Smack A Dinosaur In The Face For Half An Hour: Monster Hunter 4 Demo Impressions

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Dammit, I thought I had finally gotten back into posting on the blog and suddenly life decides to become a hindrance. Well its Valentines Day I guess so I will be posting something containing a lot of negativity and complaining. I’m not doing it because it’s Valentines Day it just makes me feel like I do it with more purpose. Also with my 50 post count with this one I guess I’ll finally get around to organizing my posts, tomorrow of course because I’m busy doing anything else. So that there Monster Hunter 4 demo is available and the game is fully available as of yesterday, lets put it in the spotlight seen as I gave it a whirl.

The game series for the uninformed involves playing a Hunter slaying monsters, shocking as that may be. There is truth in the hunting notion as there are no health bars on your enemies and you can’t just engage them in a slug-fest, you must bide your time for opportunities to attack and lay traps, attacking without a lock-on so you must further your skills at aiming as well. You might be like the lack of a lock-on or a health bar on enemies, however if those things existed the formula that is so addictive would fall apart, becoming a grinding game through and through rather than a game of wits against large creatures….that you will grind for crafting gear to make a shinier sword and tougher armour.

Monster Hunter 4 adds a few new things, most notably the gameplay has become a lot more acrobatic with scaling walls, ledges you can jump off and attack mid-air, terrain changes as the monsters make a mess of the land and so on. You can now also jump on a monsters back and stab away at them for an opportunity to chip off drops as well as knock them to the floor for some punishment. 2 new weapons have been introduced as well as slight additions to the movesets of other weapon types: the Insect Glaive which focuses on a sapping of monsters for beneficial effects and the Charge Blade which focuses on a Sword mode and Axe mode that focuses on a build up resource then unleash it style of play.

In a word? I don’t think I’m a big fan of Monster Hunter 4 from my time with the demo, now lemme explain why,

First the new acrobatic stuff. Climbing walls is nice but it often makes traversing the environment a bit too slow for me, there is one area of the basic map where its is just 2 or 3 large walls to climb, a pain if when fighting an enemy you get knock down any of them. Speaking of which, certain projectiles don’t fly so much as travel on the floor, which can go up and down the walls while you scale them making approaching any monster capable irritating.

The ledge jumping stuff? It is nice but more than anything it’s not a jump button leap its a Zelda run quickly at it and it will force you into a locked momentum jump…so actually it is worse than Zelda. You jump when dashing or rolling forward over a ledge, unfortunately that means in combat any sprinting around monsters in a ledge filled area will cause constant uncontrollable leaps that will get you killed, while rolling sideways will simply get stunted when you hit the ledge and just drop.

For the most part there is no issue but one area of the beginning map has a nest with a bowl in the center. The area is already small so I have to be careful not to get the monster jumping me in a corner, any running around it causes me to jump of the rims of this bowl and got me killed when I just wanted to run. Oh yeah, the jumping of course means you won’t be dash evading with invincible frames to do a last minute dodge, something I use a lot when fighting a monster for the first time or if I’m in a tight spot.

The new mechanic of mounting enemies requires you knock them down with an aerial attack on the right spot of their body, indicated by a yellow strike flash when connecting. The little mini-game of sorts in which the monster vies to throw you off it isn’t hard to beat and knocking down enemies for a mount is very easy, especially with a large weapon. The system feels a little overpowered if you ask me, I can knock down an enemy, get a hard hit on a weakpoint with a high damage weapon that just knock them over again when I feel like it, maybe immediately. it feels nice to smack a monster in the face in mid-air but the reward for a successful mount feels too much for the effort put in, I only ever do it when I’m getting annoyed at the enemies rage mode.

The new weapons? Well the Insect Glaive requires, like all ranged weapons, use of the camera control buttons for aiming the reticle, in the Glaives case being the marker for your bug to sap from. The normal 3DS will not, I repeat will not, cut it whatsoever as you have nought but a D-Pad to control it. Oh while I’m on the note, like the previous Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate there is a new camera mode where you can press the camera centre button to centre on the creature, a nice addition but a full camera controlling option still feels better. The Glaives other appeal is command jump which frankly goes a bit high for me and seems to mostly be for evasion and a well timed air attack, not something I use a lot with it.

The Glaives attack combo is excessive in much of its motions making you very open for not a lot of damage out, making it feel like a very unnecessary weapon for me and impossible without a circle pad or the Pro attachment. The jump attack is novel but within an hour of weapon experimenting I realise that the Lance now has a jump when you are dash attacking with it, and that the dash attack can be used on even mid sized ledges which you then climb and continue the charge. Yes there is a single step between the jump compared to the Glaive but the height is more nominal for most enemies and very easy to use.

Now to the Charge Blade. I adore this weapon. It functions for all those Monster Hunter fans like a combo between the Sword and Shield combo and the Switch Axe. For those unaware, the Sword & Shield combo is a simple weapon style that focuses on medium damage with very low drawbacks, providing you with a shield for blocking and an easy to use combo. The Switch Axe focuses on a weapon form system, changing from axe to sword where the sword mode requires energy built up in axe form. My issue with the axe form is it performs side steps instead of rolls when evading making it very risky, especially with the very lengthy attack animations of the axe.

Instead of the Switch Axe there is no built up resource to use the other weapon mode and the weapon mode that does use it can do fantastic damage as well as have all the energy be charged into the weapon for enhanced elemental damage. You start with a sword and shield that has an excellent combo and has rolling for evasion. Hit monsters to charge the blade then you hit block and an attack button to take the built up energy and put it into stores for the axe. The axe mode has a normal combo you can use as well as a charged combo that uses up a vial of energy on each swing, culminating in a wide swing and a crash overhead, said attack being cancellable during the charge up into an elemental enforcement of your weapon for a time.

Powerful, easy to use and a satisfying special attack you can work for without having to go out of your way, not that the Switch Axe does but as a base point I like it, the Charge Blade is a beast of an addition to the weapon roster and one I can recommend to anyone looking for something hard hitting and simple.

Despite my joy at the new weapon type, the terrain changes do irritate me. While it is good they have designed so that you can use the jumping attacks without going out of your way, the core mechanics of those ledges interfere with my basic evasion and play of the game. It clearly suffers from a great idea with dodgy execution, I almost never got hit unless I ended up jumping or stopping because a ledge was placed somewhere nearby. There may be more variety in the game but from the demos two maps I felt like a lot of my movement was a bit too taxing when chasing down monsters. The 3DS controls simply do not work with the game very well and frankly the resolution gets on my nerves when I want to see more of the monster only to have them fill the whole screen and then some.

I will wait for the inevitable port to Wii U. I say inevitable because it is Capcom and frankly they need money to the point I expect Street Fighter on a calculator. If it never comes? Well I’ll never try the full game unless I really can get to grips with a New 3DS C-stick, which then requires I ever get a hands on with the system, if anyone hears of trade ins for one give me a shout. Best of luck Monster Hunter, you are a pain most of the time but I still love you.

Do you like MH4? Is the normal 3DS your choice for controller or do you have access to an actual pad/stick for camera controls? How do you feel about the new mechanics and weapons? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.

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