Here we go again. Having sunk a significant amount of time into the original release on Playstation 4, far too many hours if I’m being brutally honest with myself, I can confirm the good news - Monster Hunter World is exactly the same great, gloriously addictive game on PC as it’s always been.
Since the console launch there’s been a whole slew of updates and content additions, and PC players stand to benefit from these changes. Lots of the content is still yet to roll out on PC, but it's looking likely the PC version will catch up with the consoles eventually. It’s also the best place to be for higher frame rates and resolutions, particularly when the PS4 can dip below 30 frames per second on occasion. Visually though, there’s really not much to distinguish playing Monster Hunter World on a PS4 Pro compared to a top-end PC, aside from the frame rate. Ultimately in an action game like this though, frame rate is incredibly important, particularly when trying out last-second dodge rolls or attempting to time your counter-attacks. Performance isn't anything to write home about it but it's decent enough, although the taxing CPU demands could occasionally cause a few dips with my Core i5-4670K.
Most importantly though, Monster Hunter has never truly had a home on PC before. It’s a series that has blossomed from underground sensation to monstrously huge hit, and yet only now has Capcom decided it’s worthy of coming to PC. Fortunately, the wait has been truly worth it. MonHun World is the single biggest shift in the series’ history, modernising the experience, adding plenty of quality-of-life changes, and finally breaking free from the shackles of handhelds.
The core loop of Monster Hunter World is immensely satisfying, and also comfortingly familiar to fans of loot-driven games. It’s like a dopamine-filled cosy blanket, doling out rewards regularly and embracing the joy that can be found in repetition. While there are the occasional story-focused missions, the reliance is largely on fulfilling contracts. Typically, you’ll accept the contracts for the specific monsters you want to hunt for the express purpose of harvesting their corpses for materials. With the contract in hand, you head out into the field, track the monster down, hunt it, kill it, and carve it up for skin, bones and plates, before heading back to base to craft new, more powerful weapons and armour with the resources. Rinse and repeat, climbing ever further up the food chain, taking increasingly lethal beasts.
Much of what exists of Monster Hunter World’s story is threadbare at best. It’s all a rather obvious attempt to try to bring in the crowds of players that enjoy story-driven action games but have found themselves put off by Monster Hunter’s relentless focus on gameplay. There are a handful of cutscenes and a fairly flimsy excuse for mercilessly killing every bit of nature that so much as looks as you funny, but it merely serves as the trappings to move the player from location to location, introducing more varied, deadlier monsters along the way.
Such things won’t be for everyone, but the feeling of incremental improvement is incredible, both in terms of player gear and stats, as well as in mastery of the systems. Monsters that initially proved a nightmare to take down can become a breeze, not just because of better gear, but because after repeated attempts, every tell, combat scenario, or environmental tweak has been memorised and mastered. You are the hunter and you’ve learned every trick in the book, from advanced tracking to knowing how to keep your prey downed for as long as humanly possible.
To top it all off though, loot fiends will go wild for the crafting options available. Actually wearing the beast you’ve just taken down feels pretty awesome, offering a tangible visual benefit on top of the stat boosts. Collect the parts from Azure Rathalos kills and you can craft an Indigo Wyvern Blade that deals fire elemental damage. Take down the brutish Barroth and its giant armoured shell is yours to keep, used to craft uncomfortably large pauldrons. It’s satisfying and tangible. These aren’t just stat upgrades buried behind menus and dice rolls. You can see the progress you’ve made right there on screen, it’s there for all to see in each and every item you wear.
While movement is certainly more nimble than previous Monster Hunter games, combat is still very much slow and deliberate. Each move typically has a long animation associated with it, dependant on the weapon type. Moves can be cancelled out, but of course heavier damage attacks typically take longer to deliver. While each of the 16 or so weapon types can appear simple at first, they can hide deceptive depths. Each is thoroughly unique and switching weapons will require you to relearn Monster Hunter World from the ground up. Some are much easier to pick up and play than others, such as Sword & Shield or Great Sword, but the bard-like Hunting horn and the long-range Heavy Bowgun can be a significant change of pace.
In terms of quality of life, Monster Hunter World is leaps ahead of any previous games in the series. Whetstones for sharpening your weapons are now unlimited. You don't have to hit monsters with paintballs to track them. The world is no longer divided up into zones with loading screens separating them. It's all much friendlier, even if playing through the story co-op can be a logistical nightmare due to Capcom's bizarre insistence you start the missions solo. Monster Hunter World still feels like a game with daunting depth and a steep curve, but the tough edges which caused many to bounce off older games have now been smoothed off.
A special shout out has to go to the monsters themselves. Impeccably designed and thoroughly impressive to a tee, Capcom has breathed fearsome new life into these previously polygonal beasts. Each is usually preceded by a grand entrance, typically involving eating the giant monster you’ve just bested like it was a bowl of peanuts atop a bar. Monster Hunter World wastes little time with the piddly little fodder at the start either, escalating from packs of pesky Jagras to the bird-brained rock-slinging Kulu-Ya-Ku all the way to the terrifying Anjanath. A T.Rex in all but name, this fearsome beast is massive, fast, and doesn’t give up the chase easily. Oh yeah, and it also spits fire. The Anjanath is the torment of early players, popping up to throw a sharp, serrated spanner in the works of a simple Great Jagras battle. Give it ten or so hours and your first Anjanath will be bested though, carved up into little pieces and worn as leggings, its gigantic teeth used as head armour. Monster Hunter World is all about these steps up, rising from humble hack ‘n’ slasher to slayer of beasts. The Anjanath is also just the tip of the iceberg, with dozens upon dozens of stronger (and larger) monsters still to come.
For some, the undeniable repetition of Monster Hunter World may not quite click. The same beasts may require hunting dozens in times in order to complete contracts and craft the best gear. This grinding loop is the essence of the game though, and anyway who got a kick out of repeated Diablo playthroughs will find a similar experience to be had here.
Visually, Monster Hunter World is Capcom at the top of its game. It may be lacking in AAA visual polish, but this is a game teeming with detail and an essence of life. Each area is dense, packed with shortcuts and interactive elements that could potentially turn the tide of battle. Mud will slow a creature down, flashflies lurking in caves will temporarily blind a foe when struck, or poisoncups will spew deadly venom, making them an apt trap. Get up close and personal with the environments and it becomes easy to see through the cracks though. Textures can be fairly rotten, each individual piece of the environment looking rather but poor but somehow culminating into a majestic looking whole. But the monster themselves? They’re gloriously animated and immediately recognisable, each utterly distinct and fearsomely unpredictable during those first encounters.
It's a fantastic game and a decent port, although the mouse and keyboard support does leave a lot to be desire. It feels as if mouse movement has been mapped to analogue stick movement and it's just awful to control. Make plugging in a console controller your first priority for a smoother experience.
Arriving eight months late on PC, everything that can be said about Monster Hunter World already has done. Rest assured though, the wait was indeed worth it. Anyone looking for a deep action game they can potentially invest hundreds of hours into need look no further. This is Monster Hunter, back and better than it's ever been before.