Monster Hunter Rise’s arrival on Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation underlines its masterpiece credentials

Monster Hunter Rise's arrival on Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation underlines its masterpiece credentials

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One of the great pleasures of the past few years has been seeing Capcom’s Monster Hunter series go mainstream. It was a bit like seeing an old friend finally realize his potential and get the applause he deserves, and the best thing about it all is knowing that millions more are now on board a series of action which is, in my opinion, about as good as it gets. Playing through Monster Hunter Rise on PS5 as it heads to Sony’s console – and as it also hits Game Pass on Xbox – underlines what a special series this is. Acknowledging everything Rise has introduced into the formula only confirms my initial belief that this is particularly a modern masterpiece – the best Monster Hunter yet, I think, and as such one of the best games of the last five years.

I can sympathize with those who have been slow to warm up to the show’s charms; it took me quite a while to get on board, and it took the encouragement of a small group of passionate friends for me to finally succumb to Monster Hunter 4. Back then, it took an arm around the shoulder to overcome the hustle and bustle of those early hours spent gathering and grinding, and explaining the thrill of the hunt and precisely what makes the series’ fuzzy analog combat so special. Now that’s not really necessary, and Monster Hunter has a surer sense of itself and is so much faster at getting you into the action.

Nowhere is that truer than in Monster Hunter Rise, which sees you take on screen-filling beasts in minutes. Maybe it’s due to my own familiarity with Monster Hunter and Rise’s own openness going through it many times before (or maybe it’s also due to some of the stuff introduced around the launch of the Sunbreak hard-edged expansion) but it feels something like speed through it all as opposed to the tasteless progression of older titles. This underscores the breeze that has always been central to Monster Hunter Rise’s appeal.

Digital Foundry is currently working on their own impressions of the new Monster Hunter Rise releases, but in the meantime why not get nostalgic and take a look at their verdict on the Switch original?

Upgrading to more powerful hardware also helps immensely. I skipped the PC version which launched last January so I’m new to the concept of Monster Hunter Rise running in 4K with high res textures, denser foliage and all sorts of extra detail while doing some work decent by sticking to 60fps. I’ll let Digital Foundry apply its own expertise in this department, though I will say it’s a delight to see the artistry and exquisite animation find new meaning in life beyond the confines of the Nintendo Switch.

The amount Monster Hunter was able to squeeze into the small screens of the PSP and 3DS on which it made its reputation always felt like a small miracle, which is what made World’s big-screen release so appealing. Rise might have seemed like a small step backwards in that respect but now it has the ability to stretch its legs on more capable hardware it’s obvious that in all areas that matters it’s easily measure of Monster Hunter World, and the improvements it makes to the formula shine all the more.

Rise takes the biggest leaps in traversal, thanks to the introduction of Palamutes that can be summoned on a whim, giving you a canine mount to jump from one side of the map to the other. Elsewhere there’s the wirebug, granting you what amounts to a grappling hook that sends you athletically jumping off cliffs, or perhaps bringing you back into battle after being knocked down by your mark. Just getting from A to B is absolute fun in Monster Hunter Rise thanks to its myriad options and execution – the immediacy of the wirebug, or the silly but brilliant fact that you can drift your dog into the battle.

It’s a big week for Monster Hunter – head to the cinema to see the excellent Tár and you’ll see him in an unexpected and hilarious cameo.

Stupid but brilliant seems like a fine way to describe Monster Hunter’s appeal, really, a series where the sheer challenge it presents is undermined by some awkwardness – and where your bad luck or being transported for the umpteenth time during A fight is more often going to result in a chuckle rather than throwing your controller across the room. It’s that sense of character that keeps you coming back for more even when Monster Hunter keeps knocking you down; it is this character that is integrated into each of the monsters with their bespoke animations and behaviors. An individual beast in Monster Hunter often boasts more personality than most triple-A games as a whole.

So yeah, Monster Hunter is pretty special, and Rise is comfortably my favorite entry in the series to date. It’s as accessible as the series has ever been, and these new console ports showcase Rise at its best. The PS5 version, in particular, is flawless thanks to its implementation of gyroscopic controls around which the original wirebug mechanic feels built around – and yet I’m still drawn to the Xbox version as it’s on Game Pass, and seeing how that could help introduce a whole new audience to this most wonderful series. Monster Hunter is bigger than it’s ever been, and the thought of it getting even bigger still fills me with excitement.

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