Do you know what makes Monster Hunter: World's beasts so convincing? Motion capture. That's right, some of World's creature animations began life as a person in a moleskin suit flailing around the studio, rolling on the floor, flapping their arms like wings, and scurrying about on all-fours. Yes, we humans were the monsters all along. Boom! Plot twist.
Humanity's struggle against monstrous creatures has been a perennial favourite of storytellers for thousands of years. We see it in Gilgamesh's battle against Humbaba, Beowulf's doomed struggle against Grendel and the dragon, and Ahab's bitter feud against Moby Dick. Today, the trope is perhaps more popular than it has ever been. Who can count the monsters we have slain in games such as Dark Souls, The Witcher or Monster Hunter?
I'm new to Monster Hunter. I played one of the PSP games years ago for a couple of hours but was left without a clue, and that was it. I was scared of Monster Hunter as a result. It was one of those long-running series renowned for being hardcore. Would I be able to get into it? I knew people said Monster Hunter World was the most accessible yet, but when they spoke Monster Hunter it sounded like a different language to me. I didn't really want to read guide after guide after guide if I could help it. What I wanted was a friend who knew Monster Hunter to show me the ropes, but I didn't have that so what could I do?
You wouldn't cheese an Odogaron - even a tempered, high rank bastard that had carted you and your team over and over until you'd all convinced yourself this demon doggy was not going to be put down - because, well, you just wouldn't. It's a question of respect, isn't it? And Monster Hunter: World's many beasts, from the humble Kula-Ya-Ku to some of the mightier elder dragons, certainly command your veneration.
First up, I have not learned to speak Monster Hunter. I am still learning. In fact, I am pretty much still at the beginning of it. I have almost no good equipment. I have tangled with only the most feeble of Monster Hunter's terrifying beasts. I know what Psychoserum does, but only because I looked it up. But anyway, I have started! I have ventured into the wild lands, which at first seem very tame and blurry and empty - I am playing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the 3DS - and they have just started, over many hours of early-game missions, to seem truly wild. This is how it begins, I guess. I have always wanted to do this, and this is how it begins.
I've got my own particular tale about a hamster and a vacuum cleaner, but it's probably for the best I don't share it here (I was eight years old, me and my friend were very stupid and it's not something I'd ever do again. The hamster lived, though). This tale's a bit more savoury, and it's about Monster Hunter World's best new beast.
Monster Hunter, in case you didn't already know, is great. A series of boisterous action games that charge you with tracking down and felling preposterous, wonderfully realised beasts before skinning them so that you might make a new pair of trousers from their hide then go and hunt some more. It's an intoxicating loop honed over generations, though not without inheriting a few of its own little quirks along the way.
As if it wasn't obvious enough from the stage upon which Capcom chose to introduce the newest Monster Hunter, this one's going to be a little different. Monster Hunter World, which opted out of the series' traditional Japanese debut to break cover during Sony's conference at this year's E3, is a hard play for the west, an attempt to win over an audience that the series has been wooing for a while now. Will it manage to do so? I'm not entirely convinced it can, but also I'm not entirely fussed - because either way, Monster Hunter World ushers in some very welcome changes for the series.