Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate does precisely what is expected of a new installment in Capcom’s stellar franchise; it does not intend to change the minds of those who look at it as an overly demanding title centered around the incessant beating of gargantuan creatures. Instead, it adorns a well-established formula with new appendices that make it deeper, potentially more time-consuming, and – consequently – better. It is, by all means and ends, the definitive version of an addictive series where thrilling action meets the grinding of online multiplayer RPGs while being wrapped by a neat package of relatively digestible fifty-minute missions.
While veterans will initially hit waters on which they will sail smoothly due to accumulated experience that naturally carries over from previous efforts, Monster Hunter 4 is – mostly – a daunting uphill battle to anyone who is willing to climb up that mountain. Starting out as an inexperienced hunter whose shameful equipment deems them worthy of being dubbed a scrub, players must slowly make their way through increasingly difficult quests.
Dull missions that border on being chores are still present; occasionally, one will have to take down small weak monsters, gather a certain number of resources, or steal eggs from a nest. However, after players reach the midway point of the three-star quests – which should happen within fifteen hours of offline gameplay – those will become significantly rarer and the real stars of the show will step towards the forefront: the big bad ferocious creatures whose designs are threatening enough to make them look utterly terrifying even when viewed through a small screen.
Toppling those beings, from the standard Great Jaggi that appears early into the adventure to the mighty forces of nature that will show up further down the line, requires a lot. Their patterns of attack need to be carefully learned, the possible openings their movements create must be explored, and – given there are no visible life bars – identifying their signals of weakness, not to mention the correct balance between attacking and defending, is of the utmost importance.
It is not all about clearing quests and advancing through the list, though. The franchise’s smartest device, and the one reason why there is such a heavy focus on grinding, is that the hunter itself is devoid of anything resembling a level or stats; therefore, beating monsters does not automatically make one stronger. The cash and materials that are awarded for defeating the creatures and carving their dead bodies, though, can be utilized in the forging of new pieces of armor and weapons that will indeed increase the hunters’ defense, attack, and even give them extra abilities.
As a consequence, by means of experimentation, which in this case means trying to defeat new stronger monsters, players must figure out by themselves whether their current equipment is good enough to allow them clear harder quests or if hunting more creatures on previously accomplished missions and gathering additional resources is necessary.
The game’s hands-off approach means it will never even barely hint one is under-prepared to face a certain monster. It is to be expected, then, that aside from fainting three times – which is what triggers the failing of a mission, many hunters will manage to battle a creature for the entirety of the fifty minutes only to have time expire on them, which will lead them to the question of whether they could have performed better during the struggle or if they need to grind for more materials in order to upgrade their current assets.
Intimidating is indeed the best adjective to describe Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and all of its prequels. However, inside of the borderline maniacal surface lies the fact not many other games are as constantly satisfying and rewarding.
Looking for specific materials to forge new armor and weapons, which are either carved out of the dead bodies of monsters or awarded by clearing quests, can be a multiple-hour task depending on the rarity of those items, but Monster Hunter is a game that constantly makes players feel as if they are advancing even when, in terms of missions cleared, they are not.
Every failure comes with the learning of new tactics that might help in the rematch with that monster that just will not go down, and every bit of material acquired after a twenty-minute fight leads hunters one step closer to that new piece of equipment that will aid them in getting closer to a goal that might have looked unattainable at first. Being a monster hunter is no easy task, and the game makes it very clear.
Through its improved controls and greater hunter mobility; additional weapon types; new brilliantly designed monsters and returning old favorites that make up quite a huge collection; a full-fledged online mode where the difficulty of the offline quests is considerably upped in order to challenge groups that can have up to four hunters; and the fresh expeditions, on which extra missions that may feature unique monsters can be acquired; Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate builds a web of content that can easily last for hundreds of hours and whose distinct rate of challenge and rewards makes it irresistible to gamers who love a tough nut to crack.