*but hang on to your receipt, you know, just in case you don't like it.
So I've sunk like a few days into this game now and it's just one of the most viscerally rewarding gameplay loops I've ever played? My only experience with the franchise had been the old portable titles and that was very "wonky controls and enemies with way too much HP", so I had a lot of misgivings going in. But wow, okay, they've made this franchise amazing.
The premise is you're a monster hunter (it's in the title) and you're part of a research crew traveling across the ocean to a new continent where powerful monsters migrate, in order to figure out more about the dangerous species and how to deal with them. What this entails is you make a character, set out into a bunch of huge, multi-layered, incredibly lively and beautiful zones thick with endemic animal and plant life, and you hunt down the giant monsters and either kill or capture them. There's a ton of exploration, crafting of materials, the combat system is surprisingly clever and complex with fourteen weapon types, all stats come from gear and food bonuses, and the actual fights are intense and unique.
So here's an example of gameplay flow- there's a monster called a Barroth who lives in the wastes. You go there, and meet some local cat-people tribes (they're like little two-legged kittens and you get your own and they're customizable!) and they say they'll set up a trap in an area. You find Barroth and get its attention by attacking it, eventually driving it towards the canyon where the ambush is, then you quickly use a grappling hook to climb up onto a rise, lure it closer with some slingshot bombs, then vault onto the Barroth's back and start hacking into it. The confused Barroth is driven closer to the ambush site, bucking and weaving while you hold on, then your buddies spring their trap and bring it down, allowing you to deal some heavy attacks to its underside and knock off the hardened mud that coats its hide. The Barroth recovers and flees to an oasis, you follow. However, when it arrives, another monster, the fishlike Jagratodus, sees the encroaching Barroth as a threat and just straight-up charges at it, flipping and knocking the beast to the ground and scaring it away. See, Barroth is a real animal, not just a videogame boss, it wants to live. You pursue it to the open dunes and Barroth starts shaking off big globs of excess mud it picked up in the oasis at you to slow you down. You dodge and manage to knock it over with some heavy blows but suddenly...the ground beneath you collapses! you were fighting ontop of a sinkhole, and you both plummet down into a subterranean cavern.... You hit the ground rolling, but Barroth took it harder. The beast limps away and you have a choice- you can use a trap and some sleeping pellets to capture it, which nets research points and some materials...or kill it and get even more.
Of course, most of the game's quests do specify hunting, not catching- the monsters are far too powerful and dangerous in the game world, so if you're not a fan of that, this game probably isn't for you. That said, hunting down the monsters is utterly thrilling, and the coolest part is that depending on what parts you damage in the battle you can increase the odds of rare material drops. Hell, even if you fail to kill a monster, you can at least claim materials from a cut-off tail or a broken scale fragment. The monsters themselves feel really respected and fearsome though in like a, tribal sense? They're these respendant beasts with tons of hidden abilities and the humans treat them very heavily. The game is very "this is what hunting is", it doesn't feel like videogame-y at all. Well, it does, but not like -that-.
Also I want to say the environments are kind of amazing too. The first area, Ancient Forest, is a coastline, deep forest, then a massive hollowed out tree plus caves beneath it, you can climb all the way up to where the great wyvern Rathalos nests and fall all the way down to the bottom. Then there's the waste, and just recently I've discovered the Coral Highlands which are...well, you kind of get the idea from the name? Also the game has co-op with up to four players!
So yeah, this is super fun and addictive and just doing material runs is great fun. It's on PS4 and Xbox and will be hitting PC later this year. You wanna prove you're a gutsy gamer? This game lets you.
But again, it's really about hunting, not videogame killing. Be prepared to feel the weight of your sword.