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Monster Hunter Freedom 2 - hands-on

Does tracking down giant monsters, gutting them and wearing their gruesome carcasses like armor sound like a good time to you? Then you really should be playing Monster Hunter Freedom right now. Not only is it one of the PSP's deepest games, but it'll be good practice for September, when Monster Hunter Freedom 2 overwhelms your PSP with its over-the-top giant-hunting action.

Promising nastier monsters and bigger, uglier weapons for you to kill them with, Monster Hunter Freedom 2 takes players to a new locale - the snowy Pokke Village - and sets them loose in eight craggy, hilly new environments (16 if you count the nighttime versions) to track down towering beasts and bring them to their knees. And like in the first game, bringing down those monsters will net you grisly parts - like bones, hunks of skin and teeth - that you can then use to create other items, including some of the most hideous weapons and armor ever seen in a game.

We've only played through a couple of its hunting missions, but it's already obvious that MHF2 won't mess much with the first game's formula, instead opting to just add new stuff - not the least of which is a slew of new weapon types, including new cannons and a bizarre hunting horn. We had a chance to try out two of the new death-dealers, and so far we like what we've seen. The wicked-fast dual blades were a lot of fun, even if they didn't seem to do much damage to the deadly, charging wyvern we were sent out to bag. Meanwhile, the gun lance - a giant-spear-and-shield combination that slowed down our movement and shot explosives - made us feel weirdly like a tank.

Otherwise, it's still very much a thinking man's hack-and-slasher; the third-person slicing action is familiar and accessible, but success doesn't come with just charging in and carving up the giant monsters you're sent out to kill. Each one has a specific weakness, and you'll get a lot farther if you hang back, try to find it and eventually work out a strategy - possibly involving explosive barrels - to exploit it.

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