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A buzzword for video game reviewers — and, let’s face it, I have probably used this word in 90% of my reviews over the past two decades — is ‘‘immersive’’.
The theory is that the best video games are the ones that transport you to a world, helping you forget you are sitting on a couch, or that make you feel like you ARE the character on screen, and not a regular Joe Blow with a job and a mortgage.
Open-world games like Grand Theft Auto have set the standard here. They populate virtual worlds with thousands of characters, pretty visuals, a heap of detail and items that you can interact with, all adding to the feeling of immersion.
Monster Hunter World aims to hit that sort of level with one of the most spectacular open-world settings I have seen in a game. It has a living, breathing ecosystem that transports you, a hunter, into a ‘‘New World’’ in pursuit of some big beasties (more on those in a minute).
All around you, the world seethes with life and activity. There are all sorts of flowers and herbs to collect for various uses, stones to pick up to hurl with a slinger, rivers to splash through, vines to swing on, cliffs to climb, birds swooping around . . . the list goes on.
It’s a beautiful, bucolic setting — well, at least it would be be if all these darn monsters weren’t trying to kill you.
Yes, the world is indeed full of monsters for you to hunt. Your mission, in fact, is to kill or trap all manner of ferocious beasts in a bid to help something called the Research Commission learn more about the world.
These are not pig-sized beasts, you understand. They are real monsters. Huge, nasty, VICIOUS things that do not take kindly at all to you strolling up and whacking them on the backside with a giant hammer. Or a sword. Or a katana.
In all, there are 14 different weapon types, all of which can be tinkered with and upgraded, and experimenting with the lot is key to both enjoying the game and progressing.
Take out a weapon, kill a beast, ‘‘carve’’ useful bits off the beast that can be used to craft improved weapons and armour, rinse and repeat.
It sounds simple but, wow, it really ain’t. Some of these monsters take an awful long time to take down. You never really have a clear idea how damaged they are, and they frequently run for long distances, so patience is the key, along with researching to find out their weak spots.
In fact, I think there will be some people put off by the intensity and difficulty of some of the battles, but there will equally be plenty who find it an absorbing challenge.
The game has a real sense of fun about it, in and around the battles. You are accompanied by a ‘‘Palico’’, basically a pet cat that you can equip to help you in fights.
And, if it all gets too much on your own, you can hunt in co-operative groups of up to four players.
The background to the game is interesting. The Monster Hunter series has been a huge hit in Japan for a decade, but never really found any traction outside that country. Not any more — Monster Hunter World has become Capcom’s fastest-selling game, six million copies having been shipped since its launch.
For now, Monster Hunter World is only available on console. A PC version launches later this year.
Monster Hunter World
For: PS4, Xbox One.
Rating: (M) ★★★★