Monster Hunter: World (PS4) Review

A hell of a hunt.

Sitting uncomfortably close to my huge 32 inch CRT TV, I held my PS2 in my left hand and turned it around to expose its backside. Grabbing what looked like a black plastic brick, I attached it to the back of the PS2 with some difficulty and connected the network cable. Returning to my seat on the comfy couch, I turned on the TV and booted up Monster Hunter for the very first time.

It’s a mystery to me now, 14 years after the fact, why I decided to check out Monster Hunter nor why I went the extra mile to pick up the network adaptor so that I could play online, but all I can say is that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in gaming. After all, it began the love affair with a series I still hold dear to this day. However, as is the case with any kind of love, there were some difficulties along the way. One was the series’ relative obscurity, which meant many of the entries never reached the States, and the other was the insistence of Capcom to continue to develop the game for the handheld consoles.

From a business standpoint, I understood completely, as the handheld market is absolutely booming in Japan and that’s where most of the audience was. Add to that the reduced development time and cost for publishing the game on a handheld, and it was a no-brainer. On the flip-side, as a fan who has seen the lack of true evolution for the series for more than a decade, it was frustrating to see the shackles of hardware holding the game from what it could become.

With the release of Monster Hunter World, the shackles are finally cast aside to make a truly current generation entry to the franchise, heralding in a brand new future for the series.

A new world means new monsters and if you’re not careful, it will be difficult to say who is the hunter and who is the hunted.

MSRP: $59.99
Platform: PS4, XB1, (PC later in 2018)
Played on: PS4 Pro (Frame rate prioritized)
Length: 45~ hours
Played: 80~ hours

Booting up Monster Hunter World for the first time, I was greeted with an extensive character creation suite, and even though it’s not in my nature to spend too much time on customizing my avatar, it was nice to see just how much detail I could put into my hunter. It was also at this point that I was made to realize the significant visual upgrade from the last entry on a non-handheld.

Selecting from three different visual modes that either prioritized resolution, frame rates or effects, I chose to prioritize the framerates, looking for the best playing experience. Even though I certainly enjoyed my time with the recent 3DS entry, MH Generations, the 3DS games have always hovered in the mid to low 20s in frames and the feel of the game suffered for it. Using the frame rate mode on the PS4 Pro, I found the game to play smoothly, and even though it’s not locked at 60, it is most definitely a significant upgrade.

The highlight of any Monster Hunter game is the cast of monsters, and World does not disappoint on this front with a slew of returning and new foes alike. From the iconic poster child of the series, Rathalos, to the towering Zorah Magdaros that resembles Godzilla made up of tar and fire, it’s equal parts a joy and a harrowing experience to encounter a new monster for the first time.

The story which serves as context to bring the player to these wild locations to face off against these beasts isn’t anything noteworthy, as I found the drive to progress the game’s main story wasn’t in the characters or the overarching plot but in my desire to see the next big obstacle in my way. New monsters meant new materials to carve and new materials, of course, meant shiny new weapons and armor for me and my trusty Palico. My adorable bipedal cat sidekick proved invaluable, as there were a variety of tools I could equip him with ranging from clutch healing when I’m in a pinch to a blade that would make the monster drop more materials to pick up so I could expedite the process of collecting the required sundries to craft my next upgrade.

This was the moment I realized that my cat was more stylish than I was.

Outside of the visuals, the elements that surprised me the most were the various quality of life improvements, many of which were first for the series.

The scout flies served as my trusty guides to find what I could interact with in the large sprawling environments, showing items that could be picked up and more importantly, giving a hint as to where the monsters might be by guiding me towards tracks.

After the scout flies had gathered enough tracks and other hints as to the monster’s whereabouts, my target would become visible on the map and I could simply tag it to find the quickest path to my prey. Given one of the biggest downtimes in previous MH games was how long it took to actually find the monster, this was a welcome change indeed. In fact, as I accumulated research and knowledge on a certain beast, I was able to use the bestiary to see what items it dropped as well as its various breakable points.

Forging and upgrading of weapons has seen an overhaul as well, as I had access to a giant tree of craftable weapons which would expand as I got further in the story, and as long as I had some of the required pieces to make the weapon I could see the stats, which helped in planning what shiny new toy I wanted to wield in battle. I could even put weapons and armor on a wishlist where once I’ve acquired the prerequisite parts, the game would alert me that I was ready to craft the piece of gear.

As a veteran MH player, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I required the use of a wiki and would constantly reference it to see where I could find a particular item or what weapon upgrades into what, but now all that information was present in the game in a easy to digest manner. In fact, over 80 hours into the game and I’ve yet to pull up a wiki of any sort as I felt no need for it at all.

I never actively asked for a bestiary in MH but now that I have one, I want to never be without one in another entry.

There’s also the ability to move while gathering things like herbs, and even though I did need to stop to mine or gather on research point nodes, the fact that I never needed to carry around a bunch of easy to break pickaxes more than made up for those short moments stuck in one place. Speaking of movement, MH World put a bigger emphasis in mobility with the inclusion of hookshot points and swinging from long vines to get from place to place quickly. I could also move while drinking a healing potion and could cancel the animation of most things just by rolling if I sensed danger. It added to my survivability tremendously and reinforced the feeling that when I fainted and took that cart of disgrace back to camp, it was my fault and not the game giving me the short end of the stick.

The inclusion of the training mode where I could go into test out my various weapons was a great addition as well, and I found myself spending a lot of time in the training area seeing what rotation of attacks yielded the best DPS. Thanks to the visual aid of the damage numbers (which you can turn off if you don’t like them), I was able to get a sense of how to optimize my damage using the right combination of skill bonuses from my armor set as well as the decoration which would slot into the weapon/armor to give additional skill bonuses. It’s an odd feeling to have tried all 14 weapon types in MHW and come away feeling that I want to use them all, and much of it is thanks to the training mode that helped me learn those weapons quicker than ever before.

Lastly, going online to take part in some jolly cooperation has become more convenient than ever as now mandatory assignments are given full credit to all those who participated instead of the only person that posted it. If you’ve ever been in a lobby where the quest poster bails after only his quest was completed, you know that ‘A’- that person should be punched in the face and ‘B’- everyone should really get credit at the same time, and now they do.

This is of course not to say that the list of improvements ends here, but if I were to detail every single one in this review, it would simply be too long so I chose to mention the ones which I found most impactful.

While every weapon is viable, bringing the right weapon and tools can turn a 20 minute hunt into a 10 minute hunt.

Unfortunately, while MHW certainly surpassed my expectations in most areas, there are some elements that I found disappointing that must be mentioned.

While it certainly was easy to invite my friend to an online session to join up in the gathering hub to do some hunts, joining up during the assignments required long bouts of just waiting around until they could send up an SOS flare after seeing all the various cutscenes. Sometimes, the wait was so long that I ended up just doing expeditions on my own to escape from the boredom. Sure, I understand the developer’s intention of trying to keep the assignments mostly a single player experience with the SOS flare being available to help those who are in over their heads, but given how much the experience is enriched by the presence of friends to journey together, it felt like a missed opportunity.

With all the brand new features being added in, there was sure to be one that would be taken out, and that was the ability to pause during the game. Whether I was online or in an offline session, I had no option to pause the game at all, and there were several situations where I was 15 minutes into a mission and had to stop for what I assumed to be a few minutes which ended up being 30, and when I came back I had 5 minutes left to finish my objective which resulted in a failed quest. I could understand no pausing during an online session but during an offline? I don’t see the harm and I would wager that there are many people in the world where the idea of a guaranteed uninterrupted gaming session is a sorely missed relic of the past.

Can’t a man just fish in peace?

Even with everything that has been said, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what Monster Hunter World has to offer. The sublime combat against a variety of awe inspiring monsters- the meaningful sense of progression where every little thing that I did felt like it mattered- it all culminated to the thrill of the hunt in those moments where with only a single life left, I fought against the odds, shoulder to shoulder with a group of strangers who became my brothers in-arms and when it was all said and done, I waved goodbye knowing that we had shared an unforgettable moment of triumph… until the next hunt.

Fun Tidbit – Get on my level, nerds.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Numerous quality of life improvements
  • Impressive visuals and animation work
  • Immensely enjoyable combat
  • Great sense of progression
  • Main questline is cumbersome to play in co-op
  • No option to pause during single player mode
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.