You'll be familiar - perhaps even a little weary - of the 'can you pet the dog' question often asked of games these days, but Monster Hunter Rise has now set my expectations a little higher. Can you drift the dog in your video game? Because in Capcom's latest beast-slaying epic, you very much can - and it feels bloody awesome.
Palamutes, rideable mounts with the lithe proportions of an oversized greyhound, are one of Rise's headline additions, and in keeping with the maximalist design that's so often defined Monster Hunter it's not enough to just whisk you from one side of the map to another in record time. Here, it's all about doing it in style. These things bound and dash, allowing you to sharpen your weapon or neck a potion as you're in transit, and at the press of a button you can send their arse hanging out as your dog describes a glorious arc, in true Tokyo Drift fashion.
Maybe there's an extension of the traditional Japanese theme that defines Monster Hunter Rise in there, somewhere. That theme is a bit more explicit in the Shrine Ruins area that hosts the recently-released demo; lower areas full of pampas grass to crawl through, while bamboo forests thick with endemic life seemingly modelled on various yokai, many of which can grant you various buffs, while at the heart of the map are those ruins for you to clamber all over.
Which, of course, is something else new in Monster Hunter Rise, with the addition of wirebugs that let you scale surfaces with no small amount of speed and grace. Like many others, I initially had the feature down as a gentle lift from Breath of the Wild, but it turns out that was a bit of a lack of imagination on my part - instead it's an extension of the ever-expanding traversal options Monster Hunter has been introducing for generations now. Its introduction is fairly elegant here, and also far-ranging, with each of the 14 signature weapons being emboldened with new wirebug moves.
It goes further still, with the ability to use wirebugs to harness monsters in silk and guide them into battle against other monsters, allowing for some relatively easy and very substantial damage to be dealt. Wyvern riding's an unwieldy thing in Monster Hunter Rise, as you'd imagine trying to tame one of these beasts would be. In the demo, you get to pit two Arzuros against each other, the mutant honey badgers ripping chunks out of each other in a self-contained arena. When out in the wild, it's just another option that's to hand.
It is, quite frankly, dizzying stuff - enough to make me feel like a newcomer all over again, and to ensure some dozen or so hours with the recently-released demo I'm still being constantly surprised by the possibilities on offer. Indeed, after Monster Hunter World went out of its way to accommodate new players I kind of appreciate the harder edges on display here, and the early signs of a Monster Hunter that means serious business. It's there in how the demo labels the fight with Mizutsune - an absolute bastard of a thing, blowing bubbles for you to dodge through like you're playing the second level of Gradius 3 - as an intermediate challenge, which given the lack of skills available in the demo seems slightly amiss. Or at least I struggled to down him on my first attempt, though having familiarised myself a bit more with all that's new it's proving less problematic.
It's also there in how Monster Hunter Rise takes all the lessons learned from World and then throws in so much more besides. This is, in many ways, a more traditional Monster Hunter than World, but it's also one that feels as much as a leap forward in all that it offers as that blockbuster entry. There's so much that's new, and so much to be discovered, that this feels like another generational leap for Monster Hunter, as well as a welcome return to portable play.
I like Monster Hunter Rise a lot, essentially, even if I'm feeling like there's still so much left to learn. This demo is the sort of thing that offers dozens of hours of play, and the potential for the final thing with its full cast of monsters is enough to make me feel a little light-headed. Yes, you can drift the dogs in Monster Hunter Rise - and it seems you can do so much more besides.