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Xbox Game Pass is the best thing that ever happened to Monster Hunter

It is totally possible to play Monster Hunter Rise solo. You can go through the entire main storyline without jumping into an online lobby. Kill this, catch that, go out and cut the other. It’s a through line that’s easy enough even for a complete beginner (you might get the wind knocked out of you by a few horns and claws along the way).

But that’s not how Monster Hunter is best experienced. Much less, Monster Hunter Rise – the latest game in Capcom’s long-running series. Originally launched on the Nintendo Switch, then PC and now all other consoles, Monster Hunter Rise is a fascinating entry in the acclaimed action RPG series. It is the first game after Monster Hunter World; the game that dragged the franchise into the mainstream. Rise isn’t like World: it’s easier, more readable, more ‘arcade-like’.

Magnamalo is one of the best new Monster Hunter battles in ages – you should at least play until you fight one.

Hunting in Rise is fast, fun and frantic. Using your Palico and Palamtue (that’s a cat and a dog, in Monster Hunter parlance), you can go into battle, locate your quarry, and start taking it down. Break his body parts, cut off all the pieces he needs to attack you and break down his defenses, and eventually you will either kill or capture him. Congratulations; you and your pets have caught a monster. Now cut it into pieces and see what you can make of it.

That core gameplay loop is what Monster Hunter lives and dies on. If you’re not convinced by the rhythmic way the game forces you to deal with its monsters, you’re probably better off looking for kicks elsewhere. But once it gets its hooks – or claws – into you, there’s really no other game quite like Monster Hunter. It’s the kind of game you can play for five hours without really noticing, or just 20 minutes ‘so you can get another Rathalos’ because you want to get the attack boost bonus by wearing the full set of dragon armor.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Monster Hunter early in my career by a dear friend. Ever the enabler, he managed to get me a copy of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on 3DS. A greasy takeout, a case of beer and a night without sleep later, I was hooked. My Sherpa deduced that a Tetsucabra armor set would easily get me through the early game, so we killed about 20 of the rock-loving frogs near the start of the game as I got the hang of the Insect Glaive’s slippery controls. I had practiced my moves, figured out how to compliment his style of play with a hammer, and bought some nice equipment.

Magnamalo is one of the best new Monster Hunter battles in ages – you should at least play until you fight one.

“This is Monster Hunter,” he grinned at me as we crossed the threshold from Low Rank to High Rank together, “and you haven’t even scratched the surface yet.” He was right. I put at least another 200 hours into the game on 3DS, my thumb blistered and then callused from rubbing against the hateful rubber nobbin on the new 3DS model. I hunted elder dragons, tiger/dragon hybrids seemingly made of gunpowder, proud lion beasts with magma claws and manes of fire. I was obsessed.

Since then I’ve played every Monster Hunter game and expansion. But I don’t think I would have done it if an enthusiastic friend hadn’t shown me the (admittedly complicated) tricks of the trade. I wouldn’t be on my third playthrough of Monster Hunter Rise right now if my patient friend hadn’t carted me off – again – when I discovered just how aggressive a Devilhjo really is at High Rank. I wouldn’t be flying through Kamura Village’s story if I hadn’t seen how armor set bonuses work, or why it’s essential to have the right gems in your loadout if you want to see those blue crits appear consistently.

Imagine skinning this beast and then wearing pieces of it. That’s Monster Hunter in a nutshell.

That’s why the arrival of Monster Hunter Rise to Xbox Game Pass is the best thing to ever happen to the series. Capcom has put the series on the service before – Monster Hunter World was a big selling point for it several years ago – but the game was old at the time. It had seen its day in the sun and the people chasing the new, shiny games had already moved on to Outriders or the latest Destiny 2 expansion, or something.

Monster Hunter Rise was added to Game Pass last week, the same day the game arrived on consoles other than Nintendo Switch. I’ve already seen internet forums and social media posts exclaiming how good it is – and I couldn’t be happier. This is perhaps the best entry point into the series out there; there are incredible tutorials, countless quality of life improvements, improved mobility and movement options, and some of the best new monster battles the series has seen in ages (the Magnamalo fight is a highlight in particular).

Xbox Game Pass has all but removed the barrier to entry: Capcom isn’t asking you to spend £40+ on a game that might not be for you. All you need is a night off and a little space on your console storage, and you just might find your next gaming obsession – and for nothing more than the cost of your monthly Game Pass subscription.

Better yet, the game’s arrival on the service finally gives exhausting boredom like me carte blanche to let my friends in on the secret that is gaming’s best action RPG series. I don’t need to convince holdouts to fund it, and I don’t need to convince them to join a complicated MMO-like service (sorry, Monster Hunter World, but you got pretty inaccessible and top-heavy towards the end) . “Come to Kamura Village,” I can say instead, “the weather is mild and we’ve got some great tutorials to teach you how to use that Switch Axe you’ve always loved.”

Make sure you eat enough dango before you go hunting – it will boost your stats, or even your chance of getting more loot.

With wirebug techniques, automatic map marking, a refined hint system and more, Monster Hunter Rise makes the onboarding system a breeze. The earliest hunts you’ll do may be the easiest in the entire series, and the game’s overall difficulty has been lowered slightly to appeal to a wider audience. There are even simple combos you can punch into your controller to make you feel adept: a simple knowledge of dodge-rolling, blocking, or iframes will easily get you into Rise’s endgame. Any Elden Ring or Dark Souls player will feel right at home here, and the doors are wide open.

We’ve yet to see the impact of Monster Hunter Rise’s arrival on the service, but I’m excited: Monster Hunter was already huge, but after loving Xbox and PlayStation players for two years, it’s finally time for the world at large to see why I love Rise as much as I do.

There’s never been a better time to try and get into Monster Hunter, I promise.

Monster Hunter Rise is now available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC and Nintendo Switch. It is available on Xbox consoles and PC through Xbox Game Pass. You can check out our best tips for Monster Hunter Rise beginners here.

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