Review by mudkipz4eva

Reviewed: 08/14/09

A masterpiece which far exceeds the expectations of a PSP game.

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is far more than just an expansion. It is an entirely new game on top of its predecessor. The all-time top-selling PSP game in Japan, fans across the world were salivating in anticipation for the international release, and on release it paid off, as Freedom Unite or 'MHFU' delivered no disappointment to its fans and new players alike.

Released as Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G in Japan, MHFU was thought to be merely an expansion of Monster Hunter Freedom 2, with a few new monsters, new weapons and armour sets, and the infamous "G-Level" quests which bring a whole new challenge to even the most experienced Monster Hunters. However, as a fan of the series who played MHF2 throughout, I can honestly say that this game far exceeded my expectations, with hundreds of new weapons and armour sets, and a lot of new and challenging monsters, quests and areas to conquer.

If you're a returning player of Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and you don't want to have to beat everything again then you're given the option to import your old save into MHFU and continue playing with all of the same weapons and armour, as well as quest completion which you've already worked hard for, so you can just get into the action and new challenges instantly. If not, then you must start from the beginning and work your way through the easiest quests right through to the harder ones. Either way, as a new player or a returning player, you're promised a challenge.

One of the most infamous aspects of the game and perhaps the reason why a lot of professional critics give the game lower than what I personally think it deserves is that due to its difficulty and often repetitive gameplay, the game can be extremely frustrating. Even as a new player a lot of the beginning monsters can give you quite a lot of trouble and this does tend to put a lot of players off. However, for patient players who enjoy a promising and worthwhile challenge, this is more of a good point than a bad one. As for repetitive gameplay, it's very true that a lot of the time you will find yourself beating the same monster which you've already mastered over and over to get something you want, which can often be extremely difficult and rare to obtain, which will eventually get a little boring and frustrating. However, the reward is always overwhelming and you will find that it is always worth it to put in such an effort.

The game is also nearly limitless, you're not inclined to complete certain quests in a certain order, you're given different categories of quests in levels, from one-star to nine-star quests, and there are an incredible amount of quests in each, so it will take you hours to get through every quest in order to reach the next level, whereby you'll likely be a lot better at the game and able to cope with the challenge of the next-level quests. The strategies on how to defeat the monsters are usually always different, so you'll always be finding and creating the best methods of how to hunt each one, and this is why the game promises such an interesting challenge that you surely will not be able to overcome quickly.

There are ten weapon classes, all very, very different from each other and require different tactics, but all classes are capable of defeating all monsters, so even when you've gotten the hang of one class, there's nothing stopping you from trying another weapon class out and going back to the beginning working your way up through the ranks. And with ten weapon classes you're always bound to find at least a few weapons which suit your style of hunting, whether you want to use the fast and precise, yet less powerful sword and shield or dual swords, or the slow yet destruction-bringing great swords or longswords, or any of the other classes, there's many more to choose from, and the choice is entirely yours. There are literally hundreds of weapons for each class, some of them you can simply make with materials which you find from defeating monsters, or throughout the many different areas you go to, from snowy mountains to volcanoes, you will need to gather these materials to make the base weapon, and then you can continue to upgrade the weapon by finding more and sometimes better materials. With so many weapons and so many challenging monsters to defeat to obtain them, it is very easy to play for potentially hundreds of hours before fighting the stronger monsters in the game, and yet the time will fly by, being so fun along the way.

As for amour sets, there are two main types of armour, blademaster armour, and gunner armour, eight of the ten weapon classes only support the blademaster armour, and the other two weapon classes, being light/heavy bowgun and bow, will require special gunner armour, so you will need to make more than just one set of armour at a time if you want to use both blades and guns. The armour sets themselves are usually, but not always specific to a certain monster, for example, the Rathian set of armour will require mostly Rathian materials to make. You're not forced to make the whole set if you don't want to repeatedly defeat the same monster over and over, but your armour will usually have certain skills and attributes applied to it, relative to the type of monster you defeated to gain it. Using the Rathian as an example again, a full set of Rathian armour will give you the skills Health +30 and Poison Duration Halved, as the Rathian is known to be a poison-inflicting monster, and has a large amount of health. This is why it's much more beneficial to gain a whole set rather than just pieces from several set, but again, the choice is yours, as it will be throughout the whole game.

One of Monster Hunter's selling points is that it's got an incredible multiplayer system, as well as the single-player "elder" quests, you also have special guild quests which are usually more difficult, but you can play either alone, or with a friend who has a copy of the game, and it's usually so much more fun to play with another Hunter alongside you. The interactivity between two players is very fun and not limited, you can trade some items and work together to form certain strategies to beat harder monsters you can't yet beat alone. Rewards are also given if you play with friends a lot, but they're not particularly important, so don't worry if you don't intend on playing multiplayer, the game is still very possible to beat on your own.

For those of you who want a summarised run-down of the specific points of the game, I'll try to keep it brief for you:

Gameplay - 10/10
Flawless, the gameplay systems are incredibly fun to master, you're given a lot of choice over what type of weapons you use, so you're guaranteed to find something that works well with you. While it can be very frustrating and repetitive at times, as long as you're patient enough to keep trying, you will definitely see that Monster Hunter and particularly Monster Hunter Freedom Unite having the widest range of weapons and items to date will keep you occupied for a long time, and you will surely enjoy it to its fullest extent.

Graphics - 9/10
While I personally think it's unfair to judge a game by its graphics, particularly a game on a handheld console, Monster Hunter is rather limited in graphics at times. For example, during the character creation the only distinguishing feature you can change on a character is base clothes which you'll rarley see and hairstyle, for both males and females. There's not much point in changing much to your character's face as you won't see it much. What's more is that most helmets will prevent you from noticing whichever hairstyle you've chosen, so even that is limited in terms of graphics. Also, a lot of the weapons in each class are exactly the same as each other in design, usually colour-swapped, which makes it a bit boring sometimes to obtain new weapons. The same goes, but on a lesser extent for armour sets. On the other hand, the graphics in general are far more than I ever expected to see the PSP of handling, and while it may not be on-par with TV consoles like the PS3 and X360, the graphics are more than good enouh for Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, being a PSP game.

Sound - 10/10
A strange feature to review for a game, but it has to be said that Monster Hunter has brilliant music, there are a lot of different battle musics and such, as well as music which plays in the village, and none of it's boring, it's all very interesting music which is catchy and very well composed. Even the sound effects in this game sound good, they're not typical stock sounds you'll hear often in other games, they're original and they make the game fun to play with the sound on. The monsters all sound intimidating with their screams and roars, and it shows that even audio can have a massive impact on the enjoyability of a game.

Controls - 9/10
Another very commonly put-down aspect of the game is that the controls can be very hard to get used to, especially since the camera angles can sometimes act up on you and when you're in the middle of hunting a huge monster you can't take your eyes off, it can sometimes at first be frustrating to keep changing the camera angle to a good position. However, it's not quite as bad as I think critics make it out to be, and I think that a "camera lock-on feature" would ruin the game, and I personally wouldn't like it. Once you're used to shifting the camera around, you won't even notice how easy it is. Other than that, the controls are generally fine, they work well with each other and you won't find yourself needing several more hands to work your way through the buttons. The controls are never unresponsive, so it's not like you're going to need to roll out of the way of a monster's charge and simply fail to do so.

Replayability - 10/10
If I could give it an 11 I would, because even a 10 is barely sufficient, as the replayability value in Monster Hunter is incredibly high, and perhaps the most valuable aspect of the game. Even on your first run through the game you will have to play it possibly up to 500 hours or more to fully beat the game, and even when you've killed off that much time, you will still want to continue playing the game, and if not, then in several months, if you enjoyed it as much as I did, you will be very tempted to put the UMD in and start a new character right from the beginning. This game can kill years off your life, but it is time very well spent.

Overall - 10/10
Without a doubt the best game I've ever played in my opinion and I'm looking forward to the future of the epic Monster Hunter series which has so far has surprisingly given me an epic experience I'll never regret. Before purchasing Monster Hunter Freedom Unite I was a little concerned that, since I played Freedom 2, I might not get much out of the expanded version, but, so much new content was offered to me, my favourite being the Felyne you can take with you to help you on quests while playing solo, and I will never regret forking out the small amount of cash this game sells for. The game usually sells for a very respectable price and it is without a doubt worth it, whether you're a new player, or someone who has already mastered the art of Monster Hunter. Playing with friends, or alone, in the world of Monster Hunter, you are never alone.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (US, 06/22/09)

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