Monster Hunter Freedom Unite Review

Even with tens of hours of new content and welcome improvements over its predecessor, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite has yet to hunt down a few critical annoyances.

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When looking at a checklist of features, it's easy to see why the Monster Hunter series has garnered such a cult following. With scores of monster species to hunt, classes of weapons to learn, and special items to craft, any Monster Hunter game is almost guaranteed to provide dozens of hours of gameplay even in a loose play-through. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for the PSP, an enhanced version of 2007's Monster Hunter Freedom 2, is most certainly the epitome of the series thus far with its scads of additional content and advancements to its predecessor's core. Even so, there are some things that have not changed with this "upgrade," which leaves Unite with the same frustrations that series veterans have been putting up with for five years.

From the introductory cinematic that shows you getting knocked into the snow by a gigantic monster to the town in which you wake up and the people with whom you interact, Unite seems like an exact replica of Monster Hunter Freedom 2. The structure of the game is very simple: You reside in a single town that acts as a hub for many activities, the most significant of which are quests that send you out into the field. Among these quests are hunting expeditions, where you must take down a large beast; slaying quests, where you must take down multiple monsters of a certain species; and gathering adventures where you're asked to bring someone herbs, mushrooms, or monster parts. There's no shortage of variety to your encounters because the monster roster is a healthy mishmash of dinosaurs, swine, sea creatures, gorillas, and more.

There are some sweet-looking beasts roaming the land around Pokke Village...

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite looks and sounds fantastic. All of the musical compositions are complete with fully orchestrated instrumentation, matching the vistas you'll encounter on your journeys. The very first location you'll venture toward, the Snow Mountains, boasts a beautiful lake in which you can see a crystal clear reflection of the rocky ranges on the horizon. The hot sun shines brightly over the desert area, which comes with all the detail of small, impromptu sandstorms. All of this runs at a consistent, playable frame rate.

Though Unite is an expanded edition of its predecessor, its additions and enhancements are substantial. They come in many different flavors, with the most obvious ones being the addition of several monster species and well over 50 new quests. In case you're keeping score, that potentially amounts to more than 25 five hours of additional content over the previous game, depending on your play style. For those who were already sucked in by the Monster Hunter aura--and desperately want more--you can import your Freedom 2 character, which makes this seem like a no-brainer purchase.

"Bigger" might be enough for those fans, but "better" is, well, even better. Unite fixes a few more significant problems, fixes that will be welcomed by both fans pleading for improvements and newcomers who might otherwise be intimidated. First, the excessive loading times can be dramatically cut down by utilizing the data installation option. This will reduce many of the load times by two-thirds, and in some cases, even more. Second, the race of Felyne helpers--those anthropomorphic cats that helped tend to your farm and cooked delicious meats for you in the previous game--can now come to your aid in battle. Monster Hunter games have been notorious for their awkward and difficult combat, and having a companion to help wail on your assailants or pick away at them from afar makes the game a little more accessible for single-player adventurers.

Though Capcom succeeded in improving load times and throwing you a companion with whom to fight monsters, it did not adequately address other frustrations. The most egregious miss was with the game's camera system because it still gives you a very poor vantage point for dealing with the speedy, agile, and powerful monsters that will either surround you in groups or dash to your immediate vicinity in the blink of an eye. Unite's camera is third person and primarily behind the back, but it can be rotated left or right with the D pad and reset with the L button. Pressing up or down allows you to change its height, but this is handled so oafishly that you'll never quite get the height you need to see the battlefield most effectively. Though you can contort your hands in such a way to move with the analog nub, pan the camera, and access the reset button simultaneously, the bottom line is that players should not have to employ such an awkward workaround to compensate for poor usability.

…but they can be incredibly annoying to fight solo thanks to wonky camera controls.

Lock-on control could have been used to alleviate at least some of the camera's problems, but yet again, it's nowhere to be found. Because you're supposed to attack different parts of a monster's body to achieve different results it's true that lock-on control might remove the challenge of and pinpoint control needed to, say, aim for the head versus the front leg. There have been variants of lock-on control employed in other games that still allow for body part targeting though. Further, the "challenge" here is turned into frustration thanks to the initial problem of a poor camera system. That this--the third installment of the series for PSP--still hasn't addressed some of Monster Hunter's most fundamental flaws is disappointing.

The silver lining is that, as with its predecessor, Unite allows you to tackle multiplayer adventures via ad-hoc play. With up to three friends watching your back and teaming up to take down the most ominous of wyverns, this has always been the way to fly, especially given the issues with the series. Multiplayer can lead to some great moments of camaraderie and elicit fond memories of games such as Phantasy Star Online. If you can manage to get accustomed to the awkward camera and controls, as well as remain a diligent player, you'll be able to scratch your loot-scrounging itch with some truly spectacular, rare gear.

That's a very big if, and while it's one that many longtime Monster Hunter fans are sure to satisfy, others might not be so patient. Yes, the improvements made here are much appreciated, as well as a decent start to enhancing Monster Hunter's playability (which is an important distinction from simply making it "easier"). But the series still has a few hurdles to clear before everyone who's interested can enjoy all the content it has to offer, and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite simply hasn't made those jumps yet.

The Good
Great visuals and audio
Significantly more content than its predecessor
Data install significantly improves load times
The Bad
Camera control is inexcusably awkward
Continued lack of lock-on control exacerbates the poor camera
Too much time is spent wading through menus
6.5
Fair
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30 comments
psygnosis
psygnosis

Just got this for the PS Vita and using that 2nd stick really makes the camera nice and easy. Amazing game, figured I'd play through this one before I play through Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on my 3DS and then wait for Monster Hunter 4 on the 3DS! :D

mirrace
mirrace

If you actuality played the game the camera is easy to use i got the hang of it after they first training mission and a lock on camera would ruin the game-play locked onto one enemy in a large environment  not being able to see if your about to run into something or another enemy honestly learn to review a game   

FrankFontaine1
FrankFontaine1

I'm getting it on my Vita, so the lock-on and camera controls shouldn't be a problem.

MH4156
MH4156

Reviews like this make Capcom keep the Monster Hunter games for themselves. People read the bad reviews, they dont buy the games so Capcom loses money and we lose the opportunity to enjoy a nice game. The camera can be controlled really easily and the game is not that hard, unless you dont know how to use a PSP. For example, I didn't need any help to finish the game, even when i was stuck at the Double tigrex quest at the gathering hall. Do you know what I did? I killed some kzezus to upgrade my Purse Bop and i slayed them both quite easily. The point is that this is a great game that only needs some more attention to be played and enjoyed. I believe this is an inaccurate review and if anyone out there has not decided whether to buy this game or not, then I think you have just gotten your answer

nemandus
nemandus

Got MHFU on my Vita and it is nice.For the life of me, I can't figure out how this game got a 6.5 score.Oh and this game has one of the BEST cameras in any game I have ever played.On the PSP it was the controls not the camera.I adapted with the CLAW, why you might ask, because this game is that good!Oh and you don't unlearn the CLAW, you just use both the 2nd stick and the CLAW like a pro.

Fuzaki
Fuzaki

This is why I rarely take "pro" reviews seriously. I sometimes wish I could be paid for a job that I'm not good at, the extra irony would be worth it.

CKeenan07
CKeenan07

Can't wait to get my Vita to play this...dunno if I can un-learn the claw tho. It comes so natural now.

pingomalik
pingomalik

Regarding the 10 new hours of gameplay, I have only 300 and have not even began to scratch the surface of mhfu.

jmos64
jmos64

GameSpot just learn how to review a game for once 6.5 you have got to be joking some stupid points to this review and everyone who bought the game has said nothing but what a great portable RPG this game is...god, you guys just need to know how to review.

salavador
salavador

just my opinion

 

psvita must have at least 1 Monster Hunter game or it just a crap like iphone

NuarBlack
NuarBlack

Anyone who has experience playing this game a lot would know that a lock on system would be even worse than the current system. I have yet to play a game with a lock on system that would work with Monster Hunters game play.  You always get stuck targeting crap you don't want. With fights that have little monsters in the mix this would be a huge headache or not realizing you are targeting the back side of a monster when you are on the front. The game is too hectic most the time to be tabbing through target zones, managing items, while avoiding getting smashed by the monster. Your windows of opportunity are so small for both striking and dodging on some fights a less than perfect lock-on system would get you killed. 

 

WillyChong
WillyChong

I find this game's difficulty is acceptable? Steep learning curve? Kinda sad you have to teach all the way until the end, or just move the analog stick and press R1 to shoot...... :(

WillyChong
WillyChong

To give such low score......is an insult to such an awesome RPG game, I thought most of us get over the camera, but it seems that that camera is the thing that haunt the REVEIWER after all these years, don't understand why, but I never trust this reviewer's opinion anyway, my first PSP game is not Crisis Core, not Fifa, not Burnout, but the Monster Hunter series, and this is the only game I got more play time on the PSP than anything else, sorry but Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is in my mark the LEAD of PSP gamers, those who owned PSP but no Monster Hunter are like owning PS3 but did not owned Uncharted or MGS4.......

MaxiM_
MaxiM_

Wow. Just... wow! What a half-assed review. It's 3 years later and still tons of people play the game and there's an influx of new hunters all the time. That's how wrong this review is.

 

Auto-lock in Monster Hunter... what an ignorance... :D

ployb
ployb

MH has always been a fun and interactive game, anyone who take about 10 minutes to get used to the camera controls would realise that they cause virtually no hindrance at all, virtually because I have experienced turning the camera only to find the likeness of an angry gravios in my face ;) (all part of the fun)

campbell153
campbell153

Do NOT pay any attention to this "review" by GS.. the game is one of the greatest games i have played! (its up there with the likes of FF7, Diablo 2) YES the camera is tricky to begin with but you will learn to adapt the "claw" so you can move and look around fluently!

sune_Gem
sune_Gem

Monster Hunter is always great and always gets low critic scores. It's just something you've got to expect, most reviewers clearly don't have the skill or patientce required to get past the first few missions.

henrikimaru
henrikimaru

I think that if doesn't exist a second analog stick, they should put a lock on sistem on this game. Thank God they will put this option on MH3G...

FlameEmperor
FlameEmperor

Lol Lock-on control for Monster Hunter......that made me laugh. I've never found any of these things to be a problem to begin with. I still find Monster Hunter to be better than most games released today.

otanikun
otanikun

The Monster Hunter series as a whole isn't for most Western players at all, it requires a ton of patience, countless hours of questing and gathering materials but the game as a whole is quite rewarding. As for Gamespot's excuse for it having a bad camera, something tells me the person whom played it to review the game never had too much experience with the game at all, I'm used to it 100% and adapted to it after long.

WillyChong
WillyChong

@psygnosis Waiting for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, next year 2015, dammit, till then I'll give the online capable Freedom Unite on Ios a try. Can't wait both games :D

pingomalik
pingomalik

 @dasher2000 Or is unable to understand how to change your view. Which is second nature if you play the game.

jmos64
jmos64

 @dasher2000 this is the first monster hunter game i have played and I mean all the other company's, giant bomb, IGN, Euro gamer ect... have said great things about this game but gamespot have pointed out some stupid things to this game that are minor and no one care's. A lot of game spot's review's and any good go to giant bomb Euro gamer ect... just for one game spot don't point out the minor bug problem's ect... about games and turn them into a huge all deal. this game should truly have gotten 8.5 to 9.0

 

Xx_Kares_xX
Xx_Kares_xX

 @jmos64 Actually I find all of their points valid. I can't say I've played this installment precisely, but the three other versions of the game had no story, poor controls, and no purpose but to continually grind for better equipment.. it's a dungeon crawler with even less depth than that. I really don't know why the games are popular... I guess people like to be given mundane tasks to repeat over and over again with no pay-off... then again I already new that.. look at how many people play WoW and CoD... then again, at least CoD takes skill.

nemandus
nemandus

@MaxiM_ 

I wonder if Ad-Hoc party would exist today if not for Monster Hunter.  Bad review is bad review.

Ryoushi06
Ryoushi06

 @MaxiM_ too lame, gamespot want to have auto-lock? dafuq where's the thrill

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @MaxiM_ Its a useful system but adding the auto-lock will just make the player rely on auto lock to shoot the monster until they win, why can't just manually aimed at a mad, charging and raging Rathalos? Cause COD pet you with the auto-lock!

Jcurr314
Jcurr314

 @Xx_Kares_xX  @jmos64 So what you are saying here is that you did a couple of the Village quests and then called it quits when you couldn't get an armor set out of your first monster fight? That's what it sounds like anyway. You imply that this game requires no skill to play, so you must not have fought the high rank fight against two tigrex. It doesn't matter what armor set you are using, a high rank enraged tigrex will down you in two to three hits, but no there is no skill at all in taking two of them down. Also not to mention taking down high rank elder dragons.

MaxiM_
MaxiM_

 @Ryoushi06  @MaxiM_ It's not even about the thrill. Auto-lock would ruin the gameplay in many, many ways.

MaxiM_
MaxiM_

 @Jcurr314  @Xx_Kares_xX  @jmos64 Dude clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. He said it's a "dungeon crawler" and implied that it "takes no skill". Maybe he wanted to comment under a different game, because he mixed up genres and difficulty level. It's like saying Dark Souls is a cover based third person shooter for casual players ;]

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite More Info

First Release on Jun 22, 2009
  • PSP
This upgraded release of Monster Hunter Freedom 2 features new monsters and new quests.
8.9
Average User RatingOut of 2372 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Capcom
Published by:
Capcom
Genres:
Action, Role-Playing
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
All Platforms
Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol