It may come as a shock if you’re judging the game by the weird-sounding title, but Monster Hunter Freedom Unite isn’t a hard game to get into even if you’re new to the series. In fact, though this was our first foray into the series that has so massively taken over the Japanese market, we were quickly able to deduce what was going on and get stuck in.
The biggest problem we had with the game in fact was managing to find our old PSP, which eventually turned up in an old lunchbox filled with wires that had been stuffed down the back of the washing machine to stop it vibrating against the wall. That’s how often much use we get out of the PSP and it actually isn’t a joke at all.
Still, with the PSP recovered and dusted off we quickly got stuck into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Knowing that the game was developed by Capcom and has been phenomenally successful in Japan, we expected the game to be an incredibly hardcore JRPG; spiky hair, big swords and the stunning reveal that the bad guy is actually your long-lost brother and so forth. In truth though, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite more closely resembles World of Warcraft.
If you’re already familiar with the Monster Hunter series of course then that’ll be no surprise to you and we can skip the recap and say that, yes, Unite[i] is pretty much an expansion of [i]Freedom. It’s got a whole bunch of new content that include new monsters, armour upgrades, quests, ranks and even the ability to recruit a furry little cat...thing as your accomplice – handy if you don’t have any friends to multi-play with.
In fact, the Feline accomplice that you can enlist is a great addition to the game for mid-level players (and yes, you can import your character from previous games) who occasionally falter against the tougher enemies as the AI is quite extensive. Your cat-like comrade is handy cannon fodder obviously, but can also be used more tactically – such as if you need someone to give you a gentle, non-lethal hit to awaken you from a stunned state.
If you’re new to Capcom’s Monster Hunter series though this may all sound a bit overwhelming. The good news though is that the concept of the game is nicely represented in the title – Monster Hunter. It’s what you are and it’s what you do, as soon as you’ve mustered the courage to venture beyond basic training anyway.
At the start of the game you’re on your way to a small village surrounded by various environmental extremes, such as a volcano that sits next to a curiously unaffected series of ice caves. After a brief encounter with a monster though you fall off the top of a mountain and wake up in your new home, told only that the villagers had rescued you and the snow must have cushioned your fall. That must be why nobody ever dies from falling off of mountains – oh, wait...
After a brief introduction and tutorial you’re pushed off into the great wide world and encouraged to explore as much of it as you can in an effort to learn more about your prey. The world is both beautiful and expansive and even though it’s divided up into lots of small sections it’s still fairly easy to get around thanks to the built-in minimap system.
Once you’ve got the hang of things you start getting assigned quests by the villagers who are in constant need of pelts, bladders, meat, tusks and all other types of gore that you’ll have to salvage from the mythical monsters that surround the village. Thus begins your endless trekking back and forth between the wilderness and the village in what basically amounts to one colossal grind-fest as you try to better your equipment and get the best hunter rank you can.