Look, I don’t need to tell you that Monster Hunter Rise is a phenomenal game. It was incredible on Nintendo Switch in 2021, transformative on PC in 2022, and now, it’s bloody excellent on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S in 2023. Instead, I figure that I might need to tell you exactly why you should play it.
Monster Hunter has been around for a good while, but there’s every possibility you won’t have come across this Japanese-centric series until Monster Hunter World, a big-hitting blockbuster entry that finally brought Capcom’s incredible menagerie of monsters crashing into homes in the West. It captured and refined exactly what had made the franchise so beloved amongst fans, and the gameplay loop of battling monsters, gaining materials and forging new weapons and armour so that you can take on ever bigger and more dangerous monsters remained as compelling as it was in 2004. Being able to do these things with your friends in tow is even better.
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Monster Hunter Rise is, on first impressions, a much more modest game than World, primarily as the Nintendo Switch set some clear limitations on the game’s visuals. Tie that into a Japanese theme, and from the outside it looked very much like the series was being rolled back rather than moved forward. It’s a dangerous assumption to make. Monster Hunter Rise made some key changes to the way that hunters move around the landscape, and to the way they interact with monsters, and they’re changes that now feel utterly inseparable from the franchise.
Rise introduced Wirebugs. These little creatures broaden hunter’s movesets with each weapon, while also allowing them to leap, dash, and fly through the air, opening up a verticality and freedom that wasn’t there before, making encounters quicker and more frantic, and adding in a new way of traversing the now-seamless maps. These additions are so good, and so fundamentally change the way you play, that I can barely go back to earlier games. They make Rise’s gameplay the current apex of an already-great franchise.
Besides that you now have a pair of hunting buddies, with the feline Palico’s joined by the canine Palamutes. This means you get a pet dog, which as well all know is the best feature in any game, but this particular pooch allows you to ride upon them, speeding you around the map in a way that hunters have hoped for many long years. The original games had amazing monsters, and the same basic gameplay loop, but a lot – and I mean a lot – of trudging through the world, and suddenly it’s been done away with. Trust me, it’s amazing.
The Monster Hunter Rise PS5 version is, to all intents and purposes, a match for the recent PC release, and you’re getting the same full suite of graphical options as the earlier release did. Image quality, high-res textures, ambient occlusion and depth of field are all amongst the myriad options, and though it is a less complicated game visually than Monster Hunter World, it’s still hugely attractive with everything cranked up.
If you’re more interested in frame rate – and you probably should be when the combat is as frenetic as Rise’s is – the PS5 and Xbox Series X version offers the choice between 4K/60fps and 1080p/120fps. At 120fps the game is incredibly snappy, moving at an otherworldly speed, but it does come at a clear visual cost, dropping all of the graphical frippery to achieve it.
Interestingly for a console release, you can still have a go at tinkering with the graphical options, weighing up how you want it to look and perform, and it’s great to see Capcom opening up this level of customisation to people more accustomed to things just being the way they are. If you’re smart about it you can make things look pretty darn great while keeping an incredibly high and consistent frame rate, all by avoiding ambient occlusion and depth of field.
PS5 players get to enjoy all of the updates that Monster Hunter Rise has received in the 18 months since its launch, and that means there’s a host of variant monsters and additional event quests to get involved in, many of which cast a playful eye across other franchises and lend Monster Hunter its unique flavour. Fancy your companions dressed as Sonic and Okami’s Ameratsu? Well, that’s an option.
The only issue I have with the release of Monster Hunter Rise on PlayStation and Xbox is the lack of the Sunbreak DLC. While it’s pretty clear that this is wholly down to money – and I suppose the teensiest bit about easing players into an already large and potentially overwhelming game – it still rankles that there’s an even longer wait for players on these platforms to experience the whole game, and to put them on an even pegging with PC and Switch.
Monster Hunter Rise remains one of the best action-RPGs of recent years, and the PS5 release is a perfect example of what should be going into this kind of port.
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