Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate finally gets a European and US launch this morning, and while plenty of creatures from previous installments have been carried over into the latest game, there's an impressive menagerie of new monsters to get stuck into as well. Throw in Expeditions, a massive selection of single-player quests, and a much-improved multiplayer experience and you're left with a game that will happily take hundreds of hours from your life if you let it.
While it's certainly the most accessible Monster Hunter to date, there are nevertheless certain aspects to the game that can be quite intimidating for the complete series newcomer. For that reason, we've put together a guide that will help you navigate the first 15-20 hours of the game, from selecting and mastering your weapons of choice, to understanding the core systems of the series and picking your way through the first selection of quests.
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Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate guide - beginner's tips and tricks
Some important hints and tips to get those who are completely unfamiliar with the gameplay of Monster Hunter up to speed. Even veterans might want to cast their eyes over our overview of the new terrain-based combat system.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - Blademaster weapons, melee combat and mastering the best weapons
Our Monster Hunter 4 guide begins with a look at the large collection of Blademaster weapons available in the game, from the familiar Sword & Shield to the musical Hunting Horn. Yes, really.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - Gunner weapons, using ammo and fighting from range
If you prefer to do your fighting at a distance, we've got all the information you need to get started with the smaller collection of Gunner weapons in the game. Best for those with a fancy new 3DS or a Circle Pad Pro.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - how to forge and upgrade weapons and armour sets
The lowdown on how to use those hard-earned resources to create more powerful weapons and armour pieces. We've also got some useful pointers for the gear milestones you should aim for in the early days, and how to gain extra skill boosts from your gear.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - hunting the Great Jaggi, Kecha Wacha, Seltas, Tetsucabra and Basarios
As you make your way through the first 20 hours of Monster Hunter 4, you'll have to fight a series of intimidating mighty monsters. We've put together some essential tips that will help you survive the encounters with the first five deadly creatures in the game.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - food, consumables, important combos and the BBQ minigame
There are dozens of items that can be combined into even more delicious items in Monster Hunter 4. We'll run you through the most useful ones to have about you in your early days, and explain the basics of cooking. Also: grilling the perfect steak!
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - how to complete Expeditions, locate resources and master fishing
The new Expedition system is a great way of tracking down precious resources. We'll explain how it all works, as well as how to track down resources and become a master fisherman in no time.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - multiplayer, Gathering Halls, Hunters for Hire, finding players and creating groups
Multiplayer is much improved in Monster Hunter 4, but getting a group together is still a little confusing at first. This section of the guide explains how to team up with your friends, as well as earn some extra rewards through the Hunters for Hire system
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - our walkthrough for the One, Two and Three Star Village Quests
There are a huge number of single-player and multiplayer quests to get stuck into, but to get you started we've got a guide to all the item locations and monsters you'll find in the first few sets of Village Quests.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - how to obtain the starter pack and Super Mushroom bonus equipment
For a limited period of time after the game's release, you'll be able to grab a generous collection of consumable items from the Nintendo eStore. Not only that, you can even craft some special Mario-themed armour for your Palico combat companion. Here's how to get your hands on all of this bonus content.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate beginner tips and tricks
1. Combat requires patience
Combat in Monster Hunter is a more considered and thoughtful affair than you might be used to. There are certainly weapon systems like Dual Blades and Sword & Shield that are easier for newcomers to get to grips with, but it's still worth practising with every weapon in the game and learning each one's critical combos. Monster Hunter 4 provides a method for doing exactly that, so take the time to work through all of the Level 1 Village Quests that have you dispatching a Great Jaggi using each weapon type.
2. Gather materials and expand your combo list
In your early days, take pickaxes, bug nets and anything else you need to go foraging through the forests of the game. While you're out in the wilds, grab one of everything that you can get your hands on. Once back at base camp, work through combining them using the Combo List section of the main menu. Items marked by questions marks that appear in bright white are those you haven't crafted before, but have the materials to do so. Flesh out your combo list as early as possible, so you have access to all the tricks of the trade nice and early on.
3. Study your prey
You must learn the animation patterns of every big creature in the game, and what each one signifies. The majority of the game's biggest enemies pack at least one attack pattern that can take a phenomenal amount of health of your hunter. Being able to spot the animation that telegraphs these moves can often buy you just enough time to roll away from danger, if not death! You'll also need to understand even the most primitive enemy moves in order to fight the beast effectively.
4. Plan your combat carefully
Likewise, an enormous amount of priority is granted to your hunter's animations and you must wait for each one to play out to completion before you're able to register another command - except for the roll command, that is. To put this into very real terms, when you swing your sword a certain way you're committed to seeing that action through, although you can use the B button to quickly cancel it and roll away from danger if you've messed up your timing.
5. Use all the information you're given
If you're unfamiliar with the creature at hand, the blue supplies box located at base camp often contains a few items that will give you a clue as to how you should complete the quest. Grab everything on offer if it suits your current combat load-out, and think about what you've been given that might simplify the job at hand. Keep in mind as well that anything you take from this box that you don't use during the quest will be taken off you when it ends.
6. Lock your camera to your target
When you encounter one of Monster Hunter 4's larger creatures, you'll have the option to enable camera lock-on - an incredibly helpful tool for tracking the movement of your prey. Tap the creature lock option on the lower screen, then hit the L button any time you want the camera to automatically pan towards the monster. This is very helpful for maintaining constant eye-contact on your opponent while you resharpen your weapons, or quaff a quick potion.
7. If in doubt, upgrade
If you're struggling to bluster your way through a particularly tricky quest, do consider upgrading your armour and weapons, but make sure you're not just throwing away precious resources because you've misunderstood a creature's attacking pattern. Take a look through our round-up of the first big monsters you'll likely encounter in the early hours if you want a quick guide to dealing with the game's opening brutes.
8. Track your opponent during long battles
Paintballs are a hunter's best friend. Make sure you pack a few of these in your backpack (or pinch them from the blue supplies box) if you're about to embark on a long fight. Most creatures will flee to a new area as the fight wears on and their health deteriorates, but if you tag them with a paintball you'll be able to track their movements on the mini-map. Get into the habit of having the item cycled to the Y button as you leave camp to locate your enemy.
9. Consider capturing - rather than killing - your prey
Capturing completes a kill mission, but not the other way around. If you capture a beast instead of killing it, you'll get more resources than you otherwise would have for mashing it into pieces. To capture a creature, you need to first damage it enough that it limps off back to its nest. Next, head to the correct area, put a trap down on the floor, then wake the creature and lure it through the trap. When it's snared, throw two or three Tranq Bombs at it to capture the beast.
10. Use terrain to gain an advantage
You can now use terrain to leap from height and bop creatures on the head. Simply jump off a ledge, then unsheath your weapon in mid-air to land a blow as you fall. You can even use this height advantage to mount the creature and deliver a furious assault. When you're on top of the enemy, whack the X or A buttons to pummel it mercilessly - but only do this when the head icon on the meter is green. When it's red, the monster will try to hurl you off, so hold down the R button to cling on for dear life.
- Head to the next page for our guide to all of the Blademaster weapons in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.