"Monster Hunter World," PS4, Xbox One, $59.99, ESRB Rating: T for blood, mild language, use of alcohol and violence
For a game that you'd imagine focuses solely on violence, "Monster Hunter World" truly celebrates the beauty and wonder of discovery and nature, making it one of the best games released this year. In the series' first console release since 2009's "Monster Hunter Tri," "World" features smart additions to game mechanics, graphical enhancements and a deep multiplayer system that truly makes the game and all its quirks shine.
While "Monster Hunter World" can feel just as intimidating and opaque as its predecessors, Capcom has made some smart changes to its formula that makes this the most accessible "Monster Hunter" ever made. After a short sequence that introduces the Fifth Fleet and its quest to capture a massive dragon named Zorah Magdaros, players are given the orders to take up arms to explore wide, open worlds in search of dangerous monsters. The game's primary challenge comes from tracking these beasts down and beating them into submission, allowing players to harvest materials to craft stronger weapons and gear.
The first few hours are full of tutorials, confusing menus and clunky combat, but the game becomes a breeze once you've learned the basics.
In order to soften the learning curve, Capcom has included a monster tracking system in the form of scoutflies, which revolutionizes how gamers will play. Instead of stumbling around the map in search of monsters, players can focus on devising a strategy to take down their prey efficiently as possible. While the game's systems can still occasionally hinder the experience, the small refinements and additions to gameplay make the game a joy to play.
"Monster Hunter World" is an aggressively beautiful game that pays attention to the small details in its open world. The game features several large environments, each with its detailed ecosystem of flora and fauna. These environments are unique and absolutely gorgeous, especially for anyone playing with a 4K TV and PS4/Xbox One X.
The intricate variety in monsters, animals and plants make each area feel like a real place. It's fun to see how each monster interacts with their world, and those interactions can usually be used to simplify each hunt. Additionally, the game includes small quirks that make it instantly appealing, including cats who serve as chefs and hunting partners, visually distinct armor sets and even a pet pig, all of which work well in establishing the game's fun, quirky tone.
"Monster Hunter World" is competent as a single-player game, but some monsters are very difficult to take down by yourself. Thankfully, up to four players can tackle each mission. While it's certainly easier to hunt big game with friends, playing multiplayer missions never feels too easy. Additionally, players can shoot an SOS flare that will immediately call another player into their quest, should a monster prove to be too powerful for one hunter. The game's matchmaking system features both open and password-protected sessions, making it easy to play with both friends and strangers.
"Monster Hunter World" is a beautifully detailed experience, and one worth playing. The intricate systems from past "Monster Hunter" games are simplified and better explained this time around, making it easy for beginners to jump in. The environments and monsters are both convincing and fantastic, and the interactions between the two is the game's most compelling feature. Additionally, multiplayer is smooth and relatively seamless, allowing players to work together to take down their prey.
Anyone looking for a deep, accessible and endearing experience won't be disappointed with what "Monster Hunter World" has to offer.