The single player portion of 4U is delightfully robust and way more enjoyable than previous games in the series. The main story should keep you busy for 20-30 hours, but that only scratches the surface of what 4U has to offer. Part of what makes Monster Hunter such a compelling experience is the ability to hop online and take on quests with friends. Up to four hunters can join forces to grind away at big beasts for all the rare loot you can handle.
4U takes great strides in the direction of friendly co-op gameplay. Previous games kept a crowbar separation between multiplayer hunting and the single player experience. You do your thing by yourself, then you move to a separate room where you can go play with your friends. Here, those two worlds mix just a little more, creating a surprisingly seamless co-op experience, even while hunting online.
To get a group hunt going, first create a room. You can secure it with a password to keep the riff raff away, but you can also exclude people on your friends list from having to enter the password, allowing quick and easy hunts to take place. Players start in the online gathering hall but can roam to the other towns they've unlocked in solo mode. Need to zip over to Harth to polish a piece of rusted armor? Go for it, you don't even have to disconnect! When you're outfitted and itemed-up, go back to the hall, pick a quest, get everyone to join, then run into the field, ready to fight.
Progression in co-op hunts works like the single player counterpart, only without the story and cinematic interludes. Quests are divided into groups based on their difficulty, with one star quests being easier than five or eight star quests. You start with a big list of one star quests and eventually unlock more challenging ones by completing key quests and urgents. It's not all about moving forward, of course, as different players may need to hunt different monsters to obtain certain parts to upgrade their weapons. No matter if it's the first or fiftieth time you're fighting something, doing it in a group always presents a brand new experience.
For the actual co-op gameplay, Monster Hunter has always done a great job putting teamwork above all else. You have to be aware of what your co-hunters are up to during a fight, otherwise your attack might interrupt them or knock them in harm's way. Healing teammates is also a good idea, and the same tools are available as before to top up everyone's health.
Group dynamics are taken to a new level with the new mounting mechanic. When someone successfully mounts a monster, everyone on the team should stop attacking. Attacks risk ending the mount prematurely, knocking the hunter to the ground and leaving the monster unscathed. Stand back, let your pal do their thing, then rush in for the kill. You can even set up mounts by launching characters with certain weapon attacks, making those "accidental" golf swings with the hammer suddenly not as annoying as before.
Here's my Monster Hunter confession: I've spent more time playing these games than any other video game series. That includes every Mario game, my Team Fortress 2 addiction, even my trilogy-spanning Borderlands co-op funtimes. I walked into 4U with some very strong opinions on what works in Monster Hunter and what doesn't. If even the slightest thing was out of place, I'd be livid.
I'm happy to report that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has exceeded every single one of my expectations. The single player game is phenomenal, right down to every tweak and change. The smoother co-op experience makes hunting online even easier than before. Guild quests extend the basic progress-based missions for extended replay and variety. And because 4U is so inviting to beginners, I'm looking forward to getting some more people hooked the series so we can take down some Rathians together. The next 500 hours of co-op Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate begins now.
The Co-Op Experience: Up to four players can join forces to hunt monsters, gather items, create weapons, and so much more!
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.