Being a big Monster Hunter fan, there was no way I was going to miss an exclusive preview for the upcoming Monster Hunter Tri game from Capcom. An old Victorian warehouse in East London had been transformed into a dark Monster Hunter’s paradise, with the walls lined with ‘Wii Pods’ and the floor filled with three ‘four player co-op’ machines. Eerie monster sounds filled the room, as well as various Monster Hunter tunes to add to the atmosphere. They even layed on number of laptops in case anyone wanted to blog about their experiences within the game, but knowing that we only had a two hour window to play, I don’t think anyone took them up on the offer.
There were about twenty five of us waiting in the lobby ready to get our hands on the game, but first we had to be introduced to the game by Capcom’s UK PR Manager, Leo Tan.
He did a wonderful job of explaining the whole Monster Hunter experience to us, and for anyone who doesn’t know about the Monster Hunter phenomenon, here’s the basic premise.
It’s a skill based, third person action role playing game with elements of a massively multiplayer online game intertwined within it. You hunt and kill massive monsters, carve them up and use parts of their bodies to create stronger weapons and armour to be able to kill larger and more dangerous monsters. It really does take the best elements from a lot of games and combine them to make something quite unique with hundreds of hours of gameplay. In Japan it has sold well over one million copies in just four months from release.
The new ecology system in the game in one of the main upgrades from previous games. Large creatures hunting smaller ones for food, packs of smaller creatures ganging up on larger ones, all striving in the quest for survival. It really makes it feel like a living and breathing organic world that you’re part of.
Swimming and underwater creatures are also a new addition in Monster Hunter Tri, and although Leo assured us how great it was, I had my reservations. Underwater sections in games are rarely fun, but he had done a impressive job of convincing me otherwise and anyway, I was to be playing it very shortly so I would see for myself.
One of the things I really like about the franchise is that your character class is determined by which weapon you have selected to use, not by selecting a class at the start of the game, for which you are stuck with. You don’t like getting up close and dirty with a huge sword? Select one of the bows from your item chest and get back out onto the plains as a ranged class fighter, keeping your distance and fighting from a slightly safer perspective! They have removed some of the weapons from Freedom Unite, but have added an awesome new weapon. The Switch Axe. It transforms from a large axe into an even bigger sword. A very powerful weapon indeed, but only if you use it correctly.
After the short presentation, we were let loose onto the main floor, and whilst I took a few photographs of our surroundings everybody else lept onto the single player machines. That left the remaining few of us to man up, introduce ouselves to each other and head out onto the plains in a four player co-op game.
Three creatures were available to hunt on one level in the demo that we played. The ‘easiest’ monster, ‘Qurupeco’ was first on our list to hunt and kill and with a fifteen minute time limit it wasn’t going to be easy. All the machines were set up with the new ‘Classic Pro Controllers’ which felt excellent in the hands, if a little light, being slightly larger than the original ‘Classic Controller’ for the Wii. It’s very comparable to the Playstation 3 controller, although the dual anaolgue sticks are slightly further apart.
You would normally receive fifty minutes to complete a quest, but as we had a reduced time limit, the monster’s location was already revealed to us on the map so after getting used to the controls we were heading straight for him.
As we entered his area and started attacking, we could tell it was going to take some time. The other three players were using hand held weapons which meant they had to be up close and personal. I was staying a fair distance away with my bow but was able to switch my ammo at will from the poison that I was using on the creature, to a medicine ammo to be able to heal other memebers of my party. I was seriously revelling in my new found medic role, keeping my team at full strength as they were being bitten and stamped upon by our foe.
Every now and again the Qurupeco would fly straight up in the air and hover, letting out huge screams of terror, which I thought were from the blows raining down on him from my bow, but he was actually calling for backup. Within moments a massive ‘Rathian’ type dragon creature was upon us, splitting up the party and generally getting in the way. Not wanting to fight them both, we let a few dung bombs off at our targets and made our escape to another area to take stock and to come up with another plan.
Eventually we ran out of time. Our fifteen minutes were up and we were returning to base empty handed. We didn’t even need to look at each other, we just started the demo again and were straight back in the hunt, tracking our foe again. This time we were successful and let out a massive cry of joy as he finally slumped to the floor.
Next we tackled the second creature ‘Barroth’ and were again successful after a second attempt. Although we were in the same level as the previous fight, the smaller monsters on the plains had changed, and we were getting to explore the environment a little more.
Full exploration of the map was complete with the third and final Monster challenge, ‘Lagiacrus’. A huge underwater reptile like creature with a long neck and a huge tail. As we approached the edge of the water, our onscreen charaters took a little jump then dived into the murky depths. Leo was absolutely correct. The swimming was awesome and more akin to flying in a three dimensional space. Holding down the ‘run’ button acheived a faster swimming pace and pressing the button that would normally ‘quick roll’ you from danger produced an even faster ‘barrel roll’ that would help you evade danger, and not an air meter in sight. We were in awe just watching the creature swimming and moving through its natural habitat. The game really does look stunning.
This was my first outing with Monster Hunter multiplayer and it adds so much to the game it’s going to be hard not to play multiplayer straight away, although you do have a new companion to take with you on single player quests. Nearly two hours had passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
Capcom have also managed to elimate the need for the dreaded 16 digit friend codes that Nintendo has adopted for its online service. You’ll just have to register your character’s name with Capcom’s servers and you’ll be able to find your friends online very easily, in the way that Xbox Live or the Playstation Network service is used. Voice chat is also available through the ‘Wii Speak’ periphiral, which is basically just a microphone which picks up anyone in the room which will add to the fun.
The game will be available by itself, bundled with the classic controller pro, or in a Monster Hunter Exclusive Edition which includes the new pro controller and the Wii Speak microphone. I know which one my money is on and I can’t remember a game that I’ve been looking forward to this much. Serious, serious fun.
Monster Hunter Tri is released in the UK on the 23rd April 2010.