Monster Hunter! You know, the game series that’s been big in Japan for nearly fifteen years? The one that made the PSP an essential piece of technology in the East? No? What about the one that’s been a Nintendo exclusive for donkey’s years? Nothing? Ah! How about Monster Hunter: World? The one that’s finally broken into the Western audience, and the one that’s undoubtedly the prettiest and biggest game the franchise has ever seen? Well, here it is on PC and, well, it’s the same game as launched on the PS4 and Xbox One earlier this year, only you can tinker with it a bit more.
I handed out a hefty 10 out of 10 when I reviewed Monster Hunter: World originally, and I stand by the fact that it is absolutely an essential purchase, mixing the franchise’s tough combat and painfully addictive gameplay loop with some truly wonderful visuals. The fact that Capcom’s ongoing support since its launch has been exemplary only sweetens an already tooth-decaying deal. While the PC version is shipping without the extra additions, they’ll be appearing much more swiftly than they have done for console players.
The overarching tale, slim as it is, is that you’re a member of the Fifth Fleet, the most recent in a line of expeditions to the New World. You join up with the Research Commission, a group who’re set to find out why the Elder Dragons, which include the giant lava-covered Zorah Magdaros you encounter at the beginning of your adventure, have begun to migrate to the New World. It sets you up as a hunter who needs to research these creatures as much as you hunt them.
With its newfound emphasis on learning about the monsters rather than just killing them and stripping their carcasses for resources, one of the cleverest changes that Monster Hunter: World brought with it over its predecessors was assimilating the essential hunting information that players used to have to search for online. Google searches, Reddit and fan wikis had become vital if you wanted to know the best way to approach any of the monsters found in previous entries or where to find certain resources. Monster Hunter World smartly brings all of this stuff in-house, making the whole experience more fluid than it’s ever been before.
Of course, the meat of the game is still hunting down monsters, which in this case amounts to a variety of dinosaur and dragon-type creatures, with lethal teeth, claws, tails and bellies with which to scratch, bite, whack and squash you. Monster Hunter World’s gameplay loop centres around tracking them, fighting them, and then carving off parts with which you can then make better weapons and armour or upgrade the equipment you already have, allowing you to take on even more imposing opponents. It’s a loop that’s caught millions of players up around the globe prior to Monster Hunter: World, and this is the most refined and accessible version of it.
For all that it’s become a global sensation, Monster Hunter: World has retained the series’ quirky sense of humour. From the wonderful cat-like Palico chefs who prepare your pre-hunt fodder to the ridiculous run animation of your hunter when being chased down by a monster, it has aspects that many would say have no place in a blockbuster action game. That unique flavour though has to be a key ingredient in the game’s success story – sorry, the burly Meowscular Chef leant me some of his food-based puns – and to have lost them would have meant that the game simply wouldn’t have been Monster Hunter anymore.
The game’s minimum and recommended specs aren’t a million miles apart, and while this can be the best version of this Monster Hunter game with the right equipment, the PC release doesn’t suddenly bring out a whole new level of life-changing graphical detail. Series Executive Producer Ryozo Tsujimoto has said they’re considering a post-release patch to further improve the graphics, but as it stands PC gamers aren’t getting to see too much more than Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro owners.
As ever, it’s a balance between detail and frame rate, and if you’re serious about monster hunting it’s definitely that 60fps mark you should be aiming for rather than worrying too much about depth of field, texture detail or anti-aliasing – there’s only TAA or FXAA options here. My rig with a GTX 1070, Core i7 and 8GB of RAM merrily ran at 1440p with the highest graphical settings at 60fps, so with a few sensible cuts 60fps should be pretty achievable if you’re shorter on power. This isn’t a borked PC port by any stretch, and it’s great to see it performing so well without causing too much strain, though I’m sure plenty will decry its lack of ambition.
Some PC owners will find that all slightly disappointing, since they’re basically getting the same vanilla game that console players have had for seven months. There’s no cross-platform play and none of the already released bonus monsters or equipment. What has seemingly just been added – a mere four hours before this review’s embargo – is workshop modding, which means that PC gamers are going to be able to modify some things in the game. We’ll have to see to what extent Capcom are going to let modders have at it though.
That said, Monster Hunter World on PC offers the same awesome experience that console gamers have been enjoying, and brings one of the best games of recent times to a slightly different audience. With the right kit you’ll be able to push the game further than anywhere else, and with the promise of future updates it’s likely to become the definitive version, even if it’s not quite there yet.