Monster Hunter Tri Updated Multiplayer Impressions

We strap on the sword and board to go searching for things to kill in Monster Hunter Tri's multiplayer Arena mode.

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Earlier this month, we took a brief look at the multiplayer component coming to the west in highly anticipated killing simulation, Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii. If swinging a huge sword while fighting for glory and rewards is up your alley, then come join our party.

Monster Hunter’s multiplayer is split into two types: open-world hunting and arena battles. Open-world hunting sees you take to the lush landscape with a crew as you search out and kill wandering monsters for their meat, item drops, or trophies. Arena mode works similarly but takes much of the running around out of the game, spawning you and friends into a sealed gauntlet leading to a huge open-air coliseum with a foe of your choice as chosen from the quest list available. First timers are able to select from one of four different class types as defined by their weapon loadouts. These are ranged attack with a gun; lance and shield; short sword and shield; and all out offensive attack with a huge two-handed hammer. Each class has its own damage profile, and while the slow speed of the hammer can unleash large amounts of damage, you’ll need to have someone else eating the hurt, as well as a fairly still target, to successfully land attacks. On the other end of the scale, light, faster attacks with the short sword and shield allow you to fend off smaller additional monsters that spawn into the arena defensively. But while you remain agile, your damage relies on prolonged periods of jabs rather than a single haymaker.

Selecting and playing a particular class--and we use the term class loosely--doesn’t assign you to a specific function during battles. While in other action games the guy with the shield is the designated damage sponge as everyone else wails on the boss, there’s no real “tank and spank” system here. The player doing the most damage to the enemy will be the focus of its anger, but that doesn’t give everyone else a free pass. Teamwork and coordination are essential here. The optional WiiSpeak support will also go a long way to helping organise parties to focus attacks on exploiting weak points while avoiding zones immune to damage. Monster Hunter is a game that rewards players who put the time in to kill monsters, as well as upgrade their weapons and armour. With this in mind, it's good to see that players will be happy to take their single-player character online or copy a profile to a Wii Remote to take to a friend’s place.

Your performance can be tough to gauge in the arena. Your health bar will deplete and grow as you quaff healing potions, but there are no health bars for your targets. Instead, you’ll need to rely on visual cues, such as staggering animations and the enemy’s attack behaviour to determine how well you’re slaying the beast. It’s an interesting approach and means you won’t know if you’re one more sword stab away from glory or rounding the first corner in a long, winding road to victory.

Battle huge monsters on land and for the first time in the series, under the sea.
Battle huge monsters on land and for the first time in the series, under the sea.

During our hands-on time, we fought a midsized Raptor with no visible weak points. Our two-player approach consisted of sticking fairly close to each other, dashing in, and getting in a few shots before rolling out of the way to avoid tail swipes. Knockbacks and some smaller, more basic spawned enemies split us from each other, but we managed to take the big guy down after a long, drawn-out battle. Nintendo reps confirmed some fights may last as long as 45 minutes. Unlike seems to be the case in the open-world part of Monster Hunter, enemies don’t attack each other in the arena. This means you won’t be able to watch from the sidelines as they go toe-to-toe before stepping in to land the killing blow. Provided at least one player is still alive in the arena, you’ll be able to zone back in after dying without the boss regaining full health. A team wipe from multiple simultaneous deaths requires you to start over from the beginning of the encounter. The inability to swing a sword and heal at the same time means you’ll need to sheath your blade to drink potions or set traps. This will leave you vulnerable to wayward physical attacks and area-of-effect damage unless someone else picks up the aggro.

One thing we did notice is the scaling of the game visuals in the multiplayer mode. The single-player portion of Monster Hunter Tri looks great with its lush environments, textured terrain, and varied monster types. But unfortunately, perhaps as a limitation of the Wii’s hardware, split-screen multiplayer ratchets things down a few notches. Character and enemy models become blockier while the arena doesn’t have the same flashiness of the world surrounding it. It’s not bad enough to detract from the main event of killing things, but we’re hoping it’s something still being tweaked prior to launch to wring every drop of performance out of Nintendo’s console.

Monster Hunter Tri will be slicing and dicing its way exclusively onto the Wii in the first half of this year. Stay tuned for the full GameSpot review shortly.

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