Like the average Tinder user, most games are all too keen to reveal themselves at the slightest provocation. Within 15 minutes of, say, The Order: 1886, its immaculate slacks are crumpled around its ankles and the only surprise left is how disappointingly quickly it climaxes.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is no such easy lay. This recently released 3DS exclusive needs to be wined, dined and romanced before it'll let you steal a kiss, let alone invite you up for coffee. Which must sound terrible if you like your gratification instant, but as any fan of the series or tantric sex practitioner will tell you, protracted pleasure can be a wonderful thing.
Before this tortuous analogy spirals out of control, let's be clear: we're talking about a game called Monster Hunter that —surprise—is all about hunting monsters. It might have a title that's so Ronseal in its bluntness that it verges on parodic, but don't be fooled: this is a game of staggering depth and complexity that also happens to let you smash inflatable land sharks in the face with a giant tuna and dress up a bipedal cat as a vaguely offensive Mexican stereotype.
As the 11th game in the series, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate —let's call it MH4U to save time—brings with it a lot of baggage from its predecessors and makes plenty of assumptions on the novice player's part as a result. But don't let that deter you! You'll soon submit to its hidden charms if you follow this utterly uncomprehensive guide to the letter. Or every other word, at least.
FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS
MH4U is designed to last hundreds of hours, and while it takes its sweet time to formally introduce you to its many, many facets, it doesn't make a great effort of hiding them from you before you've grasped their purpose. Phrases that might pass your lips include:
"Why am I fighting a giant sand whale in my pants?"
"What the fuck is a Glueglopper?"
"Why is a cat cooking my dinner?"
"Can I really name my pet pig 'Banderas'?"
"Wait, I have a pet pig?"
All of these things will make sense eventually (except the pig—nobody really knows what that's about), but your priority should be to suss the essential Monster Hunter loop. Which is: select quest, embark on quest, find monster, hit monster, kill monster, get loot.
A few dozen hours in and this will have mutated into a 20-step checklist that includes items like, "painstakingly organize my items," "go fishing with my cat army," and, "remember to go to the toilet."
Astonishingly, this routine will not only become rote, but you'll crave it, like an obedient lab monkey pushing and pulling an ever-growing number of buttons and levers to receive a delicious treat. Video games.
For now, though, just remember: you're a monster hunter and you hunt monsters. Get used to that, and the rest will follow. Eventually.
CHOOSE A WEAPON THAT FITS
Oh man, the weapons. Try not to think of the 14 varieties on offer as inanimate implements of monster spanking, but as characters that give your mute, blank slate of an avatar a personality.
You know how fans of fighting games like to "main" a brawler, and then maybe dabble in a few others? That's exactly how you should approach your choice of arms in MH4U, because for every weapon there are dozens of sub-varieties, and each of those sub-varieties has a dedicated upgrade tree. In short, you could spend hundreds of hours dedicating yourself to a single discipline and still not wield every iteration. Sounds: intimidating. Is: brilliant.
Your options range from the simple, self-explanatory Great Sword to the gloriously insane Insect Glaive, a battle staff that comes complete with a giant, vampiric bug that you can send off to suck performance-enhancing juices from your quarry.
Handily, there's a dedicated quest for every weapon right at the start of the game, which will give you a brief—if not thorough—tutorial, so take your time to find the one that suits your style because you're going to be spending a lot of time together. And when you think you've mastered your weapon of choice, watch a video like this and realize that you know nothing.
FORM A REGULAR HUNTING PARTY
As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem you've inflicted on other people. But when that problem is a monster that needs a dry slap, your friends won't quietly wish that you'd kept it to yourself for once.
Playing MH4U with others is pretty much its raison d'être or, "reason for falling into debt." You can play online while your lover/flatmate/imaginary friend gorges on rubbish TV or selfishly demands "conversation," or in the actual, physical presence of others. For local play, try somewhere really crowded, like a bar, so everyone can loudly mock your group for visibly having a great time without once critiquing a recent football game.
But what do they know? You're playing one of the greatest examples of cooperative gaming the world has seen, full of moments of heart-warming triumph and hilariously spectacular failure. You'll laugh together, you'll learn together, you'll love together. Don't actually say any of that, though, for it will only make your detractors despise you even more.
Get a few other people with an alarming amount of spare time to join you on this ultimately pointless* endeavor, and soon you too could be having utterly bewildering WhatsApp conversations like this:
LEARN TO LOCK-ON
The camera in MH4U is awful. Even if you're one of those swank folk with a New 3DS and its stiff-yet-sensitive C-nipple thing, you'll still find your view frequently obscured by a cliff face or the ass-end of a 45-yard-long death snake.
But look! LOOK. When, unlike popular boy band U2, you have found what you're looking for (a monster), you'll see a crude likeness of Bono (a monster) on the lower screen. Lick the crisp crumbs off your fingers and jab at the icon like a loved one's eyeball. Now, whenever you press the left shoulder button, the camera will whizz round to face the giant, toothy thing that's about to batter you senseless.
You have two options: 1) Use this all the time, or 2) Die.
Do the 'MH' Prance
WHEN IN DOUBT, PRANCE (OR WAVE)
You can perform 16 "gestures" in MH4U, but only one matters.
Actually, that's not true. If you can't find your target and you see a balloon in the sky, use Wave and your friendly eye in the sky will highlight their location on the map for a few seconds. It only works once, mind, so lob a paintball beastward once you've found it and you'll be able to keep track of it for a good five minutes or so.
Congratulations, you are now a Monster Hunter expert. Here is your reward, some not-at-all frightening fan art.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is exclusively available for Nintendo 3DS, which is a shame because it'd look great on a big TV.
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