Review: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

A new way to slay!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/10/2015 06:00 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Great presentation; Fun gameplay; Tons of quests and content; Customization of epic proportions; New 3DS enhancements make the game even better, but the game rocks on old hardware, too; Online and local multiplayer; Art direction and creature designs
Poison Mushroom for...
Game is unflinchingly dense-- has a lot to learn, and though it might be easier to do so this time around, will still be polarizing for some; Some recycled assets from MH3U; Twitchy targeting system during battles

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate just might be the game that finally, truly lands this series on the map in the West.

That’s not to say that Monster Hunter isn’t popular here in the States; Nintendo fans alone have been taking on beasts and monsters of all sizes ever since Monster Hunter Tri hit Wii back in 2010. Since then, players have been graced with two upgraded versions of that game in the forms of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U and 3DS. All three versions of Monster Hunter 3 were a joy, but if there was one thing they all had in common, it was a lack of accessibility. As someone who owns and played that trio of games, I can say that I spent more time than I would have preferred in the beginning learning all the different details and nuances of hunting, and that at times it stretched my patience more than I’d care to admit.

That can be very problematic for a franchise that is trying to get its footing in a new environment. Though fans often clamber for more parity between Japanese and Western game releases, Monster Hunter, a raging hit in the East, continues to only flirt with full-blown success overseas. Apparently knowing that fans had to begrudgingly resign themselves to slogging through pages of menus to learn the ins and outs of what is essentially a hack and slash game, Capcom decided to expend a great deal of effort in making MH4U as intuitive as possible.

It’s an investment that’s apparent from the outset of the game. As I mentioned in my recent hands-on with MH4U, the game starts by asking players if they prefer to be guided through in-game tutorials or if they’d rather go it alone. I chose to soak in the tutorials, and my experience was all the better for it. The game deftly kept me up to speed on everything I needed to know without making me feel like I was being led around like a little boy on a field trip. Though MH4U is every bit as deep and features-rich as its predecessors, somehow I never felt overwhelmed by its breath of activities and details as I did in the past.

The production values for MH4U are brilliant across the board. The game opens with an incredible battle at sea with a massive monster, setting the tone immediately and showing off just what Capcom was able to visually achieve on 3DS. I thought MH3U looked good on the handheld, but MH4U is a step above, boasting some intricate, beautiful art direction and lighting. The monsters in particular are very cool, a sort of hodgepodge of brand new mixed with older beasts from the series, and even a bit from outside of it; I swear I can see some Resident Evil in the various creatures. The sound production is exception, as well, with a rousing soundtrack and excellent sound effects.

Interestingly, there is a notable difference to be had playing MH4U on a New 3DS XL versus an older model. Load times are significantly cut when playing on New 3DS XL, and though they’re completely reasonable on the original iterations of the hardware, it’s hard to go back after experiencing the game with fewer of them. The C-Stick further enhances the experience, allowing for much easier manipulation of the in-game camera. A Circle Pad Pro of course facilitates the same user friendly camera controls, but for anyone who has been on the fence about upgrading to the new hardware, this game already shows how advantageous it can be to a gameplay experience.

As I mentioned above, MH4U is a hack and slash game, meaning combat is primarily all about swinging swords and axes and so forth at a myriad of foes. I feel like that’s underselling the game a bit, however, as MH4U takes the best of what’s come before and expands upon it. There are also shooting options available for those who want to take monsters on at a safer distance; the wealth of weapons to choose from is empowering, and should satisfy almost any player preference. It’s some of the deepest combat the series has yet seen, and there’s a visceral thrill to hammering on beasts and walking away victorious that is fairly unique to this series. Players are allowed to customize which weapons they want to use, and finding the setup that works best is a big part of the thrills. MH4U has introduced the ability to make leaping attacks against enemies, and even mount the creatures like in a rodeo. If that sounds ridiculously fun… well, it is! Combat is frenetic and rewarding in ways that will be especially satisfying to longtime fans.

Of course, the other big draw of Monster Hunter is collecting items for completing quests and upgrading both armor and weapons, which MH4U also handles very well. Monsters can be killed, but they can also be captured, which yields different materials for hunters– in fact, even monsters can be taken apart piece by piece, which adds even more variability to gathering resources. Maximizing a hunter is a joy in and of itself, and acquiring new armors and items can lead to different (and very useful) abilities to wield in battle. These abilities become even more important when taking on MH4U‘s numerous quests. Some advance the main campaign, while others are simply for mining resources or completing sidequests. The game makes it easy to flip through the quests using a simple color-coding system and identify particular types of tasks that a player might want to engage in. This is especially useful during the game’s multiplayer hunts.

For the first time ever on a portable console, players can tackle quests with three other players in both local and online multiplayer hunts in MH4U. Joining lobbies is smooth and effortless, a marked improvement over previous games. With four hunters able to take on a quest, it’s a huge boon for those missions that seem completely insurmountable when tackled solo. I can’t stress how Monster Hunter takes on a different dimension when enjoyed with friends. It’s reminiscent of other games, like Call of Duty, but with the focus being on teamwork. It’s easy to become hyper aware of colleagues during a frenzied battle, keeping track of their health and sharing resources where necessary. When a battle with a monster keeps raging on and a squad of hunters fights tirelessly to bring the thing down, it’s in those moments that players will really understand what makes Monster Hunter so addicting.

MH4U isn’t without some flaws, however. The game’s lock-on camera is reminiscent of Zelda’s Z-Targeting system– without the locking-on part. With a tap of the L Button, the camera will re-position to face whatever monster is being battled, but it doesn’t remain focused. When battles become harried, it can be a little frustrating to have to keep adjusting the camera to remain positioned on the enemy. Also, some of the avatar customization was a letdown; the assets for creating a player’s custom hunter are basically stripped straight out of MH3U. It’s not the biggest flaw, as the character becomes draped in armor and is essentially unseen beneath it all, but I still would’ve welcomed more new looks and options for my hunter.

My last gripe isn’t totally a gripe, but it does come back to the issue of accessibility. I can’t praise Capcom enough for making this a game that any player can try to sink their teeth into. That said, MH4U is still a game that is as dense as it comes. There is a lot to do and see, a lot to experience, and players will either embrace that about MH4U and dive in head first, or they won’t. MH4U wants anyone who gives it a whirl to feel welcome and guided to the extent that they need to be, but it also doesn’t shy away from what it is. It’s a series that demands investment from its players. It’s made for those who love to micro manage inventory and equipment, for those who like to grind, and it isn’t apologetic about. Nor should it be, because for those who are keen on these types of titles, it’s among the best. For those who aren’t in that camp, MH4U might not sway them to change their minds, but it’ll put up a heck of fight, nonetheless.

MH4U is a milestone achievement for Capcom’s unique series. It looks, sounds, and plays better than ever, belying the fact that it’s running on a handheld and not a home console. With a seemingly endless assortment of quests to play through either individually or through the game’s solid online options, and more on the way in the form of DLC, MH4U won’t be leaving anyone’s 3DS any time soon. MH4U‘s depth and challenge might not be the taste of every gamer, but with Capcom’s emphasis on accessibility and new player conscientiousness, anyone who was put off by previous entries or has been curious about the series in the past can give it a try without hesitation. MH4U is the best Monster Hunter yet, and it’s not to be missed.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

One Response to “Review: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

  • 156 points
    excaliburguy says...

    I retired MH3U this past Sunday, and the total game time clocked in at about 640 hours. Needless to say, I am SUPER excited for MH4U, or “stoked” if you will. One of the biggest letdowns of MH3U was the fact that you couldn’t bring a 3DS player online with you, so my brother couldn’t play with my cousin and I on Wii U. This problem has been rectified in 4, however, as we all have 3DSs. I even convinced my friend to get the game, so we should have a full hunting party. Playing though MH3U with my faraway cousin was one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have ever had, and it looks like MH4U is going to be no different. I am ret to go for Friday.

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