Do you remember when you were in school and you'd be given a group project, but for some inexplicable reason the teacher wouldn't allow you to team up with your friends, and you were instead stuck with a group of people that you didn't know or care about? That's the ethos Capcom has employed for Monster Hunter World's co-op multiplayer.
Monster Hunter World looks set to become the most popular entry in the series thus far. With Capcom announcing that it has already shipped over 5 million units in its opening weekend, this could effectively be the Monster Hunter game that breaks the mainstream in the west, transforming it from a popular but relatively niche series into something much larger.
A lot of this success could arguably be put down to it being positioned as a co-op multiplayer game, with many newcomers understandably expecting it to be an enjoyable romp through a dangerous world alongside their buddies. While this is technically the case, players are forced to experience no small amount of frustration in actually setting up a game with their friends, with Capcom enforcing so many bizarre decisions in its multiplayer that it almost feels as though they want you to play the game on your own.
Monster Hunter World's story is made up of 'assigned' quests, which you must complete in order to advance through the game. Considering it's billed as a co-op adventure, you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd be playing through the majority of the story with a friend. You would be wrong. Here's the step-by-step reality of how co-op in Monster Hunter World's story works:
- You create an online session.
- You send an invite to your friend to join the online session.
- You go to the quest board and select the assigned quest.
- Your friend navigates to the same assigned quest on their quest board.
- They select the assigned quest, only to be told that they cannot join as you have to watch all of the cutscenes.
- You both click around for an inordinate period of time assuming this must be some sort of error.
- You go to Google and try to find a solution.
- Google informs you that, yes, this is actually how things are supposed to work.
- You depart on your quest, while your friend waits behind and clicks 'join quest' over and over again.
- 10 minutes later and they're finally allowed to join you.
- You complete the quest, go back to the hub world and consider that you're required to do this for every single assigned quest, so inevitably give up on playing through the story with your friends.
Though Monster Hunter has always employed an odd approach to multiplayer, considering this is the series' biggest crack at the mainstream Western market yet, I had assumed that it would be made more accessible for new players. Unfortunately, that isn't the case here, and this could serve to harm the game's longevity.
Capcom had a shot here at creating an online game that players would be returning to for months to come. Considering that the most highly desired games for publishers are multiplayer experiences with the legs to go the distance, Capcom opting for a system that is all but guaranteed to reduce Monster Hunter World's longevity is baffling. For many, being unable to play through its story alongside their friends will be a deal-breaker, and as a relative newcomer to the Monster Hunter series, it has served to considerably stifle my enjoyment of it up until this point.
Monster Hunter World is a better game when you're playing with friends. I want to be able to play through its assigned quests alongside my pals, murdering its towering, magnificent beasts for reasons I don't quite understand. Instead, the game wants me to sit and wait until they're finished watching cutscenes before I can join them, rendering us unable to complete the game simultaneously, as is the case for pretty much every other co-op game.
Why can I not watch these cutscenes with them? Why can my player-character not just sit in the background, twiddling his thumbs as I wait for them to catch up with the plot? Why does this co-op game seem so desperate to force me to play by myself? Even expeditions, essentially the game's sandbox mode in which you're free to explore its various environments, forces me to join-in-progress rather than party up with friends and head out into the wild with them simultaneously. The easiest way to do this is to send out an SOS flare that they can respond to, which is indicative of the main problem I have with Monster Hunter World — I was expecting co-op play to be treated as the main course, not an appetizer.
There are quests in which playing with friends is made easier. In optional quests, you can party up with them from the get-go, with it playing out exactly as you would hope. This is how the rest of the game should have been handled, but instead, I've given up on the hassle of trying to play through the story with my pals, and so instead fire up an SOS flare when I want to play with another human and settle for strangers as teammates.
I hope that further down the line, Capcom improves the current system employed by Monster Hunter World. It has all the potential to be a great co-op game and is unlike anything currently available on the PS4 and Xbox One. It's just a shame that it goes out of its way to spoil what should be its greatest selling point.