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David Low
17 Jun, 2005

Monster Hunter Review

PS2 Review | An online action RPG for people with a life?
Monster Hunter is an online action RPG, but not an MMORPG. You don’t have to join clans, spend ages setting up an imaginary life, and then devote your real life to it. It works more like a regular online action game – you meet in a town with some other players and then head out on a quest together. Set in a world where humans with a 19th century grasp of technology co-exist with dinosaurs of various types, most of the quests involve - you guessed it – hunting for monsters! It also has a series of offline missions, giving it a substantial offline mode – a feature that is usually absent or underdeveloped in this type of game. And while Capcom have succeeded to some extent in making the single player experience worthwhile, it’s really just a bonus – online is still where the game belongs.

When you first start, you create your character with an almost unbelievably small number of customisation options. Think five faces, five skin colours. Luckily Mr or Mrs generic will be hidden under the far more customisable armour and weapons soon enough. In a regular online game, you wade through various screens and select server and town, then head to the market place or pub. After chatting with the others there, you ask the chief about what quests are available, then head off with your new buddies to kill some beast or other. Unfortunately the game is text chat only, but it works well enough with a compatible keyboard. Don’t even bother trying with the onscreen keyboard, though.

Luckily you can hide the generic character models under piles of armour.

Luckily you can hide the generic character models under piles of armour.
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The offline part is basically the same - it's just a bunch of single player quests. It’s a way for an online game to function without other people. A neat touch is that that single player is set in a small village, rather then a town, so you’ll be their own local ‘monster hunter’. It still has a shop and a smith, but the item selections are sometimes quite different, so it’s worth checking out every now and then. You play the same character online and offline, so it can obviously be useful to learn some techniques or earn some money and items while your sister is using the interweb to google her own name.

The control scheme in Monster Hunter is a little different from what you’d expect. You move with the left analog stick, and all attacks are mapped to the right stick. Different directions and motions on the stick give different attacks, depending on the weapon. It works quite well and frees up the buttons for menu related tasks, but it’s often quite difficult to manage a series of hits in a straight line. Your character lunges forward during many sword attacks, often pushing you to a spot where you can’t get another hit in. The d-pad controls the camera – meaning you can’t move and manually adjust the camera at the same time, which can also get annoying. Pressing R1 drags the camera behind your character Zelda style, which you’ll find yourself doing more often then not. If only they’d gone with that thought and added lock-on z-targeting….

The face buttons work as a quick item select system, where X is ‘use’ and circle and square cycle through your equipped inventory. To begin with it’s a bit awkward, and you may lose some items by accidentally using or discarding them. But eventually it becomes second nature, and it quite a good system for situations where changing items on the fly is important.

Speaking of items, depth and replay value are added to the game courtesy of the deep item collection system. At towns you will find both standard shopkeepers along with a weapon smith – who can create armour and weapons out of objects you find throughout the game world. After killing most dinos you can gut the corpse, usually giving you some life replenishing meat, but sometimes you’ll get a rib or some hide which can be used (in conjunction with other items) to create many hundreds of exotic new weapons and pieces of armour. You can still buy pre-made armour and swords, of course, but pretty soon you’ll be leaving those behind for your own creations. There are a huge number of animals to kill and plants to hack, and the system encourages exploring the land and experimenting with all the items you can find. And you can literally wear your triumphs! This ‘customisation by experience’ feature is probably the game’s strongest point.

Nice Dinosaurs..................now gimme that rib!

Nice Dinosaurs..................now gimme that rib!
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Monster Hunter impresses with its graphics. The environments are expansive looking, clear and filled with life. Tight jungle corridors are lush with vegetation; huge climbable mountains have nice rock textures and plenty of detail. The dinosaurs that populate almost every area are fairly detailed and animate well while standing alone. Big boss monsters are espescially impressive. The animation of the humans and monsters when moving and fighting is pretty standard fare, but does the job well. Some of the lighting is impressive, too.

But you start to see the graphical flaws and shortcomings fairly quickly. No effort has been made to combat clipping, so feel free to walk right through that dinosaur’s tail, just as they can walk right through each other. The expanses in the distance are just bitmaps, and any animated life beyond the immediate area has about 2 frames of animation. Nonetheless, it's a great looking PS2 game, and considering the open-ended nature of the world and the online component, the graphics engine remains impressive.

run!

run!
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So how does it play? Well, apart from the sometimes-awkward controls, pretty well. Just exploring by yourself can be quite fun, hunting down a rare beast for it’s bones even moreso. The correct use of tools makes you feel intelligent in the way you catch or kill something – even when you’ve had it explained to you by the chief.

Hunting down a large beast with three others is where it’s really at, though. After working with others to leave dragon bait all over the place, then receiving the message ‘over here, we need swords now!’, rushing to the place, then working together to take down key hit zones (like the legs) can be as epic as this scentence is long. Maybe it’s just that you don’t want to let other real people down, but because of the involvement of others, it feels more real then single player games of it’s type.


Of course, there are problems too. The biggest one is that text chat is of no use in the heat of battle. Another problem is that after a fight you have to rush in to collect your share of the bounty – which can be unfair if you’re further away for some tactical reason like sniping. And while you can’t harm other players, you can knock them out of the way on the way to a valuable item. Finally, you’ll almost certainly end up going on missions you’ve already completed, simply because someone else in the group needs to do that one to progress. A local problem is that the game is on USA servers, and they’ve had the game for almost a year – expect to be captain noob for a while. But overall, the system works quite well.


So if you’re after a 'pick up and play' online game that’s co-operative, rather then competitive, this one’s quite good. Don’t bother with it for offline only play – unless you’re seriously into dungeon crawls and fetch quests.
The Score
If you want an online dungeon crawler with a decent atmosphere, nice visuals and repetitive but social and sometimes exciting action, this will do nicely. Don't bother for offline only play. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 Comments
8 years ago
A fair review ;p

Just a note though PAL users have their own servers. So you are only playing with other PAL friends icon_smile.gif
8 years ago
Ashmaran wrote
A fair review ;p
Why thank you.
Quote
Just a note though PAL users have their own servers. So you are only playing with other PAL friends icon_smile.gif
Really? I was playing with 20 others on the servers 1 week before the game was out in Australia!

I'll try again tomorrow, maybe thay've added local servers now? But they certainly seemed to be Americans at the time....
8 years ago
Maybe your review copy connected to the american servers instead?
8 years ago
^ Online games are weird. A few of my friends have Guild Wars, and their copies connect to European Servers while mine connect to the US version [/random]
8 years ago
You can change what servers Guild Wars connects to in the Edit Account menu. icon_wink.gif
8 years ago
Yeah im pretty sure the review code connects to different servers than the retail. Save files arent compatible either.
8 years ago
CerebralAssassin wrote
You can change what servers Guild Wars connects to in the Edit Account menu. icon_wink.gif
lol I know, But I mean by the games default
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Capcom Entertainment
Developer:
  Capcom Japan
Players:
  4

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