SONY PSP REVIEW: MONSTER HUNTER FREEDOM

Multiplayer is the way to go as the single player isn't all that. by Mike Chasselwaite

May 29, 2006 - Based on the Japanese version of Monster Hunter G, Monster Hunter Freedom is about as close as we are going to come to experiencing this game that was previously unreleased in North America. As much as I liked the original Monster Hunter, this version could have stayed on the other side of the ocean and got its ass kicked by Godzilla for all I care.

Monster Hunter Freedom is not a bad game but what's really disappointing is that it should be great. There were some problems with the original and some of those bugs have been fumigated, but some, like the quirky online play, were jettisoned rather than repaired. While you can play against three other players in the multi-player mode, it's restricted to localized ad hock. What are the chances that you're going to find three other friends with a copy of this game? That wouldn't even be a concern online. Other elements that conspire to interfere with your enjoyment include an overly-touchy camera system that requires constant fiddling, lack of a lock-on targeting system and the inability to swap weapons in real time. Other than that, the game can be fun if you're up for the challenge.

Don't expect much of a story. You don't really need one. The premise will set you up nicely and you can take if from there. The game takes place in a prehistoric/fantasy era where you will encounter various dinosaurs, dragons, giant insects and other mutated creatures including a race of cat people that will assist you for a fee. You are a highly advanced prehistoric knight of sorts. Selecting different shaped heads, body types, sex, hairstyles, outfits, weapons and armor you create your own customized character that you can continue to customize or level-up throughout the game. By taking up residence in the village you will embark on various hunting and gathering missions to not only earn a living but to make a name for yourself as a great warrior.

There are shops in the village where you will be able to buy armor and weapons or sell some of the plants, herbs and monster eggs that you collect during your adventures. The chief will offer you various missions that fall under one of two categories: Hunting or gathering. Hunting involves tracking down specific monsters that the chief wants you to kill. You might even be required to bring in some proof that you successfully carried out the deed. A variety of weapons can be used to accomplish the task such as swords, spears, clubs and a crossbow. The weapons will need to be upgraded as you progress to take on more powerful beasts. If you don't have the money to purchase them outright, and they can be expensive, you are encouraged to craft them on your own. You'll end up with more powerful weapons and armor for less money.

Hunting the monsters requires that you track them down through various environments which include forests, jungles, swamps, rocky hills and barren wastelands. You will have to dodge giant swishing tails, beating wings and fire-breathing behemoths. When battling most of the huge monsters you have to find their vulnerable spots which are usually under their legs. The soft underbelly is a good place to target and this area can help keep you somewhat safe from the previously mentioned attacks. The monster movements are smooth and fluid but unpredictable as well. They don't follow patterns like your average boss. They react to the immediate threat. Unfortunately there is a slight delay with the weapon attack. I imagine this is to replicate the massive weight of the weapons, but it prevents you from getting a rhythm going.

Button mashing and hacking and slashing give way to a more controlled battle system, but unfortunately the added control just impedes the action. Attacks are accessed by pressing the circle and triangle buttons instead of the analog stick as on the console version. When you get a few good hits in you will activate combos. These combos continue even when the monster has changed position. You can't stop the combos immediately. The fact that there is no auto-lock on your attacks means that you'll often be swinging blindly, and you can't just put the brakes on and change position.

You can't change weapons in the field either. You have to go back to the village to do that. The camera is controlled by the D-pad. Press up and down or from side to side to swing the camera 360-degrees. You will constantly be messing with the camera to retain the proper perspective which diverts your attention from the gameplay. These elements weren't very well thought out.

Gathering, or collecting, is a good source of revenue which can be used to upgrade your character, but it can be kind of boring. You can collect various items in the same places that you hunt or you can head to a farm where you can collect lumber, fish, tend to a garden and mine ore. With the money that you make you can arrange for the cat people to cook up some wickedly good meals for you that will increase your overall stats.

The environments are excellent looking. The monsters and the animation of the various creatures are also top shelf. The overall production values are great and even the multi-player modes are extremely well done even if they aren't available for online play.

As a Monster Hunter fan I was expecting a lot more, but if this is your first introduction to the series, without any preconceived notions, you might enjoy it more than I did.

Features:

  • Challengers take on a variety of quests and conquer larger than life beasts either alone or with the aid of others.
  • Building upon Monster Hunter and Monster Hunter G (both on PS2), Monster Hunter Freedom includes new missions, additional features and content adapted for the PSP system.
  • Adventurers are now free to take their epic battles with them wherever they go, as they explore a unique world inhabited by ferocious monsters and become mighty hunters in this exciting action game.
  • With a multitude of missions, quests, characters, weapons and more, the variety is virtually limitless.
  • The game features both enhanced single player campaigns as well as multiplayer missions via the PSP system's ad hoc wireless mode which allows up to four friends to band together for intense battles.
  • Fully customizable characters - from the hairstyle to a new and powerful dual-edged sword.
  • Become a treasure hunter in a two-player co-op game collect and deliver treasures in this fast paced timed game.
  • New feline kitchen lets you hire feisty chefs to produce unique meals to help enhance your abilities.

By Mike Chasselwaite
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Monster Hunter Freedom (PSP)
4.3
Graphics
Excellent graphics and animations. The monsters look great and move about realistically in totally believable environments.
3.1
Control
The weapons feel very heavy. Even when you level-up it feels as though you're still dragging your ass. The controls are sluggish and the lack of a lock-on targeting system is a pain.
4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Celtic music is perfectly suited for the game. The sound effects for the various monsters is varied and imaginative.
4.0
Online / Wi Fi
Multiplayer is the way to go.
3.0
Play Value
Unless you have a friend or three, you're not likely to get a lot of replay out of the game, but the multi-player modes are very good.
3.3
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Capcom
Pub: Capcom
Release: May 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Mike

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best