This is definitely Monster Hunter, alright.

I ended up playing through the entire beta period before writing this, wanting to get as much time as I possibly could in, tinkering with as many weapons as possible, all to get my opinion down to something solid. But in that time, I learned quite a bit about what they've done with the game, both the changes I'm quite fond of and the ones I'm a bit less so.

My first few moments of the game had a bit of a different feel from a classic Monster Hunter game. The use of full actual voiced speech, as well as some of the tweaks to make things feel more 'naturalistic', stood out sharply at first. The controls have seen some changes, as has the general interface to introduce those changes.

...On the other hand, then I got to actually moving, with my Palico who I literally named "Cat Pun" so I could just get into the game, and the muscle memory started kicking in right quick. I tracked down a Great Jagras with the new tracking mechanics pretty easily, found it between meals, and promptly started to kick its ass. I kept pushing, using the sword & shield's flexibility to always be stabbing it in the backside where it couldn't hit me, and managed to corner the thing in its nest before unleashing the kill.

It was all the later hunts where things got...complicated. My first sign was going back in to do the Great Jagras hunt again with a different weapon, only this time the handy "Go check around here!" indicator...Wasn't there. As far as I can tell, the first time you go after a monster, it's semi-scripted in terms of where it's going to be, and what it'll do.

All the other times? Yeah, that's just the AI doing its thing. I went back in, and had to get my trail started manually, which meant finding signs of the Great Jagras in a completely different area, in a path that sent me towards its nest...And this time, since I already had it in its nest, it fled up the hillside, to a cliff and hill filled area, where I eventually cut it right open with the help of some Paratoads, who belch out a paralyzing venom when struck.

To say nothing of the craziness that comes from the other big monsters interacting, or even just having to deal with them also existing on the map as a more default state than it ever was before. I had a run on the Anjanath go sideways because the thing spotted a Great Jagras, decided it looked like delicious food, and sprinted off after it faster than I could keep up. Or the other run on the Anjanath, where after I had the thing on the ground, the local Great Jagras decided it could take the thing on and mixed itself up in my hunt.

The whole core of the game's seen some refinement, too, in a lot of good places. Weapons and movement just feel better in a lot of ways. A little cleaner, a little more refined than they've been. And while they haven't brought over all the crazy stuff that the Generations team cooked up, they've definitely seen fit to bring new and interesting tricks to the various weapons. Some of those changes that are missing, though, are things I really would've liked to see. Internal ammo on bowguns, and the entire oil system on the sword and shield, were fantastic additions to the formula, to offer two key examples.

But I'm not going to lie. One of the things I most miss? The pause function. Previous MonHuns, at least in single player, had a pause option in the start menu, letting you actually put the game on hold. As someone who tends to always be getting pulled away by something, I often found that invaluable in more casual play sessions. But with the game's shift to more heavily integrate single and multiplayer sessions, the pause feature had to go, putting the game in the same boat as both Destiny games and all the SoulsBorne titles.

And that comparison brings up another point of concern for me. Will World even allow offline play, like From Software's grim fantasy franchise? Or is it going to go full Destiny, and hook everything into the mothership, such that the game becomes a completely useless coaster in however many years when the servers shut down...Or, much sooner than that, whenever your internet might be having trouble or your PS+/XBL Gold subscription lapses.

At the same time, though, when you really boil it down, there's a central question to those concerns; Will they stop me from buying, and playing, the game? And real talk, they most certainly will not. I had my concerns and doubts when the game got announced, mostly stemming from wanting it on my Switch. But having had a chance to play it... This is Monster Hunter, through and through, and a top notch entry in the series.

There are only two things I’m left to wonder, as I wait for the second, open beta. First, will it manage to topple 4 Ultimate from the throne, as the best all-around package in the series? And second, can I hold out for January 26th when I’ll get to finally play it fully at my leisure?