Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Release Date: Jan. 12, 2022
Monster Hunter Rise came out in 2021 for the Nintendo Switch, and critics and gamers alike generally enjoyed it. Less than a year later, Capcom’s beast-slaying hit arrives on PC via Steam. Though it has the usual upgrades and updates expected of a PC port, Monster Hunter Rise is very much the same engaging game it was on Nintendo’s handheld hybrid. As such, it is one of the best PC games you can buy right now.
I was a huge fan of Monster Hunter World on PS4, so I have been anticipating this title since it originally came out. Yes, I could have tried it last year. But after playing Monster Hunter World and a healthy dose of PS5 games, I couldn’t play a game that ran on the Switch’s weaker hardware. The wait was worth it, because Monster Hunter Rise truly comes to life on PC. Sure, it’s not Monster Hunter World 2 (the game I really want), but it gives me enough to chew on until that game eventually comes out.
For this Monster Hunter Rise review, I’ll give you an overview of the game and what I think of it compared to Monster Hunter World. However, I'll refrain from getting deep in the weeds, since this is a port of an older title. The long and short of it is that Monster Hunter Rise is a heck of a lot of fun, and a game I highly recommend to folks who want to see what Capcom’s popular franchise is all about.
Monster Hunter Rise review: Story
Monster Hunter games aren’t known for telling captivating stories, and Rise is no different. Your player-created character is a hunter based out of Kamura village, the game’s central hub area. Hordes of monsters are descending on Kamura because of a phenomenon known as the “Rampage.” As a new hunter, you must defend the village from incursions and figure out how to end the Rampage at its source. That’s about as deep as the narrative gets. This isn’t a bad thing, since you’re not here for a gripping tale. You’re here for some sweet monster-hunting action. And in that, this game excels.
Monster Hunter Rise review: Gameplay
Monster Hunter Rise has the same core gameplay loop as its predecessors. You hunt down monsters in order to craft better armor, so that you can take on more powerful beasts. Rinse and repeat. That sounds trite, but the way that hunts play out is what keeps them from ever becoming boring. No two monsters behave the same way, and their ever-changing patterns and reactions during battles serve to keep you on your proverbial toes. Monsters become more aggressive and employ new tactics when you team up with a group of player-controlled hunters, making hunts even more thrilling and dangerous. Grinding for parts and materials is actually enjoyable in this game.
Hunts play out much faster than in Monster Hunter World or other previous installments. One of the main reasons why is that you get to traverse the environment while riding on a large dog called a Palamute. Your furry pal brings you directly to a monster’s location (conveniently shown in the UI’s mini-map), and even fights alongside you. When a monster runs away, you can simply hop on your trusty canine steed and give chase. Monster Hunter World introduced rideable mini-monsters in its Iceborne expansion, so it’s great to see that feature appear in Rise from the beginning.
Another great addition is the Wirebug mechanic. This grappling hook serves many functions, both in and out of combat. As an exploration tool, you can use Wirebugs to reach what would otherwise be inaccessible areas. These often contain useful items used for crafting gear and hunting tools. Precise use of the Wirebug can have you darting around stages like a superhero. During combat, the Wirebug allows you to land on your feet if a monster swats you away, or lets you get to safety if you’re overwhelmed. You can also use the hook to get to a more advantageous position to set up an attack.
Ensnaring monsters with the Wirebug is my favorite use of the tool. After knocking a monster off its feet, you can tie it to the ground and land free hits. You can also hop on the backs of trapped beasts and ride them head-first into natural and man-made structures to deal huge damage. If the monster you’re hunting knocks over another monster, you can use the felled creature to attack your prey. Controlling a monster like a puppet is more fun than it should be.
The aforementioned Rampage introduces a tower defense-style mini-game during the course of the story. You have to defend and fortify the walls of Kamura against continuous waves of beasts. There are ballistae and other automated missile launchers that keep monsters back. You can commandeer one of these weapons and shoot encroaching beasties, which is actually quite fun. If the need arises, you’re free to fight monsters directly, as you would during a hunt. You can also participate in Rampages outside of the story, and use earned items to upgrade your defenses and purchase powerful weapons. Though some Rampages last longer than they should, they serve as a pleasant diversion from the standard monster hunts.
Monster Hunter World incorporated its multiplayer component into the main narrative. By contrast, Rise has separate modes for single-player and multiplayer, as did the older Monster Hunters. I’m not a fan of this approach, as playing the entire story with friends (or even random players) was one of Monster Hunter World’s most appealing aspects. Yes, making friends wait for you to finish watching a cutscene before they could join was frustrating, but it was a small price to pay. Thankfully, all items earned in Rise's multiplayer are available to use in single-player. Still, I’m bummed that I have to play the entire story by myself.
If you sank hundreds of hours into the Switch version of Monster Hunter Rise, you’ll be disappointed to know that you cannot carry your save file over to the PC port. I didn’t play the original Rise beyond its demo, so starting the game from the beginning wasn’t an issue for me. But I sympathize with Switch players who have to start over from scratch. I faced a similar situation when playing Monster Hunter World on PC after spending so much time on the PS4 version. Cross-saves would have been a great feature, either way.
Monster Hunter Rise review: Visuals and sound
I can’t say that Monster Hunter Rise is one of the best-looking games out there. It’s certainly not ugly. But it’s clear that, underneath the 4K textures and post-processing effects, you’re playing a game originally developed to run on a less powerful platform (the Switch, in this case). The environments, though vast, are mostly empty and featureless, while the main human village feels tiny and constrained. A smaller village makes it easy to visit the various vendors lining the street, but it does contribute to Rise’s overall lack of scope. The game doesn't feel as expansive as Monster Hunter World.
With that said, Monter Hunter Rise on PC is graphically superior to its Switch counterpart. While Rise looked good for a Switch game, the PC version improves the overall visual presentation with features that include HDR support, unlocked frame rates, as well as adjustable options such as anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion, texture filtering and more. All of these serve to make the stylized graphics look better than ever.
The game's music complements its Japanese-inspired aesthetic. The soundtrack makes liberal use of classical Japanese instruments (or rather, excellent samples) to bring the score to life. The themes, heard during monster hunts, balance the aforementioned classical sounds with a more cinematic Western score, creating an interesting soundscape. While the soundtrack isn’t as robust as that of Monster Hunter World, it’s still catchy in its own way.
Monster Hunter Rise review: Verdict
If you’re new to the series, Monster Hunter Rise is an excellent jumping-on point that deftly teaches you the game’s admittedly complex mechanics. Fans of Monster Hunter World may not find this title as ambitious, but they’ll love features like the Wirebug and the overall faster pace of hunts. This game should also tide them over until Capcom announces Monster Hunter World 2. Switch players may want to opt out of this port, since they cannot transfer their existing saves.
Shortcomings aside, Monster Hunter Rise shines on PC thanks to updated graphics and higher frame rates. That it contains all previously released post-launch content is also a boon, considering how sparse the Switch version felt at launch. But when you strip away all the PC bonuses, it’s simply an addictive title, featuring a ton of customization and some of the wildest combat found in a video game. The fact that I’m eager to end this review so I can go back to playing it tells you all you need to know. Monster Hunter Rise is a heck of a good time.