LOS ANGELES--At Capcom's booth at E3 this year, they were showing off Monster Hunter Freedom, a new Monster Hunter game for the PlayStation Portable. Monster Hunter games have always been popular in Japan, but they haven't caught on much in the U.S. Capcom's hoping to change that with their portable version of the franchise.
Monster Hunter Freedom features wireless multiplayer for up to four people, and, in a shocking coincidence, Capcom had four PSPs running the game at their booth. Although four players are available in the game world, the size of it makes it difficult to run across them unless you intentionally seek them out. You can team up with other players to take down the larger monsters, but you're unable to kill them, despite being able to swing your big-ass swords into their bodies.
Speaking of swords, the character we were using in Freedom had an absolutely massive sword with foot-long serrations on it. The entire act of swinging the blade took four or five seconds to complete, from the wind up to the aftermath of digging it up out of the ground after it hit. The mechanics are a bit clunky at the outset, but we did see other characters running around swinging slightly lighter weapons, and they seemed to be a bit more fluid in their attacks, so maybe we just picked a bulkier character than we would've liked.
Anyway, monsters are there to be hunted. We stumbled across numerous dinosaur-esque beasts that were wandering around. When killed, we were able to loot their bodies for meat and bones. We happened to be carrying around a large spit, which could be used to roast the meat and create foodstuffs. The foodstuffs had the effect of temporarily extending our stamina bars, which in turn extended our character's ability to run for periods of time. This ability was useful when we were attempting to track down the main boss of the level, a large dragon.
Like we said, there's a fairly large area available to explore, although, unfortunately, it's broken up by numerous loading screens. You have a minimap on your screen that aids in your navigation, however, so you shouldn't wind up getting lost.
When we managed to track down the boss dragon, we were unsurprised to find it quite vicious. It seems to be almost impossible to kill with your normal weapons, so you'll have to take it down with traps and bombs. We were walked through the process, which involves laying down a pitfall trap on the ground. With that done, we got close enough to the dragon to attract its attention and then lured it back toward the trap, which it fell into. While it thrashed around attempting to extricate itself, we dropped a couple of large bombs (essentially just large barrels of gunpowder), as well as a small bomb that was intended to light the larger ones. Unfortunately, the dragon was able to escape before we maneuvered through the somewhat clunky interface motions required to do all this, and before we could blow it up, it hit us with its head and knocked us right into one of the loading screens leading to another area. And that was the end of the battle, although after tracking the dragon down again, it finished us off quickly with some charge attacks and one big fireball from the mouth.
If you're a fan of Monster Hunter, or just want to hunt for monsters, possibly while enjoying freedom, then Monster Hunter Freedom might be right up your alley. You'll know soon, since the game is coming out later in May. Stay tuned to GameSpot for a full review when it becomes available.