“Monster Hunter” is one of those series that weeds out casual gamers quickly. If you’re not coming into this prepared for a fight, you will lose. That hardcore mentality is what keeps fans coming back for more, and Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate seems to deliver more of what the series is known for.
It’s still the same tried and true formula Capcom has worked for years: prepare items, attack monster, get loot, make new equipment, repeat as need and with bigger foes.
Capcom showed off a mid-development version of Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate ahead of New York Comic Con. The biggest change from Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate? This time, there’s no version for the Wii U in the works -- Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate will be 3DS exclusive.
Leaving that aside, let’s talk about what else is new (that we learned from an hour-long demonstration). MH4: Ultimate has real online support; MH3:U players had to deal with a clunky online interface, but the new Monster Hunter seems to sport a much less cumbersome and reliable WiFi system. This is a big deal -- the majority of this game is meant to be played online, with a group of three other hunters. You could still go it alone (and many gamers consider it a badge of honor to do so), but like traditional massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) it makes the fights significantly more difficult.
There are now fourteen character classes to choose from, and they all play quite differently; skill with the “Sword & Shield” class doesn’t guarantee success with a tougher class like “Bow” (as this reporter learned firsthand on a boss quest). Still, you can juggle back and forth as you see fit, creating armor and weapon sets for numerous classes. You’re never locked in, so if a certain hunt calls for a different specialty, you don’t have to tough it out with an ill-suited warrior if you don’t want to.
There’s no leveling up or experience points, either. You only improve fighters by crafting better equipment, and you get most of the materials to do that from defeated monsters. But you’ll be fighting a lot of the same monsters to get the items you’ll need -- that’s part of the grinding experience.
The presentation is a bit overwhelming to new players (such as myself), but Capcom has often insisted that, once someone shows you the ropes, it’ll all make sense. That rang true in my demonstration, as my skill and understand improved dramatically when the Capcom representatives guided me through the first quest.
Multiplayer quests and hunts are what MH4: Ultimate will probably do best. As is always the case with Monster Hunter games, there’s no engrossing single-player story or memorable campaign characters; it’s much more an action/adventure game than an RPG, though it does have trace elements.
Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate will launch in early 2015, though Capcom hasn’t penned an exact date just yet. They have, however, promised “easily over 100 hours of gameplay.” The series has never been particularly popular in the West, though it’s wildly successful in Japan -- when Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate launches, we’ll see if it fares any better outside of its home market.