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Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Monster Hunter Tri was a great game that was held back by inferior hardware and a few stubborn design decisions. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a great game that is held back considerably less by hardware, but retains some of the same frustrating design decisions. Make no mistake, the game is aptly named: as of this writing, it is the ultimate Monster Hunter experience.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate puts a shiny coat of HD paint on Monster Hunter Tri. The difference is immediate, but probably not as pronounced as you may have hoped. It's simply Tri without the jaggies. The textures are still a bit flat, but the animation work remains excellent. Monsters still writhe in anger and agony as you take them down, and the mere act of watching the big ones lumber by is still a treat. As far as your own character goes, the way you choose to build your character up governs how he or she will look in the endgame; armor and weapon sets stand out, particularly the ones crafted exclusively from specific monsters.

Sound design is also excellent. All the right motifs are established and maintained over the course of your playthrough, and sound effects reinforce the notion that you're in an ancient land populated by deadly beasts. These beasts are not only intimidating to look at, but hearing them is enough to put you on edge. When you're not on the hunt, the game's sound is quite charming. The flute melody that accompanies your camp visits is relaxing, and the act of grilling a steak triggers the same goofy carnival-esque jingle. So overall, top notch.


Gameplay:

In this age of automation and impersonal discourse, most of us have not had the primal experience of living off the land. Gathering our own resources has been replaced by a five-minute trip to Wal-Mart. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate brings us back to the time when we had to go straight to the source to get what we wanted. You belong to Moga, a hunter-centric fishing village, the livelihood of which is constantly threatened by a giant serpent known as the Lagiacrus. The game lets you make your own character, puts a weapon in your hand, and charges you with taking down this deadly pest.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is all about questing and farming, with a heavy emphasis on the latter. In this game, you are only as powerful as your weapons are. Your biceps can be the size of Augustus Cole's, but if you're wielding a tree branch, that won't matter much when you're staring down dinosaurs. So you undertake quests, which rarely amount to anything other than killing a certain number of a certain kind of beast or collecting a certain number of a certain kind of resource. As you gather resources for the village, you gain the opportunity to have weapons and armor crafted from the materials you gather. This, in turn, makes you stronger and more capable of taking down more powerful monsters, whose individual components can be fashioned into even better gear. It's a vicious and addictive cycle that is hard to break out of once you're hooked.


Difficulty:

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate isn't a pushover, and a large part of that lies in the inherent stiffness of the combat system. That being said, if you carefully plan your hunts and execute with deliberation, you'll find success far more often than you will failure.

The more friends you have to play with (well, up to three at the most), the easier your play will be. Of course, the game is still challenging, but coordinating your attacks and going for specific weak points (tails, claws, etc.) is much easier to do when the big monsters are distracted. There's a rhythm to the gameplay, and it becomes more complex and enjoyable when you're playing with three others.


Game Mechanics:

The Monster Hunter series is kind of notorious for its incredibly conservative approach to controls and combat. The act of fighting monsters is a slower, more calculated process than it is in most other games. It's along the lines of something in Dark Souls, where you must carefully position yourself, take a swipe or two, then back away or defend. Unlike that game, though, combat in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is clunky. Once you start an attack, you are completely locked in the animation and cannot move or adjust your aim. This can be a source of frustration, as monsters can be nimble enough to get out of the way long before your greatsword comes crashing down. There's a lot of risk and reward to the combat; should you land a blow with an extremely heavy weapon, the results are spectacular.

You'll have to manage yourself and your weapons as you progress through the game. This means cooking and eating steak to keep your stamina up, using whetstones to sharpen your weapons, and other such activities. It's not as involving as it is in other, more character-focused role playing games, but it's engaging enough to make you feel a sort of connection to what is otherwise a blank slate avatar.

Perhaps Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate's biggest improvement over Tri is in how the Wii U GamePad is used to customize your playing experience. Just about all of the functions you could want are here for you to fiddle around with and set to your specifications. This is particularly great for people who don't want to obscure the screen with the map as monsters flee from your assault or for people who don't want to pause the game to manage their inventory.

If you already played Monster Hunter Tri to death, there probably isn't enough to warrant a repurchase. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate looks great and features some great new options, but this is still mostly the same beast.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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