Gamers are hunter-gatherers. Monster Hunter Tri, a new online role-playing game from Capcom, targets our innate desire to kill beasties and loot goodies. Playing offline (a good warm-up for Internet co-op), new monster-slayers find themselves in a feudal fishing village that’s been disrupted by a massive sea monster. As the resident trapper, you earn your keep by trekking into the wilds, gathering resources for the town, and keeping nature at bay.

This means setting out into a variety of dramatic outdoor venues and going mano-a-mano with the creatures that live there. You spelunk dank caves, swim offshore to harpoon sea-faring beasts, and plod through frigid and scorched climes to hunt your quarry. Upon your triumphant return, local artisans reward your efforts with money, which can be turned into new items, equipment, and a shack where you can bunk down and keep your stuff. The major thrust of Monster Hunter Tri concerns the constant necessity to make and equip yourself with new, more powerful weapons and armor.

Online players meet up in a massive city, where they can embark on quests with a party of other gamers and take on the game’s tougher dinosaurs. While most don’t consider the Wii the ideal venue for playing co-operative online games, Monster Hunter Tri does an admirable job of making the best of the situation. Players can chat using an onscreen keyboard (not recommended if you’re in the middle of a fight) or the Wii Speak Microphone. Thankfully, there’s no need to swap those pesky friend codes to get voice chat to work. Players need only friend up while in-game.

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Monster Hunter Tri’s initial draw is its wildlife, an awesome array of fictional beasts, all imaginary offshoots of prehistoric life. Finding, cataloging, and eventually defeating these creatures with friends is an appealing undertaking. The underlying complexities of crafting nifty new gear from their bones is the reason to put roots in Monster Hunter Tri’s wooly world.