Currently playing

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

A few years back there was a distinct lack of offline co-operative games for home consoles, and lo and behold, with the release of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite PSP owners have access to the definitive version of the handheld sensation from Japan.

As a game premise it sounds quite dangerous in both senses – the life of a hunter killing ferocious beasts against the backdrop of an MMO-like grind and repeat scenario, but to summize it as such does the game a great disservice.

Trials and tribulations

  • The premise of Monster Hunter is relatively simple, rather than levelling up your character you improve your armour, weapons, and tactics for completing your next hunt, the sense of challenge and reward is palpable.
  • The cycle of challenge and reward are one of the main reasons to play, the eurphoric sense of accomplishment you get from taking down an enormous monster from your talent alone is one of the the most rewarding gaming experiences ever.
  • New players to the series will have to spend a long time getting used to how the game plays. This will mean many hours in tutorials to improve yourself. The steepest learning curve I have ever seen in a video game may be too much for most people.
  • The game has many barriers to entry, but just as your confidence may start to grow, one particular boss creature is likely to smash you down a peg or two (over and over) one potential hurdle is bad enough, but two?

Look and feel

  • The game world looks gorgeous, from the outdoor map areas especially. Capcom manages to balance the sense of scale perfectly; creating outdoor spaces that you can quickly grow accustomed to, as well as a perfect town, farm and home area that doesn’t confuse, yet adds extra value during battle downtime.
  • Weapon and armour creation games are two a penny, but the level of detail exhibited in Monster Hunter is unlike any other. You ARE in effect your equipment, and hours of work will go into creating and improving every piece of your set to enhance your chances out on the battlefield.
  • Memorising multiple weapon controls is tricky and may force you to make very important decisions about your favoured gameplay styles very quickly. The animations and time needed to manuovre, control and battle your enemies are extremely clunky at first and are at times of danger quite frustrating.
  • Repeating missions will become nessersary in order to gather materials and scope out areas, while this may suit some, the lack of story as well as having to revisit the same areas has the potential to become repetitive after time.

Solo and multiplayer

  • Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is an extremely rewarding multiplayer game as is clearly designed with this in mind. Parties of up to four people can team up to down monsters that are tricky to manage alone, with the games inventory system allowing you to share and recieve items from each other on the fly.
  • For those unable to play multiplayer the Felyne companions provide an adequate (if quite noisy) alternative to playing completely alone, training and improving your Felyne’s skills as well as your own is a welcome challenge.
  • The decision not to include online multiplayer is a puzzling one, as this would have been how the vast majority of gamers would have experienced it. Particulary puzzling as the game is marketed as a multiplayer game but then can only be played using local wireless. Leaving this important feature out is inexcuseable.
  • This is a much-harder and less satisfying game alone, multiplayer improves this challenging game no end, so it’s quite sad that many people will not be able to experience the game as intended.

In conclusion

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is one of the most rewarding handheld multiplayers of recent years; an improvement over the previous installments and a freshly prepared complete package for those who are new to the series.

If you can make it past the odd controls and occasionally obtuse inventory system, this is a wonderful game that will give you many hours of pleasure, it’s purely for those who like a gaming challenge – on their terms, and the PSP is a perfect format for it.

Currently playing

Rock Band Unplugged

This portable version of Rock Band for the PSP tries something a little different, challenging you to play all four tracks of the Rock Band soundtrack in a four lane track system Harmonix already explored in Amplitude and Frequency.

So rather than using a series of incresingly more complex perhipherials Rock Band Unplugged is a nod to the rhythm action games of old and a faithful descendant of Harmonix’s two earlier games.

A Portable Rock Band?

  • Harmonix have done a fantastic job at porting across the Rock Band look and sound onto the small screen of the PSP. That said it is a game that is best experienced with a set of headphones.
  • One of the best looking and best presented PSP games on the market. Even the normally quite prolonged PSP loading times don’t seem to be an issue on this game.
  • Although you can customize all of your bandmates, some of the finer details of doing so are not present in this version, such as the logo creator. Mind you this could be because you’ll have a hard time even watching what your characters are up to anyway.
  • Playing all four instruments may take some getting used to. You’ll either love the flexibility the game provides or hate the fact that you can’t focus on your favourite instrument.

The music

  • The World Tour mode is back, with the quickplay and tour mode matching the standard of it’s larger cousin. Everything plays as you’d expect and moving between the four instuments is easier to keep on top of compared to Frequency & Amplitude. This is a far more accessible game.
  • The four layers that build up the songs are best noticed in this game, you begin to become more aware of how certain songs are put together. Rock Band Encourages this by increasing the volume of the track you are currently playing.
  • Existing fans may be disappointed by the amount of songs they already own in Rock Band 1 & 2 repeated in Unplugged. Some more unique tracks would have been nice, but at least the amended gameplay makes every existing song that much more enjoyable.
  • Initially you’ll be playing the same songs over and over in quick succession if you follow the world tour mode religiously. Impatient people may want to use the unlock music code for quick play.

The controls

  • Mercifully it’s quite easy to keep on top of what you need to do next. Rock Band Unplugged screen space is squeezed full of helpful details, such as the indicators bouncing on the beat pointing what track to play next to continue your score multiplier.
  • Harmonix’s note charts ease you gently into each more progressively difficult song, as ever each difficulty is perfectly weighted and each combination of notes or chords make sense both musically and rhythmically.
  • This is quite a tricky game, especially on higher difficulties, certain instruments (drums) tend to be more difficult than the others and the PSP buttons can be quite unforgiving; letting you make easy mistakes that are hard to recover from.
  • The default controls are a little fiddly at first, particulary for the buttons required to play red and yellow (relegated to the d-pad), thankfully they can be changed if you’re beginning to struggle.

In conclusion

Rock Band Unplugged is a worthwhile contribution to anyone’s PSP collection, proving that a spinoff to a music series can indeed be worthwhile and not just an occasion to cash-in but an enhancement to the series. That said this game stands on it’s own perfectly, and it ideal for beginners and experts alike. A must buy.