Review – Monster Hunter: World

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I know this might seem like a strange time to review Capcom’s behemoth of a title (over 2 years after release) but there is a good reason it’s taken so long.

I originally bought Monster Hunter: World at the beginning of 2018. This was a mistake. Not because I didn’t enjoy the game, far from it, it was due to the fact that I had a brand spanking new baby which invariably sucked up all my gaming time. So after about 12 hours of gameplay I put it up on eBay and focussed on less time consuming games that could be dipped in and out of in between feeding and the constant nappy changing.

Fast forward 2 years and I have managed to claw back a few extra minutes of gaming a day. This new found time coincided with Playstation’s “Spring Sale”. And lo and behold, look what’s sitting there at a respectable £12.99 – Monster Hunter: World.

I whizzed over to howlongtobeat.com to double check the “Completionist” time. Surely I had remembered incorrectly? But no. Monster Hunter: World clocks in at a mammoth 340+ hours of gameplay if you want to do everything. Insanity. But also, being a tight Northerner, fantastic value for money! A bargain.

MHW is a deep gaming experience. Especially if like me, it’s your first foray into the series. Because of this I decided to delete my old save from the 2 years prior and start a fresh. This was the right decision as aspects of the gameplay seemed to swim back to me through the fog of time whilst others had faded.

Even though this instalment is branded as being the most accessible of the series to new players, it is still a lot to take in at first. The plot focusses on you, a Hunter, as part of the “Fifth Fleet” which has been sent to the New World in order to gather information as to why the “Elder Dragons” are on the move. You land on the New World and head to the gaming hub of Astera where you learn the basics. And there’s a lot to learn.

MHW is a social game where you can team up with companions and go on hunts together. Me – being an antisocial git with limited gaps of time to play – chose to go it alone, which is fine. But the option is there if you wish to join up. It just means that you have to check a few boxes before accepting a quest in order to make sure nobody gatecrashes. I recommend playing solo, at least for the first few hours, so you can take your time in getting used to the game’s intricacies.

There isn’t too much of a tutorial in MHW. You are of course given the basics but you quickly realise that this is merely the nipple on the tip of the iceberg. Press the “Options” button (I’m a PS4 player of course) and you’ll be met with menus. And then more menus. Menus within menus. Menus within menus within….well, you get the idea. You are given a furry and fully customisable “Palico” when you begin (think Puss in Boots but in flying goggles) who acts as your trusty sidekick who will help you in battle and point out things of interest. Then you need to pick a weapon. But this isn’t a simple choice of a sword or bow, oh no, there’s 14 to choose from. And each has their own specific function and skill set. I did a bit of research and decided on the Dual Blades to start with as they are the most accessible for beginners apparently, this is what I’d used previously too so it made sense. The combat mechanics vary from weapon to weapon and I recommend practising in the training area (located in your room) before heading off in the World for real.

Astera is bustling hub with a smithy, canteen and gathering space but also offers various side missions in the form of Bounties and Investigations for you to choose from. These can be undertaken at your own leisure but it can be slightly overwhelming wondering what to tackle first. After a few hours of play things start to become more second nature however.

Once you’re ready to begin (and fathomed out how to accept Quests) then you are sent to the Ancient Forest which is the first area of the game. Capcom have done a lovely job in creating a lush forest world to start you off in. There are crystal clear rivers and streams framed by gorgeous forest foliage, shaded clearings and bone strewn beaches. Amongst all of this is a plethora of things to collect and document; track marks, bugs, flora and fauna, animal shit – the list is endless. Just collect everything and sort it out later is my advice. There’s also a whole menagerie of wildlife from dinosaurs to wild pigs. Some friendly, some not so.

The level design is multi-tiered and can seem labyrinthian at first and it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Your “Scoutflies” act as a guide to your objective, but they can be temperamental at times. The aforementioned objective is normally the hunting of a monster of some kind. But don’t be tempted to come in here all swords-a-swinging like you’re in a Dark Souls game or you’ll be left frustrated. For example, you can’t “lock on” to your target (in the traditional sense) and begin hacking away, you have to manually aim your character to attack. This takes some getting used to but it means you can target specific parts of the monster’s body and weak spots. The approach to combat in general is actually fairly nuanced with multiple strategies being able to be employed in order to bring down your prey. You can set traps, lay poisoned bait or follow it back to its den – there isn’t a single linear approach, which adds another dimension to the hunt.

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Once you have brought down your required target and cut its knackers off, it’s back to Astera to turn all that lovely loot and stuff you’ve collected into shiny new armour and upgrades for your weapons. The armour and weapon customisation is deep and very rewarding. Upon creating my new set of Bone armour I felt a distinct satisfaction and looked forward to me next hunt. And here in lies the gameplay loop of MHW. And a most satisfying one it is too.

I’d say it takes at least 6-8 hours to get to grips with MHW but once you’re comfortable and you feel it’s various intricacies and systems “click” then you’re in for a treat. I’m barely scratching the surface but I’m looking forward to ploughing many more hours into this, Capcom’s bestselling game of all time.

The State of Play – Is it a case of quantity over quality in Fallout 4?

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Is it me or does Fallout 4 look a bit shit?

Now, before I get inundated with virtual dog turds being sent to the comment section, I would just like to say that I think Fallout 4 is superb. I, like hundreds of gamers around the world, have being playing feverishly since yesterday’s release.

I’ve already invested many hours in making no meaningful progress whatsoever and instead spent the time trying to figure out how to get my generator to power my ceiling fan that I have in my new prefabricated house (I also spent a good hour trying to pick the right pictures to go alongside my dining table – but that’s a story for another day).

For Bethesda fans this is what it’s all about; the crafting, the upgrading, the exploration – it’s what makes these games addictive and has the effect of warping time so that when you look at your watch, hours have gone by in the blink of an eye. There is so much to see and do – the shear quantity of content is staggering and will keep gamers busy for many months.

Fallout 4 has delivered in every department, but one: visuals.

As soon as I exited Vault 111 and stepped out blinking into the blinding Sun, I was impressed by the draw distance and detailed horizon. However, it was on closer inspection of the immediate world around me that things got a bit disappointing. Copied and pasted textures are everywhere. In buildings there is a serious lack of lighting/shadow on objects/furniture and when you get up close to an NPC you realise that the character models are found lacking.

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I wouldn’t be sounding dramatic when I say that this could be considered a last generation release. The thing is, I don’t know why it looks this crap. Maybe we could turn a blind eye but this year we all played The Witcher 3, a game just as vast and consuming yet also one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.

Bethesda is also a larger developer than CD Projekt RED and arguably wields more financial clout than the Polish outfit.

So why does it look so average? Laziness? Lack of focus? Naivety? I honestly don’t know. Bethesda has never made the most visually stunning games, and some would argue that the raw look and buggy nature all adds to their games’ appeal and is part of their character. I disagree, I think if you’re selling a product then it should be near perfect before it is released for retail. Visuals aside, bugs and programming flaws should be rare and should never be considered “part of a game’s character”.

I’m enjoying Fallout 4, it’s all I can think about when I’m doing other things. It’s involving, satisfying and rewarding all at the same time. I love it. It’s just disappointing that they could have made it absolutely perfect had it looked as good as it could have.

Bethesda are going to make a lot of money from Fallout 4, more money than most game developers will make in a lifetime of releases, and I want them to invest it. I want them to make their budget even bigger for their next big release and put more money aside for hiring better artists, QA testers and creating a better engine that can deliver better lighting and a more beautiful world.

There is no excuse for poor looking games anymore, not from developers with huge amounts of wealth and access to the best talent the gaming world has to offer.

Right, back to Fallout and I’ve decided. I’m going to go for the picture of a sailing ship for my dining room. Now I just need a nice rug for the bedroom……

Review – Mega Man Legacy Collection

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It’s the 25th August and that can mean only one thing to gamers around the world, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is exactly 7 days away from launch. Early reports about how exquisite the game is seems to be only ramping up the excitement to near fever pitch. Words such as “masterpiece” and quotes such as “one in a lifetime game” are already starting to be thrown about. We will have to wait and see. A week to be exact.

So what am I to do until then? Luckily, the answer arrived on the Playstation Store today with the release of Mega Man Legacy Collection.

Now I’m going to be honest with you, I have never played Mega Man. It passed me by and was slightly before my time. As a matter of fact I was only 365 days old (approximately) when the first game came out on the NES. The original Mega Man series ran from 1987 – 1993 on the NES, so you’ll excuse my failure to play them.

However, just because I’ve never played them doesn’t mean I don’t understand or appreciate what they have done for gaming, especially in the early years of home consoles.

This Mega Man Legacy collection comprises of the original 6 games released on the NES. They have all been sharpened up and I must say, they look extremely clean and crisp on a modern HD TV. The 8-bit soundtrack sounds great as do the old school sound effects.

The games themselves are old school platforming perfection. For continuity, and my crippling OCD, I am playing the games in order without skipping ahead. So you’ll forgive me for concentrating on the first game as that is what I have played the most.

Mega Man is our hero – clad in a blue suit and helmet and armed (literally) with a blaster. He has three control functions; jump, shoot and turbo shoot. That’s it. Easy, simple – bing bang bosh. The game begins with a nonlinear level select screen where you can pick any of 6 areas to visit; fire, water, ice etc. and each level has an end of level boss. Once you defeat this boss you take ownership of their specialist weapon. This weapon has limited ammo as opposed to your blaster which is infinite and you collect charge for these weapons by killing enemies. The same goes for topping up your shield/health. The levels flow wonderfully, with tight platforming sections interspersed with tricky enemies that swoop and dive from all angles.

If, like me, you have never played Mega Man before and pick it up for the first time, there is one thing that will hit you straight away. The difficulty. Christ on a bike, this game is hard. Like many games from the early days progressing through 2D platformers relied on a mixture of timing, reflexes and the memorisation of enemy patterns and level features. True hardcore gaming. The only way to get good and progress through games of this difficulty is to play them so much that you know them inside out. Indeed, a quick search on YouTube will provide you with videos of utter beasts beating levels in speed runs that can only be attributed to hundreds of hours during the late 80’s/early 90’s playing Mega Man.

My satisfaction after completing the “Cut Man” stage was one of old school joy. It’s this feeling that pumps the adrenaline through your veins and the addictiveness takes hold. After my first half hour my thumb was feeling sore. A nostalgic discomfort I haven’t felt since holding my SNES controller.

There has been a save function added whereupon you can save your game once during play. A welcome addition as apparently the original series had a cryptic password system – a common theme among games back then (one day, when I can bare it, I’ll talk about The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on the SNES and it’s password system –  a process I can imagine being similar to writing an algorithm for Google’s search functions).

A gallery of enemies has also been added for your perusal as well as a soundtrack playlist that allows you to replay your favourite tunes from your favourite levels. This must be a dream come true for hardcore fans.

All in all I am very happy that I purchased this collection and believe it will be the perfect refreshment before getting stuck into MGS V next week.

The whole collection cost me just £11.99 which for the amount of content you get is well worth it. Personally, I’m just glad I finally got to play this great series – albeit 28 years after it started.

But like they say, better late than never.