There's something about Monster Hunter monsters that makes them lovable, even when you're trying to slay them. They move and interact with their environments like real animals. Some stalk their prey and flee when things get too dangerous. Others roar and fight tooth and nail to scare off any intruders. Their individual traits and biologies give them life. And Monster Hunter World: Iceborne finally has the graphics to show that life.
Monster Hunter World took the series to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. That means that it's technically the first time players are able to see Monster Hunter bestiary in full high definition. The Wii U did get Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and the Nintendo Switch has Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, but both of those games were designed with the 3DS in mind. The developers did work to upgrade the textures to look as good as they could on current televisions, but they couldn't change the fact that the models were originally designed for a handheld. World was the first real effort to bring Monster Hunter to modern standards.
The Iceborne expansion takes it a step further by re-introducing popular monsters from games past. Now that they're free from their handheld prison, they can take full advantage of current console power. These five monsters might have been called ugly in middle school, but now they'll tear you apart with their perfectly-textured teeth if you insult them.
The Barioth had its start in Monster Hunter 3. The developers of that game emphasized two properties for Barioth's model: its spikes and scales. Apparently all of its sharp parts allow it to to slide along ice and come to a quick stop. Hunters who have faced it can attest to how much it loves doing that. Still, it seems a little odd for this reptilian creature to make its home in the cold.
Barioth's Iceborne upgrade has enough texture to show how it manages to make the tundra its home. It has fur on its legs and wings. While that doesn't totally keep it warm, it's still a nice detail that we weren't able to see with prior games' graphics.
This bat-wolverine predator Wyvern made a name for itself with its quick and stealthy moves. In older games it would hide in the dark places that can't be reached. This would make it so hunters couldn't sneak up on it to start the fight on their own terms. In Iceborne, it continues this trait with an intro scene that shows it surprise attacking the main characters. Its sleek, black fur helps with the stealthy predator image.
The older games, however, couldn't quite do Nargacuga justice. The lighting makes the monster look to shiny and sleek. Iceborne can thankfully subdue the lighting and even add darker patches of fur, giving Nargacuga a more fearsome presence.
There's nothing really tiger-like about this monster, so we're not sure where the name came from. Still, the Tigrex is a classic monster known for sheer brute strength and deafening roar. Facing it is like taking on a T-rex that can glide. So the original design conveys its defining traits perfectly, no matter the platform. Still, comparing the Switch Generations version on the left to the Iceborne version on the right shows vast improvement.
The improved scale patterning of Tigrex's current form give it more of that dinosaur vibe. The details also allow for its horns and deep set eyes to stand out more. But the real standout here is the new color palette. The developers made Tigrex lighter for the recent games, allowing for its blue-and-yellow patterning to stand out more. Finally, it has an actual tongue now!
Stepping away from the winged monsters, we have Brachydios. This is one of the more creative ideas the team behind Monster Hunter has ever had. This monster licks its arms periodically, igniting the green slime that coats its fists. This slime then becomes explosive. It will either punch this exploding slime at hunters or leave it on the ground to make the battlefield trickier to navigate.
As you can see, Brachydios got one heck of a makeover in Iceborne. Its various jointed sections are much better defined, making it look more intimidating and less like a Power Rangers Zord. Its arms suddenly make a lot more sense, too. You can see the area at the tips where the explosive slime would come out, and the way it more unevenly stains the surrounding area. This is a prime example of how modern consoles helped the team fully achieve their wondrous monster designs.
This legend here might be the king of monster glo-ups. Zinogre is a fan-favorite for its cool design, unique abilities, and tough battle. Also, the weapon you can make from its parts is a literal electric guitar.
Zinogre benefitted the most from its Iceborne upgrade. Like many others, the textures are more defined so we can see what's scales and what's fur. That not only gives this monster more definition, but also allows its coloration to be more varied. Also of note is the area around Zinogre's shoulder spines where you can see energy crackling underneath the surface. Zinogre is known to gather electricity for attacks, and it's awesome that we get to see the process in more detail in Iceborne. Overall, Iceborne gave Zinogre so many more details that it's like a completely different monster.