Monster Hunter: World (PC) Review

Having played through Monster Hunter: World's campaign on Xbox One X, PS4 Pro and now on PC, I can say two things with confidence. One, the game is still one of my all-time favorites and definitely in my top picks of this year. Second, while the PC version certainly adds a world of customization and optimization, I'm not sure it beats out the most recent consoles to be the definitive platform, especially for owners of less than bleeding edge rigs.

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For the uninitiated, Monster Hunter: World is the most recent entry in the long-running series of action-RPGs, tweaked and tuned to be the most accessible, addictive and rewarding game of the bunch. Taking place on the continent of Astera, Monster Hunter: World moves the player through a series of lavish, beautifully built landscapes populated by all sorts of flora and fauna to harvest and hunt, capped by a roster of terrifying monster foes. The single-player campaign, though engaging, is merely a jumping off point for dozens of additional hours of monster-hunting, gear and weapon upgrades, and incredibly fun cooperative play. In the five months since launch, there has been a steady stream of DLC with new monsters, armor and hunts - including some exciting franchise crossovers - appearing on regular basis. Unfortunately, the extra content is not part of Monster Hunter: World's PC release. It will come later, but why it wasn't all bundled is a mystery.

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What is part of the PC release is the ability to control the game with mouse and keyboard, and of course, a long and deep list of graphical and control adjustments to dial in just the right experience for the widest range of PCs. Running the game on an Nvidia 970 (from 2014) and a reasonably fast i7 processor, it took a lot of tweaking and trial and error to get the balance between framerate performance and visual clarity just right for my system. Controls felt slugglish, though, and far less fluid than on either of the console controllers. 

While loading times are far shorter than on console, and the PC edition of Monster Hunter: World has some minor interface improvements, at least on my decent-but-not amazing system, the textures looked a bit desaturated, blurry and not quite as awe-inspiring as on PS4 Pro. Right out of the box, camera control was frustrating until I went under the hood and made some changes. PC players who are used to more elegant inventory management systems may be disappointed by the game's somewhat clunky approach. It adds to the feeling that while Monster Hunter: World is an amazing product, the opportunity to make the PC conversion the best version of the game wasn't entirely seized.

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Coming back for the third time, the game's unskippable cutscenes and terrible lip-syncing hadn't been improved and the community of players - so critical to the game's core mechanic - subjectively seemed less responsive to SOS calls, even though the servers were densely populated. And while playing with friends is the optimal way to experience the game's co-op, the multi-step process for jumping into a hunt hasn't been streamlined for PC.

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After setting the game aside for a few months, returning to Monster Hunter: World was a joy. An amazing confluence of level and monster design, combat and gameplay systems, Monster Hunter: World is undoubtedly best Monster Hunter game. After spending well over a hundred hours outside the campaign, I think my original review score was actually a little low. As a game, Monster Hunter: World is still incredible, but the PC release can only be considered definitive for a relatively small number of power users with top-shelf GPUs and zippy processors. While everyone with a recent PC and decent graphics card can make the game work, for many players the best experience may still be on console.