us another online multiplayer adventure. Is Monster Hunter the online game that will make up for Outbreak? Let’s hunt for the answer.

Monster Hunter is a Broadband-only online game that, much like Resident Evil: Outbreak, also has a single player game. The single player mode gives you but a taste of what the online game (called Network Mode) will be like but then again much of the exploration becomes a lonely trip into the game’s exotic landscape where humans share the world with creatures both familiar and grotesquely unique. There is also no real story, merely a collection of quests that serve as tutorials and practice for when you decide to take the game online. The game revolves around a world where the human population hunts down creatures that resemble dinosaurs of our world, hence the title of the game. Hunters, it seems, are looked upon as heroes since villages depend on them to hunt to bring back meat or to safeguard the village from dangerous carnivores.

The first thing you’ll do in the game, whether it’s playing online or offline, is creating your own character. You’ll be able to choose your character’s gender, hairstyle, facial features (which also include skin tone) and even voice (well, not really voices, but grunts, screams and cries). The character creation options are very limited so you won’t have quite an original-looking character. What does give your character a distinct look is how you choose to equip him or her. You’ll be able to go into a village or town and have the local armor upgrade your body armor with items you find or the bones of dead monsters. You can even upgrade your weapons. Weapons consist of bladed weapons such as swords or knives as well as projectile weapons such as blowguns.

Online, the game is played with up to four players. After selecting a server, area and then a town, you’ll move about a town looking for your four companions that will join you in the available quests. The first quests are easy. Some of them having you bring back meat for your village or have you collecting herbs, making potions or learning how to fish and cook your own meat. Then it’s off to slaying dangerous carnivorous creatures such as the velociprey and then even bigger monsters (like the awesome-looking dragons) that threaten the nearby area. Unlike the single player game that has you doing this rather blindly, online you’ll have three other players to cover you in case you’ve lead them into a tight spot.

And unlike a certain game set in Raccoon City, you’ll finally be able to communicate with your fellow adventurers. Monster Hunter allows gamers to use a USB keyboard, although with a Broadband-only connection, a USB headset would have been a lot more preferable. In fact, voice chat would have eliminated a big chunk of what makes this game a clumsy experience. Monster Hunter is the type of game that has players come up with a quest strategy before launching into the quest. There’s nothing quite like voice chat to quickly come up with a game plan if the original plan fails. Typing just doesn’t cut it in a game where the action flows so fluidly. And, with only four players instead of a massive party (as you can have in EverQuest Online Adventures), voice chat would have made communicating change in plans so much easier.

The quests in this game are nice and varied thanks, in part, to the massive world that has you climbing up to reach new areas or using a pick axe to clear a path through breakable walls. One quest has you attempting to grab the egg of a creature known as the Wyvern. Completing the quest can be done in a number of ways like having one companion distract the Wyvern while one player grabs the egg and the other two acts as escorts to the player carrying the egg. Players learn a number of skills useful to the hunt as well. For example, you can set traps like a pitfall trap that trap smaller creatures or you can track a monster by shooting it with a paintball (it then tracks the creature on the map).

All of this sounds great on paper but when it comes to the actual execution, this is where Monster Hunter disappoints. For starters, combat is frustrating because of the awkward control scheme. Thrusts of your bladed weapons require the use of the right analog stick and this could have been all right if the game had a targeting system that locks on to the enemy in question. The result is watching your character miss a lot and get bitten by the enemy. Secondly, because of the lack of voice communication, the game feels much like the Dreamcast version of Phantasy Star Online–in other words, a bit dated. Yet what will test some gamer’s patience is getting in online in the first place. Talk about putting gamers through some unnecessary obstacles. Why not just have us choose a server and an area and be done with it?

One thing that will impress is the game’s graphics. Monster Hunter is a beautiful-looking game with gorgeous landscapes and great-looking monsters. Many of the monsters you’ll face are familiar and thanks to the wonderful detail, you won’t help simply stopping long enough to admire these creatures. The landscapes are nicely rendered and do a great job of immersing the gamer into the exotic world. As for the player created characters, there isn’t a considerable amount of physical details but gamers can be as creative with the armor and weapon upgrades that change the appearance of both.

The sound effects and score, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. You’ll either like it or hate it but there’s no denying how incredibly cool the monsters in the game sound. Much like Capcom’s early dinosaur-themed game Dino Crisis, the dinosaur-inspired monsters have distinct and familiar sounds. The docile herbivores, for example, have a loud but lazy bellow while the velociprey will bring to mind the velociraptors in the movie Jurassic Park. Yet when it comes to environmental noise, you’ll find that the experience of being outdoors isn’t as convincing. You’ll hear babbling brooks and the occasional call of some unseen exotic bird but nothing that really makes you feel like you’re in a lost world. The musical score is decent and is used well enough during key events. When you cook, it’s music that tells you when your meat is fully cooked. As for voice work, you’ll think you’re playing Banjo-Kazooie with the way the NPCs talk. What’s up with that?

Monster Hunter is a fun online adventure that could have been a really amazing game if it wasn’t for the number of things that hold it back considerably. Offline the game is weakened by little interaction and no real plotline, but online is another story. Online you’ll find enough adventures to get into with other gamers and for the most part the majority of the quests are pretty darn fun. Yet as a result of its awkward controls and dated online features, Monster Hunter just makes for a good weekend rental.

Review Scoring Details For Monster Hunter

 Gameplay: 7.0

It’s all about the online Network Mode since the offline single player game really doesn’t satisfy the way Resident Evil: Outbreak does. The short quests are really nice but thanks to the awkward combat controls hunting monsters becomes a frustrating feat.

 Graphics: 8.0

The environments are rendered beautifully and the monsters look spectacular. Player created characters are limited to a few animations and facial features but can wear distinctive armor so you won’t run into many clones out there.

 Sound: 7.8

You’ll hear nearby waterfalls or the unusual sounds the herbivores make while grazing, but don’t expect to be surrounded by a wall of sound. There’s a soundtrack and it’s used at all the right moments. Yet the nonsense babbling you hear from NPCs just doesn’t work.

Difficulty: Medium

Depending on your choice of weapons, hunting monsters isn’t an easy feat, especially when going up against a full-grown dragon. Luckily you have three other companions to back you up in a fight. Thanks to the poor combat controls, you’ll be missing more times than hitting your target.

 Concept: 7.0

The world map is pretty huge but not as impressively massive as those found in other recent online adventures. Yet there are plenty of things to do and the fact that you can hunt, kill and cook your own monster meat makes things a bit more interesting.

Multiplayer: 7.2

Four is a decent number for companions when it comes to Monster Hunter’s quests. Cheers for the missions that require a perfect balance of teamwork and careful planning but jeers for the serious lack of voice chat. My biggest gripe, though, is that getting online is like passing an airport security checkpoint–you have to go through a lot just to get in!

Overall: 7.0

There are a lot of things that make Monster Hunter an entertaining title, but there are a lot more things that make it a mediocre experience. The missions are short and to the point, which works out nicely but if you’re use to exploration EverQuest style, then you’re in for a disappointment. Still, the mild thrills you’ll experience in this game are worth a good rental.