Print Edition: January 28, 2015
There’s something thrilling about strapping on a load of heavy equipment, wielding giant weapons bigger than a cow, and fighting monsters so fearsome they can tear the landscape to pieces. Monster Hunter has always been a series of big ideas and big battles. They took the concept of cool boss fights and made a game that is always hitting the high notes.
Next month, February 13 to be exact, the fourth iteration of the series hits Western shores with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Nintendo has been randomly distributing demo codes to 3DS owners and I was lucky enough to experience the preview of the new title.
For those who are familiar with the previous titles, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate brings two new weapons to the series, the Insect Glaive and the Charge Blade, alongside all other previously released weapons. Both weapons are a dynamic change from the previous weapons’ play styles. The Glaive allows players to control a separate entity called a Kinsect to attack monsters and grant the player boons.
Interestingly, the Kinsect and the Glaive upgrade separately, allowing for better player customization. The Charge Blade is similar to the previously added Switch Axe in style, though only moderately in form. Instead of favouring one mode or the other in play style (axe or sword), the Charge Blade requires switching from one mode to the other to complete combos. It also requires recharging of energy and allows for blocking as well as heavy hitting.
Though the demo only has three quests and limited equipment (one set for each weapon type), I can already see the improvements to the system. Moving about the world is much smoother. The ability to climb nearly any wall and hop up small ledges makes the game feel less clunky than previous games in regards to zone travel.
Because of this, there has also been a great improvement in the diversity of terrains on the map. There was only one map available, but it was evident that the designers took into account the movement availability when designing. There are numerous ledges, crags, hidden paths, slopes, and cliffs, much more than previous versions. It makes the environment of Monster Hunter more lively and varied. This is a vast improvement over previous editions, where the battlefields were flat, characterless plains designed to be open so that players could fight the large monsters in arena-like combat.
Battles are now designed to be fought in three dimensions. Even with the reduction of the underwater fights from Tri and 3 Ultimate, the on-land battles feel livelier and the environment can be utilized more freely. This allows for great strategy changes when fighting monsters, giving that added variety so that not every battle feels like just another grind. Sure, there will be common strategies and techniques to easily grind monster parts, but at least now there are options.
Even though it is still early, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is looking like the best game in the series to date. With great new mechanics including portable online and monster riding, as well as customizable cat helpers, it may become the staple in the series. I am eagerly awaiting the fast-approaching release date, and hope that all of you hunters out there are ready for the greatest hunt of all.