Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
Review by MetalGearManiac
"Monster Hunter! Giving you ulcers and making you love it since 1999!"
Monster Hunter, more then any other series, has two distinct lives. It's life in Japan is one of luxury. Monster Hunter games are their equivalent of Grand Theft Auto, the game enjoys an amazing level of love and respect that few other franchises enjoy. Then, there is the American life. It started as a very cult hit, and still is, but now instead of being like that vampire cult that meets in your friend's basement, it's become the Rocky Horror of games. Her fans can't get enough, they continuously grow in number and dedication, experiencing something the outside community fails to appreciate.
And fail to appreciate they do. I will not name names here, but many "professional" reviewing sites run into the same problem most Monster Hunter (hereafter MH) newbies do. This game is hard. It will kick your ass and throw you against a wall, then kick your ass again. Instead of getting past these "walls" (using guides like Darksun45230's amazing work will help), they chalk their difficulty up to a problem with the game instead of a problem with themselves. This problem is much better then it used to be (look at some review for old MH games), but people still can't get a handle on the game, and decide that Capcom is at fault.
Overall, the series has long been misunderstood, yet the developers keep hammering away, making the experience better each time. MHFU is the culmination of those efforts, and it shows. While being an expansion to MHF:2, not a true sequel, it still manages to add more content then one could imagine, while still preserving what has made MH one of the best series out there.
Anyone who has read one of my reviews knows what follows. I go through the game's basic areas, then get into some subjective stuff. I will break down the game into graphics, gameplay, control, longevity, and overall experience. Enjoy hunting fans!
One look at this game and it would be hard to imagine that this is a PSP game. The graphics are sharp, detailed, and run at a smooth framerate. Go ahead, check again. Satisfied that this is a PSP? Alright, moving on. Each environment has a very distinct look to it, and its hard to account for all the detail the developers were able to cram onto a UMD. The monsters themselves look beautiful (until they try to eat your face), and each have their own little eccentricities that make them unique. With graphics this sharp, it would be expected that the load times would be horrendous. There was a time where loading left a lot to be desired, but not anymore. MHFU has the best loading times of the series, and for those who have a high capacity memory stick (they're only 20 bucks or so, get one, its worth it) you can install the game onto the stick, decreasing the times even further. With all this smexy greatness, some will ask why a 9 instead of a 10. The main issue revolves around some odd blurs and graphical hitches that are common issue when it comes to fast moving PSP games. It's not a major issue, but it does keep the graphics from being "flawless".
The meat and potatoes of any game, the MH series is known for it's ability to be a slow and fast paced game at the same time. Players go into battle with one of eleven weapons, each providing a drastically different experience. If you want to do hit and run style attacks, a Sword and Shield or Dual Sword is your best bet. If you want to go deep and hard (that's what she said), take a Great Sword or Lance. For those who like to snipe from a distance, a Light or Heavy bowgun is your best bet. Then there are weapons for everything in between (Long Sword, Hammer, Hunting Horn, Gunlance, Bow). I'll wait a sec so everyone can pick their jaws off the floor. All good? Alright, anyway creating these weapons requires materials. Some materials you get from gathering at the farm or in the field, but most require the player to hunt down monsters.
The actual hunting is a joy once you get used to the control scheme (discussed later), but once the learning is out of the way, nothing stands between you and hunting glory.... except for Yian Kut-Ku. I won't lie, this game is hard as hell. It makes players cry and throw their (overly fragile) PSP across the room, hopefully landing on a soft object. Once you get into a fight, a knowledge of the enemy and quick reflexes are all that will keep a hunter in one piece. Upon facing your first beast, you will die, a lot. There is a definite learning curve to overcome here. Once the player overcomes the curve (and it will happen, guaranteed) hunting becomes second nature. Each enemy is unique, and mastering them will be challenging, but victory is genuinely rewarding. Too many games these days rely on hand-holding the entire way through. Take Call of Duty 4. A player could select "Easy", rip though the game, and that's it. If they select "Veteran", the fight will be frustrating, nigh unfair, but in the end the feeling of satisfaction will be much greater. That's what MHFU is all about, hard fights, but great satisfaction when GREAT SUCCESS is achieved.
And always remember, hit them is the weak point for massive damage.
Control: (Initially, 6/10; after practice 8/10)
Controls almost always an issue for PSP games. Unless the game starts with "L" and ends with "oco Roco" packing in every control necessary without the luxury of a second stick is hard. The individual component of the MHFU scheme are solid. Camera and movement is controlled on the left of the system, and combat on the right. The left face buttons are for camera, the stick for movement, and the left bumper for re-centering the camera. On the right, triangle and circle are for attacks, square is for item use, the cross is for evasion, and right bumper for special attacks.
All good right? The first quests are fine, but when wyvrens start rearing their heads, it becomes an issue. Controlling movement, combat, and the camera at the same time is a hassle. Players will have a hard time adapting, and the inability to smoothly move the camera leads to many a death. Eventually, players will adapt with a technique called "fingerhooking". This involves hooking the left index finger to hover over the d-pad, and adjusting the camera that way. It is not a replacement for a second analog stick or a lock-on system (I do not support a lock-on, I think everything is fine the way it is, but it is something that has been mentioned in the past), but rather a way of compensating. It takes a lot of practice, but it will eventually become second nature.
Each Monster Hunter game has enough content contained within to survive an entire console generation. Even so, Capcom continues to give the fans new content, quests, and weapons to enjoy. MHF2 and Unite added downloadable quests, further extending the life of each game, and with eleven weapons to master, and hundreds of quests, don't expect the death of the series any time soon. Another thing to note, although the game only officially supports ad-hoc play, using a WiFi Max (or comparable equipment) and Xlink Kia allows players to hunt online with other players worldwide. I know, it costs money to get the equipment, and not everyone wants to pay extra money just to play online. Just think of it as a one-time investment that will bring hundreds of hours of more playtime. A couple of bucks now seem tiny in comparison.
This game is nothing but choices. With countless different weapons to choose from, dozens of monsters to hunt, and hundreds of quests to choose from, the player has countless options. Sure, controlling the game takes some getting used to, and hunting down the baddies is a struggle, but the reward is great. Every monster killed is just more materials to beef up weapons/gear and only aids the player. Take into account downloadable quests and online play, and the possibilities are endless. The Monster Hunter series is finally coming into it's own in America. Reviewers are no longer automatically shooting down every game that comes along (cough, IGN, cough Gamespot, alright I lied about not naming names), and one can actually see advertisements for the games cropping up. This is truly a masterpiece of a game, and one that should not be missed by any gamer. If you have a PSP, get this game. If not, get a PSP, then get this game. The economy may be in the crapper right about now, but a $200 investment for hundreds of hours of enjoyment (that would be $1000 dollars for a hundred hours of going to the movies) is great for the long run. Great for everyone but this reviewer, who had to type this with one hand after getting the other bit off by a Rathalos.
Final Verdict: Just buy it already!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/06/09
Game Release: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (US, 06/22/09)
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