Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: The Kotaku Review

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: The Kotaku Review

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has thus far been 60 hours of The Adventures of Me and My Cat. We've had some great times. Once, my cat got stuck under the claws of a Rathian — your average fire-breathing dragon — and I had to whack it in the head with a hammer to get it off. Another time my cat took one look at a Gore Magala — a darkness-spewing night-black hulk of evil — and ran away, leaving me to deal with it alone. (That didn't go well.) He once saved me from being eaten by running over and bonking me on the head to wake me up after a giant spider sent me to sleep.

You need a friend in Monster Hunter. Not just to distract whichever giant monster is currently giving you the evils, but to help you out at the beginning, when you don't know what's going on. Monster Hunter 4's feline companions are great in a fight and provide welcome levity, but what you really need is another person to show you the ropes, recommend you a weapon and show you how to use it, complement your fighting style, and remind you to take paintballs and whetstones with you on a hunt.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: The Kotaku Review

If you've got a friend, you can bypass all of Monster Hunter's earnest but totally ineffective attempts to educate you with screens of unhelpful text and tutorial missions and skip the worst of the learning curve. Single- and multiplayer Monster Hunter are two halves of the same whole: when you hit a wall in the single-player quests, it's finding a group and taking on the multiplayer quests that gets you through (and that gets you better equipment). From watching other players, you learn how a monster behaves and what techniques work best against it. It's like Dark Souls, in that way.

This is my sixth Monster Hunter game, so figuring out the basics was not a problem that I had, but I still remember my first ten hours with Monster Hunter Freedom in 2006 and how frustrating and impenetrable it was. Nowadays, thanks to online hunting (which works very well in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate), wikis and the increasing popularity of Monster Hunter outside of Japan, you don't have to be alone. I've played a few hunts with Monster Hunter newcomers this time around, and it's only by observing their bafflement that I've remembered how off-putting Monster Hunter can still be for beginners, with its dense menus and forests of icons and stats.

A couple of hunts in, though, that fades into the background. When you've felt the rush of toppling something twenty or fifty times your own size and fashioned hats out of its carcass, Monster Hunter's strengths come to the fore. This is, by now, an impressively honed action game, with 14 distinct and balanced weapon classes and some of video games' most impressive, intimidating enemies to kill with them. Changing weapons completely changes the game's tempo. If you're a gunner, it's all about staying back and firing until the last second before sprinting away from a monster, whereas lancers and hammer-users get right up in a dragon's grill.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: The Kotaku Review

I used to alternate between the Gunlance — which is a huge lance that fires shells from its tip, amazingly — and the longsword, a zippy, technique-led weapon, but I've been won over by Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate's two new classes, the Insect Glaive and the Elite Blade. The glaive is a twirly stick paired with — stay with me — a robotic insect-thing that you can fire at larger enemies to collect their "essence", and the Elite Blade is a sword and shield that transforms into a gigantic greatsword, kind of like the Switch Axe. They are great fun to use, a welcome change from the Monster Hunter weapons I've been relying upon for years.

The Glaive highlights one of the main changes in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: you can now climb everything. You can scale walls and icicles and even the monsters themselves - if you leap onto them and attack, you can cling onto them for dear life whilst they flail and roar, stabbing them in the quiet intervals to damage them.

The monsters themselves, fittingly, are still what make Monster Hunter so enjoyable for me - they're right on the line between believable and fantastical. When you see them out in the wild, in their habitat, they look like they belong there, whether they're a hulking stone-covered Urugaan stomping around volcanic plains, or an elder dragon sitting majestically atop a mountain. Monster Hunter 4 puts all its best new monsters right up front, and there are some incredible fights here. The final low-rank single-player quest had my heart in my mouth for the whole 30-minute fight, despite the fact that I've done this many times before at this point. Felling a real bastard of a monster gives you a headrush, especially if it's after a few failed attempts. Some are so majestic that you feel bad for killing them.

Facing lots of new monsters right from the off really helps the pace of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. There are very few tutorial quests, boring gathering expeditions, or fights with familiar monsters, which make it feel more exciting from the start. The story also moves at a much snappier pace, and instead of being chained to one hub-town, you move around between several places that differ significantly both in character and appearance. There's a town at the foot of a volcano, a paradise island that's home to about forty cats, and a village in the clouds. Moving around these different places helped keep me motivated.

It's helped enormously by the quality of the localisation, too. Monster Hunter is full of goofy puns and entertaining dialogue. Even the cats have their own dialect. There's such attention given to this translation; it's a world away from the dry, functional prose of most of Monster Hunter's competitors. These games are known for being tough — and they are — but they're also funny and sweet and never too serious. Even when you've just failed a quest because a pink gorilla caught you up against a wall in an unlucky death-combo, you can't help but smile when you're returned to your village and see a little pig wandering around in a sombrero.

I can't help but wish Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was on a bigger screen than the 3DS'. It looks good — especially on the New 3DS — but sometimes a whole monster can't even fit on that little screen, and you're left hacking away at a leg or a tail without being able to see what's going on. 3 Ultimate might not have been the best-looking game on the Wii U, but a bigger screen accentuated Monster Hunter's sense of scale. Plus, there was more room for all those menus.

After a certain point, Monster Hunter is as much a lifestyle as a game. It requires dedication from you, and doesn't offer up its best fights until you've made the effort to get to know it. Extraordinarily, you won't face some of its most impressive monsters until you've played for a hundred hours, but it's perhaps just as extraordinary that Monster Hunter still has new things to offer after that time. You could play Monster Hunter for 30 hours and enjoy it hugely, but if you really get sucked in then it becomes almost its own subculture. Your head fills with all this weird knowledge about decoration stat bonuses and skill activations. You don't need to dive that far into Monster Hunter to get a lot of fun out of it, but I really revel in the dorkiness of it all. It will entertain you for about as long as you want it to, whether that's 10 hours or 300.

After 60 hours, I'm only at the beginning of my time with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Once the game's out in the wild, there will be new quests every few weeks, new people to hunt with, and new Nintendo-themed costumes for my cat. Having slowly converted almost all of my friends to the Monster Hunter cause over the past eight years, I've already got people to enjoy it with, but 4 Ultimate is good enough to bring a lot of new people in to join us.


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      on a more serious point, it does still have that issue for new comers, which is pretty unfortunate but it is just so deep and varied I don't know how they could possibly hope to over come that. Without 20 hours of tutorials like FFXIII had there would always be something missing.

        The major issue I think is it's uniqueness. Pick up a first person shooter and chances are that it is similar to any other fps. MH requires its own skill set that you can only acquire through actually playing through it. Those skills however persist and carry over to other games in the series

          The issue I had with 3 was the tutorial was so long and naggy I turned it off and never picked it up again, I prefer to learn things for myself.

        As someone who only came to the party for Monster Hunter 3 because it came with my Wii U I can say the issues for new comers aren't as big a deal as you'd think. There's a fair bit to play before it starts to matter that you don't know what you're doing, which gives the player a 'softcore mode' and showcases how the game plays in a throwing punches sense, and then it quickly becomes apparent that using Google to actually learn how to do things is part of the game (well, that's how I felt about MH3U, can't say for sure about 4).
        It's nice because I started off not knowing anything, enjoyed the core experience and then reached a point where it became clear that my knowledge of the games systems was valued by the game. There's no 'for absolutely no in-character reason this doesn't work because the developers thought it made the fight easy' which is super refreshing when you're used to games breaking their own rules to kill you just for the sake of making it 'hard'.

          Yeah, I didn;t become competent at MH until I was able to easily Google info, but back in the days before the information was easily accessible online was a confusing time. I personally don't mind doing it, but I can understand why a lot of people dislike the necessity of researching it

          Yeah 3U did a far better job of difficulty curve than the earlier titles though.
          Also should you really need to google where items are? it annoys me why the manuals dont like auto tell u in the game - they know we can google it anyway,

          Last edited 13/02/15 12:09 pm

            I played 3 ultimate as a new comer, I enjoyed it but got bored after around 20 hours and I think it was partly due to the lack of hand holding. I'm all for difficult games but I reached a point where while I knew that this game had tons more to show me I seemed to just be repeating the same actions over and over with out really progressing and I don't think I really found all the things i could have been doing, it wasn't that the fights were too hard it just felt too secretive in it's content if that makes sense.

            Last edited 13/02/15 12:22 pm

    pig wandering around in a sombrero

    Seriously though, I was worried for a bit the pig wouldn't make it to this game.

      Poogie is what Monster Hunter is actually all about, hugging pigs and changing its outfit. pretty sure poogie has a girlfriend this MH too.

      Last edited 13/02/15 2:04 pm

    My inner monologue as a Playstation owner is singing "Where'd you go? I miss you so, seems like it's been forever, that you've been gone."

      MH is pretty decent on 3DS, but it's still the ultimate travesty it's not on Vita. Two true analogs, better system specs, dat OLED. Hngh. I spent so much time with MH thumb on PSP, I'll never know what it's like on a PS handheld with proper analogs.

      *moment's silence*

        Well there is Monster Hunter Frontier on Vita, but sadly Capcom has decided the west doesn't get that monster hunter game :(

          I still player unite from time to time on my Vita as it not even trolling-ly looks on par with current gen MH on the Wii U. The resolution difference between the PSP and the VITA does wanders for how the game looks.

      Hopefully God Eater makes its way to the west on Vita some time, I've heard good things

    The first thing I noticed was the improved movement. I think the characters might run slightly faster now, but even if they don't the mantling and climbing options make the game seem significantly more fluid.

    Being able to interact with the monsters in a more free-form way also opens up the combat to more creativity.

    Spiking a 50 tonne monster out of the air with the glaive is possibly the most badass thing I've ever seen in a game.

    If you are new to the series I suggest looking up Gaijin hunters tutorials on youtube they are stupidly easy to understand and get into things.

    I played the hell out of MH Tri on the Wii...but I think that's where my MH adventure will end. I wasn't enthused about the Wii U only getting basically a HD remake of MH Tri with a couple of new monsters, I felt like I had already given my time to that game.

    I don't own a 3DS (or a Vita) so I haven't experienced the games on those systems, and it also means I likely won't experience this one.

    I think I'm done, unless an actually NEW installment comes to consoles and does enough to rope me in.

    Does anyone know if this will have a Wii U release? Super keen for that!

    The learning curve in times past has been tough - however it just makes the mastery of the game all the more satisfying. I think that's why Dark Souls has done so well too ie tough to master however super satisfying once you do. I love the combat and the way that the game is kinda childlike and fun, yet serious and compelling at the same time. It's a rare breed with personality and basing a game around timed boss battles is such a great idea.

      extremely unlikely at this stage, probably have to wait for MH5, then again MH has become somewhat known as a portable game after its days on the PSP

    It took me ages (and a few online guides) to be able to MH3U on the Wii U but now I love it.
    Got a free demo code from Nintendo for this game & enjoyed trying the two new weapons (am usually a Switch Axe kind of bloke, so the Change Blade has a good feel to it).

    but yes, way too small a screen to have it on.
    Wish that they brought out a Wii U version but that might be down the line.
    Just wish that the controls were a bit smoother. needs to be played on a NEW 3DS because of the camera nub.

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