Monster Hunter PlayStation 2
Published by Capcom
Developed by Capcom
Release Date: Out Now
Monster Hunter, an introduction.
Capcom have been one of the more innovative developers in this generation of consoles and it's been a real treat to play games like Viewtiful Joe and the superb, series changing, Resident Evil 4, that have managed to feel quite different. It's rather surprising then that their latest title, Monster Hunter, actually feels familiar. Those who've played and enjoyed the Phantasy Star Online (PSO) games from SEGA will instantly feel at home with Monster Hunter which given the popularity of the PSO games is no bad thing.
What's the game about?
As the titles suggests you'll play as a Monster Hunter. The game begins with you creating your character and from here you'll have an option to play in the Village (offline) or the Town (online). Playing offline for a while is recommended as it allows you to develop your character and improve your skills. Online you can play in groups of up to 4 and you'll find the quests are slightly more difficult. However, with four of you playing as a team most will not cause too much of problem. When you log in online you'll find news of special events and these occur on a regular basis. The world you play in is a kind of Jurassic park as most of the creatures you'll be killing look like dinosaurs. There are some exceptions though as the Felyne and Melynx are both cat-like humanoids and you'll see some that look like wild boars.
What's good about the game?
Monster Hunter offers a change of pace from the many recent console online games. Although missions are time limited most of the time this won't cause any problems, in fact it's actually a good thing as it means you don't have to spend an hour so playing. A lot of missions won't take a great deal of time to complete and this means it's a game that you can just play for half an hour or so and yet still achieve something. The longest quests tend to be around 50 minutes but in most cases you'll only need a third to a half of that time. The game isn't just about hunting and killing monsters. There are quests to collect items, capturing monsters, you can fish and mine too. There are many weapons in the game ranging from small knives to hammers and swords. There are some ranged weapons here too. Combat is performed with the right analogue stick. It feels a bit strange at first but with some practice it becomes quite comfortable. I should not forget to mention of course that the online mode is completely free, which is excellent.
What's not so good about the game?
Some may look at the game and think it's a bit too similar to the old PSO games and see that as a problem, we don't however. Like the PSO games though the offline, single-player isn't quite as enjoyable as the online mode. The single-player mode is really there just to enable you to level up your character, so I suspect most won't play it that extensively once their character has reached a certain level. To make matters worse there's no real story in the offline mode and whilst going from quest to quest whilst online is no bad thing, it becomes a little boring when you're playing on your own. Personally I found the character creation options to be rather limited and this was a disappointment. Once items are dropped there is no way to pick them up again and this can be irritating if you drop some fresh meat by accident or if you drop an item you are meant to collect for a quest (if you are hit you will drop the item). A greater variety of quests would have also been appreciated to spice up the offline play. The game doesn't support more than a single-player when in offline mode. I suspect many would have wanted a 2-player offline mode. Maybe that's something that could be included in a sequel.
How does it look?
The graphical quality of Monster Hunter is probably best described as OK with everything looking as it should without ever being exceptional. The character models are nicely detailed and the scale of the monsters you'll come up against is also satisfactory. The frame rate remains solid whether you play online or offline which is another plus. Once you've taken the raw meat from a downed monster they will vanish without any special effects. The camera control is also simplistic but it gets the job done. Whilst you're in the village (or town if you're playing online) you have no control over the camera (none is needed though) but when you are on a quest you can pull the camera back behind your character with the L1 button. The directional buttons can rotate and change the pitch of the camera. Monster Hunter allows you to play the game in NTSC 60Hz mode. The default 50Hz mode does have top and bottom borders whilst selecting the 60Hz mode removes them.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Deaf gamers could point to the development of PC and console technology as the reason for making games less suitable for them and in many ways they would be correct. Consoles now support voice chat and a lot more emphasis is being put on sound quality and 'cinematic effect' in most games. Monster Hunter eschews these current trends and it's to the deaf gamer's benefit. All information in the game, including tutorial tips etc. is shown in text. All conversations in the online and offline modes are in text and this makes the game deaf gamer friendly. You can plug in a USB keyboard to make online text chatting a lot more comfortable. I plugged in my USB cordless keyboard receiver and it worked a treat. Quest info can be recalled at any time which is always useful. I should add that there is one element of the game that might cause some deaf gamers problems. Occasionally you'll have to cook the meat from the slain dinosaur. To do this your character will get out his (or her) spit roast and begin turning the meat. As the meat cooks a piece of music plays. When the music stops you're meant to wait a second and then press the 'X' button. Pressing the button too early will undercook the meat whilst pressing it too late will burn the meat. This may cause a problem for some but if you look closely at the meat you can see it change colour. If you press the 'X' just after it starts to change colour you'll end up with meat that's well cooked. I've tried with and without the music and whilst it's slightly trickier without the music, it's not too bad although it will require some practice.
If you're looking for an online game that's similar to the PSO series, albeit with a slightly different style, then you'll more than likely appreciate Monster Hunter. Some may feel that the game is a little old fashioned in the way it plays online by forcing you to text chat but this actually makes it suitable for deaf gamers. I found Monster Hunter to be quite an enjoyable game that has a pleasant online experience. If you can team up with 3 other players whilst online you can really have a good time of it. It's just a shame that the single-player game didn't have a story mode rather than just having you hop from quest to quest because as it stands it's just a rehearsal mode for when you play online.
Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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Monster Hunter is just the type of game you need if you want a Phantasy Star Online type experience with a different theme. There are a few problems (only one specific to deaf gamers) that prevent the game from being great but on the whole it's well worth the asking price.