Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

If you've never heard of Monster Hunter, chances are pretty good this whole internet thing is new to you too. Monster Hunter, you see, is a bona fide phenomenon in Japan. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to claim that the series is almost single-handedly responsible for the success of the PSP in Japan - that it's coming exclusively to Wii is no small coup for Nintendo, either.

Freedom Unite (known as Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G in Japan) is the latest iteration of the franchise and Capcom are determined to bring about the same sort of success in the West that it has enjoyed back home. Based on what we've seen, we reckon they've got a pretty good shot as well... let's take a look.

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The premise of the game, at the high level at least, is relatively straight forward. Monster Hunter is an action RPG - your goal is to take your character, kill monsters and use the rewards from the hunt to improve your character so that you can kill bigger, badder monsters. There are NPCs that give you quests to complete, loot that drops from kills and impressive multiplayer options that let you bring your friends along for the hunt.

There are a LOT of options in Monster Hunter. Ignoring the fact that there are 400+ quests to complete, there's also an in-depth crafting system, NPCs to hire to fight alongside you (in single player only), the ability to gather resources, farm items, learn how to cook and much more. There are, in fact, more options than some MMOs have to offer - all without the monthly fee. Like an MMO, however, it can all be pretty overwhelming at first. There's a lot going on and they don't waste any time telling you about it - you'll be inundated with instructions and options from the get go and they don't ever let up.

The game is MASSIVE. Absolutely gargantuan. There are so many areas, quests and monsters it can all be pretty intimidating. The user interface is decidedly average in implementation and takes quite some time to learn your way around. Capcom, if you're listening, Blizzard can teach you a thing or two here. A good interface would help draw new players into the game considerably over what is present here.

Combat is considerably more in depth than any other action RPG on the market. Your choice of weapon (and there are many on offer!) dramatically changes how combat works, affecting your ability to guard or how your stamina works, for example. Fortunately you get handed one of each weapon type at the start of the game so you can experiment and see what style works best for you - don't be afraid to try them all, you might be surprised by which ends up being your favourite.

Whichever weapon you choose, don't expect to simply select a bad guy and hit the attack button; how you move, charge and which attack type you select will make all the difference in determining who kills who. Skill matters here and not just in the selection and execution of your weapon; you'll need skill at manipulating the camera, too, which seems to be just about the worst execution of third-person camera imaginable. Eventually you'll come up with a compromise that leaves you less frustrated by it but it will always niggle a little bit.

Multiplayer is where Monster Hunter really shines. It's fun enough tackling a wyvern by yourself but when you've got four friends in a room all yelling excitedly and issuing instructions and warnings to each other, the experience launches into the stratosphere. While it is theoretically possible to complete the game without assistance, later encounters are seriously difficult to solo. It's through this difficulty that players with friends will find the true genius of the game, in which incredibly memorable gameplay experiences occur every other fight. Be in no doubt, this game is heavily biased towards multiplayer play.

The visuals in Monster Hunter are good enough and there's plenty of variety to keep things interesting as you progress through the game. Sure, no single area comes close to what you might have seen on the system's best looking games but there are plenty of worse looking games and none that come close to the sheer quantity on offer here. The sound is similarly satisfying, with an impressive array of character sound sets to choose from too. Weapons clash and slash with weight that draws you in to the combat.

Is it the game for you? Get the demo and find out - if it is, there's no better value game in existence on any platform, especially if you have PSP-owning friends that are similarly attracted to the game. If you're unfamiliar with the series, though, be prepared to be a little overwhelmed by the sheer variety of content on offer and somewhat underwhelmed by the interface. If you persevere through your first impressions, you'll discover a remarkably rich experience that just gets better as you go on.

"Impressive yet almost overwhelming."
- Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Insane   Learning Curve: 3+ Hours


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Comments Comments (14)

Posted by Xenojay
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 10:15 AM
It sounds like portable I'll be staying away :'D
Posted by Syn-Ryn
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 12:23 PM
29 June 2009, 10:15 AM Reply to Xenojay
It sounds like portable I'll be staying away :'D
No, it's better than that
Posted by Oliver
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 1:09 PM
I get this weird feeling in my gut when I think about playing this. It's like an "I really can't be bothered putting effort into this game which requires a lot of effort". Dunno if I'll get this yet (but I probably will cave in).
Posted by twisterjamz
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 3:02 PM
Man i shouldn't have sold my psp cause then I could have played this
Posted by jub-jub
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 4:10 PM
Will put it on the to buy list...
Posted by rebolta
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 4:26 PM
Of course something cool like this comes out after I get rid of my psp. Hoo Waah.
Posted by Oliver
On Monday 29 Jun 2009 6:26 PM
Why would you guys get rid of your PSPs with so many awesome games promised?
Posted by DevilDiabroz
On Tuesday 30 Jun 2009 4:47 PM
Something they haven't mentioned...

1. It has over 500 hours of gameplay!

2. There are 1000's of sets of armor and over 1500 weapons.

3. These weapons include the Great Sword, Long Sword, Sword, Dual Sword, Hammer, Lance, Gun Lance and Hunting Horn, Bow, Light Bowgun and Heavy Bowgun. That is 8 weapons you can choose from!

And I think it has game sharing... who knows.
Posted by DevilDiabroz
On Tuesday 30 Jun 2009 4:48 PM
I mean 11 weapons...
The Host of Chaos
Posted by The Host of Chaos
On Tuesday 30 Jun 2009 9:36 PM
Wouldn't mind trying this. Have heard good things about the series.
Posted by jbl316
On Saturday 4 Jul 2009 11:59 AM
Still playing it so hard yet so good.
Posted by Oliver
On Monday 20 Jul 2009 5:52 PM
30 June 2009, 09:36 PM Reply to The Host of Chaos
Wouldn't mind trying this. Have heard good things about the series.
Me too. I think I'm gonna wait for the PSP store to open and then I'll download it. Figure I'll share the cost with my brother.
Posted by Dixey_Normous
On Monday 27 Jul 2009 12:20 AM
game is freakin huge
Posted by cutm
On Wednesday 22 Jun 2011 4:52 PM
This game alone justifies purchasing a PSP.
It will give you endless hours of fun especially if you can con some of your friends into buying it too xD

Unlike WoW you don't get sucked into dungeons and raids that can keep you sucked in for hours because each quest has a time limit of roughly 40 minutes and in single player quests you can pause so you control your play time. Also the fact that it's on the PSP means you can take the game anywhere. I personally like playing on the bus to work and training =)

Definitely makes my top 5 games of all time list!