|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CAPCOM||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: CAPCOM||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 23, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is a monster hit in Japan. It doesn't have the same title in Japan, but it's essentially identical except for one major difference; and it's a major difference. The Japanese version includes an online mode, whereas the North American release features a four-player ad-hock mode. That's a big difference considering the nature of this game, especially if you can't find like-minded enthusiasts in close proximity. You might hear the phrase "expansion pack" being bantered around, and not in quiet tones.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is a bigger and better versions of Monster Hunter Freedom 2; plain and simple. I don't want to hear any arguments. The new features are significant, but not enough to consider this game an evolution of the series. It's firmly built on the Freedom 2 platform, so much so that's it's more of a guest room that's been added on as opposed to a free-standing structure. The graphics and the gameplay remain virtually unchanged. You'll see old characters and monsters and hear some familiar sound effects and soundtracks. Don't get me wrong, the new additions are a welcome treat for Monster Hunter fans, this is one seriously long and complex game. But, it can also be a disappointment for those looking for a unique direction to the series.
Billed as an action RPG, Unite combines a lot of elements that have not always been combined successfully by other games. Unite has the recipe down. Elements of hack-and-slash, shooting, strategy, collecting, farming, leveling-up, crafting, and playing cooperatively are woven brilliantly into the fabric of the gameplay, giving it more depth than it may warrant. This is not for casual gamers, let me stress this. Despite the good training missions, there is a steep learning curve. The game is like an insecure lover, requiring a serious commitment. In order to progress, you will have to equip your character with new weapons, stronger armor, and increased skills. These come at a price. That price is time. You've got to spend a lot of time playing the game to amass the points and materials necessary to level-up. This will result in a lot of repetition, not only in terms of gameplay but you'll have to repeat plenty of the same missions. Most hardcore players know the drill, but if you're a weekend warrior looking to blast through this game, I can only laugh. And it's an evil, belligerent, mean-spirited laugh. One that would make you want to punch me I'm sure.
At the core of the gameplay you are hunter - a monster hunter. The monsters that you hunt are in the form of mutated prehistoric dinosaurs. These monsters come in different shapes and sizes and display different deadly characteristics. Some are huge and fast. They will simply squash or eat you. Others have the ability to kill you with their tale or incinerate you with their fire breath. Others can render you unconscious with a special gas, or slice you up with razor sharp claws and plates. The monsters show a great deal of variety in their attack patterns and in their reactions to your actions. The boss battles can be extremely challenging, even when you're adequately prepared in terms of weapons and skills. You'll be rewarded for successful kills, earning money from the towns that you are hired to protect. You'll also be able to scavenge various organs and other parts of the beasts to sell or use for crafting. Some of your upgrades can be purchased in the towns, but others will require extensive searching of the environments.
Resources will be found in caves, in rivers, behind the flora, inside the fauna, in trees, under rocks, and even in the monsters' waste. Expect to do lots of searching. Potions will be required to give you special powers. Food will give you health and stamina to keep you alive longer. Clothes will keep you warm in frigid temperatures. You have to always be mindful of your environment and the stresses it can cause to your character. For example, if you don't dress warm, you'll freeze to death.