Review by silentvving26

"Merely an expansion to Freedom 2? I think not. Rather, this is an entirely new game."

When Unite was announced, many questioned whether the game would be worth the money. Are a few more Hunter Ranks worth the money? Are there enough improvements and additions to actually merit the purchase of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Graphics

Lush environments, crisp animations, and beautiful character models await you. There is no denying it - Monster Hunter is one beautiful game. On the vibrant PSP screen, the game springs to life. Beautiful environment effects, such as waterfalls cascading onto a lake and creating mist, are everywhere. Each environment seems to breathe and live on its own. The developers clearly spent a lot of time perfecting the game's beauty. If you love nature, you'll definitely spend hours simply staring at the beautiful vistas in the game. While there are some bad textures here and there, the game is surprisingly beautiful for a portable device.

The attack animations are simply astounding. Crisp, fluid, and consistent are all words that describe them. Your character moves into attacks and responds with constant response. After playing every single Freedom game, I have yet to notice a single second of slow down during the attacks. Regardless of how much is happening on screen, the game never slows down, nor does it hiccup.

However, there is one slight gripe with the graphics. Enemy hit spots are sometimes lacking. For example, the notorious Plesioth can hit you even if you don't see a point of contact on your screen. While these cases are very few, they are worth mentioning. There is a way around bad hit boxes, however. Your character has a moment of invincibility during a roll. Mastering the technique will render these hit box issues irrelevant.

Weapons and armor sets look beautiful. Such beauty will prompt you to farm for the raw materials that are required for upgrading or creation. Showing off has never been so fun. Working hard to create a new weapon or armor set is exceptionally fun, especially when the hard work is rewarded with crisp art and neat weapon effects.

Gameplay

The players that overcome the incredibly huge learning curve will be rewarded with a tremendously deep and rewarding game. The general premise of the game is as follows.

You play as an unknown hunter that has a limited supply of equipment, all of which is virtually useless. You kill things, upgrade your armor and weapons, kill bigger things, and get even better armor and weapons. Throw in a farm, gathering missions, and a treasure hunting minigame, and you've got a huge game. The entire drive for playing the game is the creation of armor and weapons. Even if it doesn't sound like something that will appeal to you, I guarantee you that it's incredibly exciting and rewarding in-game. This is one of the ideas that is better in real life than on paper.

The environment poses a threat to your character. If you're fighting in the Snowy Mountains, you'll need a Hot Drink or a special armor set to keep your stamina from decreasing. If you're stamina decreases, you won't be able to run for long. Rolling will also be more difficult. As such, an encounter with a deadly creature won't be pretty. If you do a mission in the Desert, you'll need a Cool Drink or a special armor set to keep your health from decreasing. If you're health bar depletes completely, you'll faint, which will eliminate one of your lives. You have 2 lives. Upon your third faint, you'll fail the mission.

Missions are also cut into three major chunks - Hunting, Gathering, and Capture missions. Hunting missions require you to kill a specific creature, or multiple creatures. Gathering requires you to gather a specific item or ore. Sometimes, you'll be able to carry the item in your pack. Other times, you'll need to actually carry the item in your hands and transport it manually. When doing so, falling or being attacked will result in a loss of the item. Such missions are great for laughs and intense moments, even if they are quite difficult at times. Capture missions charge you with the capture or elimination of a specific creature. Capturing is quite fun - you damage an enemy until it has sustained enough damage to be put to sleep. You then set a shock trap, which will render the enemy incapable of moving, and then you use Tranq bombs on it until it falls asleep.
Unique, and quite rewarding.

Players can choose from several weapon types, ranging from a Greatsword to a Longsword to a Hammer to a Lance. Each weapon is entirely different and demands a certain play style. Each weapon is rewarding in its own right and has its own difficulty level when trying to master. With this said, each weapon is better at a specific task than most of the other weapons. For example, and some might disagree, a longsword will kill a Plesioth faster than almost all the other weapon types, if not every other weapon type. Using these weapon types is refreshing, as the gameplay is quite different when you switch from a weapon type you've been using.

An impressive number of foes will also keep you on your toes. Most of the major creatures will require an entirely different strategy and approach, which will prompt you to rethink your strategy. As such, you will be challenged and rewarded through out your experience with the game. When you throw in a large number of maps and different weapon types, you'll find yourself deeply immersed in one great experience.

Controls

While many professional reviewers have condemned this game for its lack of lock-on and for its seemingly lacking controls, I will praise it. Not only are the controls tight and incredibly responsive, they are perfect for the PSP.

Character movement is controlled with the analog stick. The camera can be controlled with the L button and with the Directional Pad. The R button can be held to sprint and it can activate special features that some weapons have. X is used to roll, Square is used to activate an item or sheathe your weapon, Triangle is used to unsheathe your weapon and attack, and O is used to climb ledges or attack with your weapon. The face buttons work well, and the camera can be used efficiently if players are willing to use their left pointer finger. Some players have dubbed this method the "claw" method, since your left hand forms a claw of sorts.

While it is quite uncomfortable at first, after some use the method becomes quite natural. Your left pointer finger will control the left and right D-pad buttons, which control the camera, and your right hand will deal with the major character and weapon mechanics. On a portable, such a design is truly incredible.

Each weapon's attacks feels natural, for the most part, and the buttons respond nicely.

Sound

Epic soundtracks await. From the environment music to the nerve wracking combat soundtracks, there's nothing here that doesn't deserve a perfect score. Upon loading the game and creating your first character, the game's main theme kicks in. It does a great job of capturing your attention. Special music during boss battles serves to keep the fire going. It's as if you're literally in the game.

Weapon sound effects are done nicely. Enemies sounds menacing, and your character's voice, albeit only a series of grunts, resounds nicely.

With earphones, the sound becomes even nicer. The sound gives many console experiences a run for their money. Definitely impressive.

Improvements and Expansion

The game is an entirely new game because of a lengthy list of improvements. Right off the bat, veteran players will notice new missions and new weapon upgrades. A new feature to play with a Felyne partner has also been installed. Thus, fighting is an entirely new experience because of an in-game ally.

There is also a new Village Elder, with entirely new missions. The Gathering Hall missions have been revamped and added to, and new weapon paths will intrigue any returning player. There are also 3 new Hunting Ranks, all of which come with new missions and new enemies to fight. New armor sets and new weapons can be crafted by obtaining parts from these new enemies. Throw in a new set of downloadable content, which is updated regularly, and you've got quite a package for only 30 USD. Compared to Freedom 2, this is 10 dollars less for more than 100 hours extra.

Gone is the annoyance of running out of room at the reward screen. You can now send your hard earned rewards straight to your chest. Gone are the loading times. With the new Data Install option, which require at least 1 gigabyte of memory, loading times are virtually non-existent. Loading a mission took around 15-25 seconds in Freedom 2. Now, with Data Install, loading a mission takes 3-5 seconds. Loading between map areas has been shortened as well, especially when playing with Background Loading enabled and your PSP charger plugged in.

Loading your character at the start menu takes only a few seconds. Equipping armor and weapons happens at the speed of light. Everything about the game's loading is faster. Loading the Pokke Farm takes a few seconds. Going to the Guild or Felyne Kitchen takes a few seconds. Loading times are no longer a problem, and a lack of loading times will keep you immersed for hours without realizing it.

New environment effects are also welcome. Mist is now visible in the Jungle, where huge waterfalls crash onto a lagoon. Smashing a puddle of water with a Hammer results in a huge plume. New lava effects make a return to the Freedom 2 Volcano enjoyable. The graphics themselves seem to be polished and refined. The creatures look shinier. The weapons look crisper. Everything, for some reason, seems to look better.

Some issues.

There are very few issues with Unite. The first is the lack of perfect hit boxes, which was already mentioned. However, these are very few and therefore not too damaging to the game's overall score. There's also the lack of true online in the game. While it's incredibly difficult to understand why Capcom wouldn't install an infrastructure mode, I daresay that it hardly matters. If someone truly desires to play with other people, Xlink Kai and the PS3 service exist. The games have sold quite well, so it should also be easy to find people that play the game in real life. Not to mention, the game is intended to be a portable incarnation of the PS2 games. Therefore, a single player experience makes more sense, rather than an online counterpart.

While Capcom threw in a Felyne comrade to remedy the situation, I didn't feel as if the comrade's AI was top notch. It will heal you and attack the monster, and even attack you to remove a stunned-status effect. However, often times the cat will knock you down and make you easy meat for the enemy, or it'll completely distract the enemy, thereby ruining whatever strategy you'd put into place.

Conclusion

An entire book can be written on the Freedom series. Some say that Unite is only an expansion to Freedom 2. However, I, as a veteran player, respectfully disagree and state that Unite is an entirely new game, especially when the higher level missions are acquired. For players that aren't interested in playing the beginning in order to experience the huge number of improvements, a transfer option exists. While this is very thoughtful of Capcom, I encourage players to also start a new file as to experience the entire game in one go.

Worth the 30 USD dollars? There's no other logical answer besides yes. This game can last you more than 1000+ hours. Which is a very long time.

9/10.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/08/09

Game Release: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (US, 06/22/09)


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