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Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate Review

Brad Gallaway's picture

Bigger, Better, Badder

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate Screenshot

HIGH A new Monster Hunter is finally available! It's not a dream!

LOW The game's first few hours are painfully slow.

WTF How many damned carpenterbugs am I going to need here?

The universe must be in harmony, because it seems like players in the West only get a new Monster Hunter when the stars are in perfect alignment. The last one to make it out of Japan was 2010's Monster Hunter Tri, and it's been a long three-year wait for another fix. For fans like myself, it's tough to get enough. Luckily, Capcom has ended the drought with a real doozy—Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate, on Wii U and 3DS.

For players unfamiliar with the series (and apparently, that's a lot of folks) Monster Hunter is a third-person, real-time action game where characters wield shockingly large weapons against shockingly large monsters. There's also quite a bit of stat work, equipment tinkering and item grinding to round things out.

After creating a character to preference, the player begins in a small village on the periphery of a primeval island. The starting sword and armor are hardly worth a damn, but the hook to Monster Hunter is that the player doesn't level up their character to survive, it's the equipment that gets improved—and this equipment is amazing.

By defeating different types of monsters, parts can be harvested to create armaments and defensive gear. Feathers, claws, or hides... it can all become something valuable and deadly. The developers' designs are brilliant, and it's a thrill to create an item whose components are obvious based on the scales or horns used in its creation. These organic flourishes show that Capcom has some of the best artists in the industry, and players who love loot will find the addictive pull to make just one more thing impossible to resist.

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate Screenshot

So, that's the gist for newcomers, but Ultimate is actually an "extended remix" of Tri rather than an all-new game. Those already familiar with catching carpenterbugs and cutting the tails off of wyverns might be wondering why a modified re-release would interest them. The answer is simple: although Ultimate and Tri share the same core, this revamp adds a significant amount of fresh content into the mix. Here are the facts, straight from Capcom: In addition to carrying over all the original Tri content, players can expect to see a re-designed online area, 38 brand-new monsters (including subspecies), 211 brand-new quests (not including any of the planned free DLC), a second bring-along companion, three new areas to explore, and a staggering 2042 new pieces of equipment to buy, equip, and upgrade. (And no, that's not a typo.)

From any angle, this is a massive expansion. It's so big, in fact, that it handily eclipses the original game and exposes it as the relatively shallow starter project that I always felt it was. There's no possibility of feeling unsatisfied this time, though. With Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate, players are getting an overstuffed full-meal deal.

Apart from the new content, there have been small tweaks. Not a shocking amount has changed, but the starting quests are easier and the low-rank monsters go down quicker. Got stomped by an angry Barroth in Tri? It's a much tamer beast now, and that's great because dialing back the initial challenge is a smart way to invite newcomers in. On the other hand, the game still fails hard when it comes to getting things off on the right foot. Players will have to trudge through several hours' worth of patience-testing tutorials and boring missions before things heat up, and these "educational" sections aren't nearly as clear or as informative as they should be. Bookmarking the Ultimate page on GameFAQs and getting familiar with the Monster Hunter wiki is a must, and that's a shame—I imagine many players will bail out before the experience truly unfolds. Capcom desperately needs to overhaul how these games begin.

Earlier in this review, I mentioned that Ultimate was available on two platforms, the Wii U and 3DS. However, neither is a port of the other; they're designed to work together. With both versions in hand, it's possible to download a character from one to the other, and then back again. This is a fantastic feature that I've been wanting in Monster Hunter for quite a while, and I'm overjoyed that it's now a reality.

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate Screenshot

However, although the ability to hop between platforms is fantastic, it's easy to erase another player's data when shuttling back and forth. In a game where it's common to invest several hundred hours in a single character, any risk of accidental deletion is too much. For multiple players sharing hardware, my advice would be: don't share hardware. If that's not an option, then be very, very, very careful when transferring characters.

On the other hand, for players who will be playing only one version, it's important to note the key differences between them. As one might guess, the Wii U's visuals are head and shoulders above what the 3DS can display, although that's not to say that things are technically impressive on either system. Minimal improvements have been made to the graphics, and Ultimate's origins on the Wii are clear to see. I never thought Tri looked great to begin with, and Ultimate is only slightly better. I rarely say such things, but this is one game that really needs to push more pixels.

In terms of controls, it's obvious that Ultimate is best played with a stick dedicated to camera manipulation. The Wii U has three different game pads that fit the bill, but the 3DS hardware lacks such an option natively. As a result, optimal 3DS play is hampered unless using the Circle Pad Pro peripheral attachment. It's easy enough to get by without it at the beginning, but when monsters stop fooling around in the late-game, a single-stick setup won't cut it.

It's also important to note that the 3DS is only capable of local co-op unless the player wants to invest in an online adapter. That might not seem like a big deal, but the online adapter only works with the Wii U. This bizarre, catch-22 decision will only serve to limit the potential audience for the game, and it's doubly disappointing considering the Wii U's small installed base. However, those who own a Wii U will find it fast and easy to get online, and in Monster Hunter, even anti-multiplayer people like myself will eventually want to find some friends and quest up.

While Tri has never been my favorite Monster Hunter (Freedom Unite still holds that honor) there's no question that Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate is a huge step up from its predecessor. And, putting my personal foibles aside, each new release is a blessing. In fact, I enjoy hunting monsters so much that I bought my Wii U for the sole purpose of playing Ultimate, and I haven't regretted that decision for a moment. If I never purchase another game for the Wii U after this, I'll still be satisfied with what Capcom's given me, and I can't think of higher praise than that. Rating for the Wii U version: 8.5 out of 10. Rating for the 3DS version: 7.0 out of 10. Points deducted for the camera controls and lack of native online.

Disclosures: These games were obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Wii U (38 hours) and 3DS (six hours). Neither version was completed. 18 hours of play were spent in multiplayer mode via the Wii U's online mode, and 14 hours were spent in the Wii U/3DS local mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, crude humor, and fantasy violence. Although there is no sexual content or salty language, I would say that the game is not appropriate for younger children without a fair amount of parental guidance. Putting aside the fact that it's sharply difficult, some of the larger monsters are actually quite frightening and imposing—easily the stuff of nightmares. Taking huge swords, axes and hammers to these beasts is a brutal affair.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You should be aware that there are several types of audio cues which are not represented in any visual way. For example, upon entering an area holding a major monster, there's often a roar or shriek. Without being able to hear that cue, the player could easily be surprised by a very deadly foe. Also, several monsters give audio signals before executing certain attacks. I would imagine that hearing-impaired players would be at a bit of a disadvantage without hearing these signals. On the plus side, all dialogue is delivered through text, so players won't miss any information given by NPCs.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Wii U   3DS  
Developer(s): Capcom  
Publisher: Capcom  
Series: Monster Hunter  
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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Coincidentally, the point at

Coincidentally, the point at which I grew bored of Tri was when I had been repeatedly trounced by the said Barroth, but without any story arc to motivate perseverence (vis-à-vis other hard games such as Demon's / Dark Souls), I increasingly felt that the pay off was not justifying the time I was putting in.

Maybe I just don't get the series, but seeing as you're clearly a fairly dedicated fan, perhaps you should try an article about the *essence* of these games, trying to really get under the skin. One of the most awesome series of articles on this site was Dan Weissenberger's 'ode to Deadly Premonition' which not only persuaded me to buy the game, but also to appreciate it in different ways. It really set this site apart from its peers for me. I'd like to see the same kind of deconstruction of other select games that the reviewers on this site have a special affinity for. Maybe a good place to start would be to really go to town on the monster hunter series.

That... Is a good idea. I'm

That... Is a good idea. I'm on it. Thanks for the suggestion!

Monster Hunter Penultimate

Brad, since you were aghast about lack of criticism, let me fill the void on this game. For reference i have seen the Lagi credits (ultimate mask) on single player (probably not going to do after Alto), and am rank 32 on multiplayer, 120 hours in total, so i think i can make a good judgment on the game.

The bad:
- The online-multiplayer is a completely broken mess. The lobby system sucks. Why are there no different worlds simply based on rank? Why can't i keep playing with the rest of my party when the host leaves? Constant disconnects (this has gotten better in the recent patch i think -- perhaps it's just luck though). When you connect to online-multiplayer it asks you every time you restart the game, if you really, really want to connect to the internet (i hear bad people live there -- scary). The selector is default on "no". Have fun doing that again for the first 30 times until you memorize it. Why is there no dedicated cat for online-multiplayer? Why are lobbies only 100 people? Why is it easier to simply start a generic search on a world giving you 10 pages of rooms to choose from, instead of actually traversing the lobbies? Why are there different lobbies at all? Why not simply use worlds with a set number of maximum people (they can even keep the 1000 player limit)? Why why, why? How anyone can defend this system is beyond me. And the solutions to the problems are trivial. It is beyond me why Capcom has not fixed this.
- If you play too much multiplayer the (main) single player shifts from being too easy to being a cakewalk.
- You can easily be pulled through the entire multiplayer with little to no input from yourself.
- Too damn easy. I remember playing MH-Tri single player against the feared barroth. It took me several tries to bring him down, and only on my last breath with about 5 minutes left on the clock -- i had to combine several potions + mega potions on the fly just to cope with the massive amounts of punishment i was receiving. I was getting utterly owned by this thing, but in the end i prevailed, proudly carving my prizes out of his grotesque, lifeless carcass. In ultimate on the other hand i kicked his ass in about 20 minutes, maybe used 4 mega potions in all. Total buzz-kill.
- The community at MP rank 6+ is utter blow. I've never seen so many ban-happy people in my life, and i've been playing shooters on PC my whole life. Not wearing the right armor? Banned. Don't know that you hunt the Jho on the R7 Peco hunt? Banned. Bad breath? Banned.
- The FPS are crap. Total and utter garbage. "But but But, it's on the Wii U, blah blah blah". Gimme a break, for this graphical quality the minimum is 60FPS, I don't care if it's running on a toaster.
- The underwater battles suck. Why do they insist on making key quests underwater hunts? It's not even hard, it's just a slow, lumbering process to bring aquatic monsters down. The Ceadeus fight is especially guilty of this. No skill involved, just whack the guy with your sword until he dies. Poor instruction on on how to use the other tools in the level. You only get 30 minutes to beat him, but, if you fail in the second part, the game skips the first section all-together anyway! Why limit the fight to 30 minutes then?! Simply poor design all around this fight, was glad when it was finally over, and not in a good way.

The good:
- Missions at night look universally beautiful, most likely because you don't see much.
- Gratification+. There's nothing better than and ruining some high levels monsters' day, chunks of his body flying off in a beautiful display, flailing on the ground helplessly, trying to get up, but the katana is again poised to strike, fleeing, but it is too late, the last slice cuts the creature down, a last uprising, hunted -- massive satisfaction from completely decimating a dangerous high level enemy.
- The sound design is generally well done (except some glitches in the flooded forest).
- The community at MP level 1-~5 is generally very helpful and nice.
- Missions at extremely high levels (R7/8 on MP, 8+ Urgent on SP) do give some challenge back, but at that point it may be too little, too late, the transition from hunting to being hunted will probably be too jarring for most.

Overall 8/10.

Hey TickTock! Thanks for

Hey TickTock!

Thanks for your comments. Just a couple of replies here...

>>If you play too much multiplayer the (main) single player shifts from being too easy to being a cakewalk.
>>You can easily be pulled through the entire multiplayer with little to no input from yourself.

I think both of these things are self-regulating. While it's true you can get in with the group and farm some high-powered gear before you would have earned it in the single player campaign, that's really up to each person to decide for themselves. I know several people who have not even gone online until they've completed the campaign, and I know some people who struggle with the game (but enjoy it) so use the online as a way of helping themselves out when they need it. As for being pulled along in multiplayer, that's up to each group. If everyone knows there is a slacker, then you don't need to play with that person.

>>Too damn easy.

I'm going to have to call you out on this one. Traditionally, the MH series has been extremely unwelcoming for newcomers because of the steep difficulty. I definitely agree that the beginning hours of the game (all of low rank, basically) is easier than other entries in the series except for maybe MHP3rd, but only to people who know what they're doing. For newcomers, it's still quite difficult and Capcom doesn't do themselves any favors by continuing to exclude people who aren't already core fans. This new difficulty curve in 3U feels just about perfect to me.

^_^

>> so use the online as a

>> so use the online as a way of helping themselves out when they need it
You're not really disagreeing with me here, just saying that there should be an option for people to grind for gear under easier circumstances. This is fine, i don't think multiplayer is the place to do that though. In my opinion the multiplayer needs to be much, much harder, and more punishing towards players who are ill prepared. Right now online hunts feel like checklists, not the epic battles between life and death they should be.

>> Traditionally, the MH series has been extremely unwelcoming for newcomers because of the steep difficulty
>> Capcom doesn't do themselves any favors by continuing to exclude people who aren't already core fans
I can't say anything about the other entries in the series, as i've only played Tri and 3U. However i don't see why this should be an issue. How much can you expand a game which is at the core still about skill (and gear)? Someone with no experience playing video games will still find no inroad into the game, except if they are very young and able to learn, or an "older" gamer who has already internalized the processes they need to win a game like this.
I don't think it is wise to make the game any more easier than it already is, as it will after a while feel like Farmville with monsters. You can't please everyone, and if Capcom thinks that it can pull in more people by making a game, which is about "skillful" hunting, easier... well it will probably work for a while. But will it actually carry the series? People are a fickle bunch: casuals are probably going to jump on the next bandwagon, and gamers will only be taken advantage of for so many times. Even though i'm not suggesting they have been taken for a ride... yet.

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