In an effort to cover both the single player and multiplayer aspects of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, two writers here at Nintendo Enthusiast have been tasked with reviewing the game: Alex Balderas, who got his first taste of the series with Monster Hunter Tri for Wii, and Matt Costello, who joined Alex\’s debilitating hunting addiction with the release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U. Both of us have a long history with action games, and we like our games deep, hard, and relentless. As such, we are loving the living hell out of our short time with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. We say \”short\” because the 30 hours of gameplay we have each put into this game is no comparison to the 800 hours we have each put into the previous game. For the purpose of this review, both of us were provided with a download code by Capcom, mediated through a third staff member.
It\’s difficult to find a way to talk about our experience with Monster Hunter as a franchise, and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate as a game. Describing what the game plays like to a newcomer is a gargantuan task that Alex already attempted back when Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate came out, so we won\’t go down that path again (if you want to read about the variety of weapon styles, monsters, and what the \”grind\” of Monster Hunter is like, please read that review). Attempting to convince readers yet unconvinced by the franchise is also not going to get us anywhere. We can\’t tell you what you\’ll like and what you won\’t. That\’s for you to decide. We can only tell you what we\’ve liked, what we didn\’t, and why.
Going into Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, we were obviously very excited to play a successor to one of our favorite games of all time, but also very critical over how the changes and additions to the game might have affected the core experience. The first thing in our minds was how the brand new jumping mechanic and the increased verticality of the levels was going to affect the monster fights. Would it all feel janky? Maybe the monsters were optimized for combat in flat areas, and having more vertical levels would break the balance and make it too easy. Or maybe the controls would be too clunky to make the vertical play enjoyable.
But everything that could have gone wrong here, didn\’t. Though jumping is dependent on your location (with the exception of two weapons that allow you to jump anytime you want), there are plenty of steps, cliffs, mounds, bridges, and scalable walls from which to jump toward enemies. When climbing walls, the player can quickly evade into any direction, which allows for both quicker travel and for avoiding enemy attacks. When approaching cliffs with your weapon unsheated, your character will automatically climb them as long as they\’re not too tall for that. And even when jumping into a wall, or jumping from one platform to another, the character will automatically grab onto their target location, making movement much more fluid than ever before. With that, not only is most of the perceived \”clunkiness\” of previous Monster Hunter games gone, but you often feel like a badass hero as you perform unlikely feats, like jumping down a 60ft cliff and hitting a monster with your weapon in mid-air, followed by mounting it and riding it like a rodeo bull. As your companions witness the madness, they also get easy hits on the monster, hopefully helping you topple the monster into the ground, where he can be dealt even more punishment. They let you act like a true wild hunter in this game.
In fact, you are forced to act like a true wild hunter, because some of these monsters are so smart and so tough that they won\’t take anything less. We have written about the monster A.I. in this franchise before, but Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate takes the \”intelligence\” in \”A.I.\” to a whole new level. Just like climbing and jumping is a fluid experience for the player, so it is for the monsters. Imagine our surprise when we fought a Rathian and, arrogantly assuming we had that one in the bag already, were surprised by its several new moves, and its ability to chase us up and down any cliff, knocking down the bridge from which one of us was about to attempt mounting it, and generally keeping up the pressure regardless of the distance we tried to maintain.
Other monsters have surprised us by having not just one \”rage mode\”, but two. It\’s bad enough when an enraged gigantic shark builds a layer of unbreakable ice around its body and becomes even more relentless in its attacks, but then it inflates its belly and completely changes its moveset, forcing the players to adapt on the fly. Or die, like we did.
Something else that was streamlined is the entire offline portion of the game. In previous games, the player was pretty much thrown into a village, given a tedious tutorial on how to gather herbs and mushrooms and combine them to make potions, and then left alone for the rest of the game, with only the occasional input from the NPCs. It was unguided, and good for no one but self-starters, or players for whom playing online was not even an option. This time it\’s a much more guided experience. The player will move between various towns and try to solve the NPCs\’ woes to advance the story. Hunts and gathering quests are the bread and butter of the game, as always, but now the sometimes-monotonous quest routine gets broken up by the occasional story and action sequence (like fighting a bad beast on top of a ship as you move from one town to the next), and by the new \”expedition\” quests, which are improved versions of the Moga Woods free roam mode from Monster Hunter Tri and 3 Ultimate. Furthermore, upgrading the different facilities available for the player, such as the Cook, the Smithy, and the traveling Merchant, is more logical now, as these NPCs themselves will give you the specific quest that will give the player the upgrade. It\’s easier than ever to simply bust open your 3DS whenever you have 15 minutes to kill, and quickly do a quest that will improve your Cook\’s kitchen so that you have better status boosts next time you hop online for a lengthy multiplayer session.
Ah, the multiplayer sessions. It\’s one thing for us to talk about how nice the upgrades to the single player are, but truly, we wouldn\’t be here if not for the multiplayer. It is because of the online multiplayer that we have so many hundreds of hours of playtime in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Both Matt and Alex are administrators for the Nintendo Enthusiast forums; we can confidently say that about 95% of our important decisions, debates, and arguments, have happened in the midst of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate online multiplayer sessions. Because of this, we were very sad to find out that its sequel, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on 3DS, didn\’t have any voice chat to speak of. But we couldn\’t let this misfortune hold us back, and we came up with an alternative of our own: using Wii U Chat while we play Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on our 3DS. This is the future, people. If you ever get a chance to play a multiplayer game with a friend and have some sort of videochat software available, please do it.
We could belabor other issues with the game, such as the organization of online lobbies being a little awkward, or with the tutorial section still being too long and tedious, but truly, this is petty to us. Complaining about such things, as important as they are for many other games, is like going to a 5-star restaurant, getting served the best freaking steak you\’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, and then complaining about the server being rude, or the lighting not being moody enough.
And what a steak! Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate\’s online is, so far, and in spite of us mostly having tried it as a 2-man group, mindblowingly good. Every time we\’ve played, we\’ve said to each other, \”I can\’t believe it\’s this good.\” We\’ve said, \”I can\’t believe these monsters are this much smarter.\” We\’ve said, \”I can\’t believe these levels are so cool.\” But more than that we\’ve said, \”Wow, we both jumped and hit the monster at the same time!\” and, \”Did you see me do that thing where I climbed the wall and immediately jumped off and dropped the monster and mounted him before you took it down before it threw me off?!\” and, very often, we\’ve said, \”Hey, check this out!\” right before doing some crazy Legolas-type stunt.
All this and we are, by our count, barely at about 10% of the multiplayer, if at that. We are getting our asses kicked by monsters so tough (and they are much tougher than in offline, and tougher than in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate), so smart, and so surprising, that we can\’t even envision what\’s going to come in the future. We actually sat there, last night, asking each other these questions: \”Whoa! I didn\’t realize the Rathian would be so different, that was brutal. Can you imagine what the Deviljho is going to be like? Can you imagine what the elder god fights are going to be like? Can you imagine fighting a Gore Magala and a Deviljho together? Can you imaging fighting them together and the Deviljho is infected by the Gore Magala\’s rage virus?\”
We are as children when we play this game, playing \”hero\”, being heroes, thinking about the ultra-cool fights that await us in the future, and just being excited to keep learning and keep applying what we\’ve learned to beat these monsters that just keep getting harder and harder.
Having said all these high praises for the game might make us look like we\’re telling literally every person out there with a 3DS to go out and buy it on day one. It\’s not like that. We know Monster Hunter isn\’t for everyone. Monster Hunter is for people who like a very hard challenge, who like earning their enjoyment through hours of hard play, and who like spending time playing with their friends and collectively discovering tricks and techniques that won\’t be found in the game\’s manual. Like a good relationship, Monster Hunter requires a lot of give-and-take, and a lot of effort. You won\’t be having your honeymoon a day after you begin that relationship with Monster Hunter. But it will steadily get better and better, and each time you think you\’ve reached the peak and it can\’t get any better, it gets better, and then it gets better again, and again and again.
But maybe when you first give the game a try, you won\’t feel anything. That\’s fine. Like we said, monster hunting isn\’t for everyone. If you have played the demo with and without friends, if you\’ve given it a fair shake and you just can\’t get into it – well, at least now you have another game series to ignore. But those that feel like there is something here for you, do not give up. Try the game offline. Try it online. Try it with a friend through the free demo if you have to. Try it with voicechat. Try reading the game manual and a guide on the weapons so you find something to your liking. Try it with a Monster Hunter veteran that can teach you the basics of the game to lower that skill floor a little bit. If you feel anything at all for the gameplay in Monster Hunter, please stick with it, because you don\’t want miss out on a hell of a ride that can give you hundreds of hours of magnificent fun.
At the end of the day, we give Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate our highest recommendation based on our experience, which has been thoroughly outstanding in the short time we\’ve played it. Will it be for you? Who knows, it\’s a niche game if we\’ve ever seen one. But it\’s living proof that niche games can be masterpieces when they are unapologetically designed and crafted around their core gameplay, with little regard for attracting others games\’ audience.