Developer: Capcom
Price: $14.99
Version Reviewed: 1.00.02
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½ 
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Attention New Hunters:
Having trouble taking down your first Kut-Ku, or maybe you’re just looking for a few pointers? Check out our Monster Hunter Freedom Unite Beginner’s Guide!

Trying to explain Monster Hunter Freedom Unite to someone unfamiliar with the series is always a challenge. There’s an almost unrivaled amount of satisfaction to be had the first time you best a Rathalos or when you complete an armor set . You might’ve spent hours hunting dozens of Diablos, to the point that you can do it in your sleep, but now you’ve got what you need and can finish your set and oh it looks so amazing you can’t wait to show it off to your friends!

I suppose that’s actually the best way to explain Monster Hunter: you earn it. You earn everything. And it’s difficult not to be extremely proud of that.

mhfu09Freedom Unite on iOS is basically the same game that came out for the PSP just over five years ago. If you’re familiar with that version you’ll be familiar with this one. This is no mere rush-job port, however. Far from it.

The most immediate difference is the way Freedom Unite looks. The visuals have been tweaked for the port with smoother textures and sharper menus. The loading times are also noticeably faster. The touch controls are another (obvious) change, but I have to admit I’m actually quite impressed with them. They aren’t perfect (when are they ever?), but they do a terrific job once you get the hang of them. A lot of consideration went into how they function based on the weapons used and it shows. And for the first time there’s an actual (optional) lock-on feature.

mhfu05Freedom Unite is full of other remarkably smart design choices as well, actually. The game will automatically pause when playing alone any time it’s closed or a call comes in. In the multiple hours I’ve poured into it so far it’s never crashed once. You can tap on the digital controls to select menu items, or you can tap directly on the menus themselves. And, at long-fricking-last, you can play online. Online! That hasn’t been feasible without the aid of third-party software ever since the series went portable!

That said, I did admittedly run into a few issues with the controls every now and then. It’s possible to misplace a thumb and end up readjusting the camera height rather than running from danger, for example. It also took me a fair bit of time to get the hang of the way I’m expected to slide my thumb around the attack button, and I’ve had moments where I’d be off by a fraction and end up not attacking in the first place. Sometimes using an item is a nuisance too, but double-tapping usually avoids that particular problem. Honestly it’s all more of a pain in town due to the contextual conversions and interact buttons. I can usually dodge out of the way of a charging Congalala when I miss an attack, but I wasn’t a fan of having to tap my way through several dialog boxes simply because the game wanted to put the Talk button where the Open the Item Box button normally goes.

mhfu07It’s also unfortunate that the online mode is a bit more finicky when it comes to calls and such. Oh it runs just fine when you’re playing with other hunters, but if you get a call or otherwise have to exit the game for any reason you’ll be ejected from the hunt – possibly from the lobby/group itself, even. This means no communication in the middle of a hunt without the aid of something like Skype, which can be a stumbling block when playing with a random or new group. Veteran hunters will likely blow through everything without the need to speak at all, though.

If you’re a veteran hunter wondering whether or not Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is worth it on iOS, I’d say yes. It looks sharper, plays incredibly well (and online!), and you won’t have to tote around a PSP or Vita to enjoy it. If you’re new to the series, the addition of a lock-on and the ability to play online means it’s probably the best place for you to start.

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