It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. And it’s a job, in a sense. The sense that there’s a whole lot of work for you to do. But it’s the good kind of job, the sort that you look forward to doing on a daily basis as opposed to something that’s a grind.
But that’s Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS (or New 3DS XL, in this case, as that was our review platform) for you. The objective of the game is simple enough. Hunt monsters. Of the mythical and oversized variety rather than the classic vampire/mummy/werewolf types. That’s it.
But while the concept might be a simple one, the execution isn’t quite as easy to get a handle on. Players are tasked with taking down critters of increasing size and ferocity but meeting each threat means a fair bit of preparation. Said preparation usually consists of hunting something smaller and less lethal until you’re actually able to create the right sort of gear to go after bigger game.
You see, everything needs to be crafted. You can buy health and stamina potions or you can roast your own meat (stamina) and gather your own herbs, mushrooms and honey (health potions). Ammo, poison coatings, stun bombs and a whole lot more can be made out of what you’ll find in the hunt areas. Though, with a 50 minute time limit per hunt, players need to divide their time between resource gathering, secondary hunts and their main objectives. And you better pack for the trip, if you run out of health items at a critical moment you’re looking at a do-over.
You’ll start out with a base clothing set but eventually everything that you use in your hunt, including armour and weapons, will have been gathered, harvested or pried from the corpse of something out in the field that was previously attempting to eat you. These upgrades are essential, as your hunting targets get extremely nasty as time goes by.
Weapon maintenance, health, stamina and free space needs to be balanced on each hunt. You need to be able to carry everything back with you, after all. But while the setup and prep can get complicated, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate does a fantastic job of making what could be – and in the past, was – a daunting task an accessible and fun endeavour.
Players will venture through different terrain, each of which has either own hazards, in their quest for monster slayage and the resulting loot and upgrades so they can have more monster slayage. There’s the standard hunt location, which changes as the (very thin) storyline progresses but players will also get to go on Expeditions, which are areas that they’re probably not ready for yet. Survive, though, and you’ll have some decent upgrade material, perhaps a spot of treasure and a feeling of pride that you took down/successfully ran from whatever oversized beastie was out for your blood.
All in all, you’re going to spend a maximum of 50 minutes per hunt, though you can complete your objectives sooner. All told you can spend at least 100 hours exploring, hunting and upgrading in MH4U and you’ll still not have exhausted all of the possibilities available to you.
And we haven’t even considered the possibility that you’re not playing alone. Players will be able to take a few feline-ish AI partners along on their hunts, though you’ll start out with none initially, and there’s also the option to take your game online and stalk your quarry with other humans. This is where Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate comes alive, as you’ll be able to use several different play styles to more effectively track and take down your prey.
About the only negative is that MH4U is best suited for a larger screen, so a 3DS XL or the newer variant is almost a must. Playing with the Circle Pad Pro or the New 3DS XL’s new C-nub simplifies camera controls considerably, making gameplay a lot more comfortable as well but aside from that there’s not much to detract from what is a splendid, if demanding, experience.
Although Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a well-oiled handheld gaming machine, it’s still a bit niche. Newcomers will find that this is the best place in the series to start though, there’s little tedium and by the time anything that could be considered a grind (like creating a matching armour set – because we can) raises its head, you’ll be too far gone to care. It’ll stop feeling like work and more like a personal goal. Kudos to Capcom and Nintendo on this great outing.