You'll move your character around with the analog stick and tap on the triangle and square buttons to dish out attacks. A few consecutive button taps can trigger a multihit combo, but once you start in on a combo, it takes a while to make it stop. This is problematic because the game has no lock-on system, and if the monster you're trying to slay moves after you start your attack--something you can pretty much guarantee--you'll find yourself combo-attacking thin air. The movement in general feels pretty clunky, too, as you need to come to a complete stop and then sheath your weapon to use a stat-replenishing item, and your character does a weird little half step every time you stop, which creates unnecessary pauses whenever you want to change direction.
The other main quest type--the gathering quests--requires you to scour the environments for stuff like herbs, mushrooms, or more-dangerous bounty, such as monster eggs. However, by making you wander around the different zones, looking for patches of mushrooms or the bright colorations of the herb plants, these quests prove to be even less fun than the hunting. The game really piles on the gathering quests early on, though the ratio does eventually even out a bit. It's not all quests, though, and there's plenty of ancillary activities for you to engage in. There's a farm just outside of the village where you can mine for valuable ore, as well as fish and maintain a garden, all with the help of the Felyne race of cat people. Those same creatures can also be paid to cook you up delicious, stat-enhancing dishes. These other activities can be pretty fun; it's just too bad that the core action is so fundamentally flawed.
What really makes the whole questing experience in Monster Hunter Freedom frustrating is the game's antiquated third-person camera, which requires you to constantly tap on the L trigger to center the camera behind your character. You can use the D pad to manually rotate the camera and cycle through a few mildly different camera angles, but when you're in the heat of combat, it's still needlessly difficult to keep a bead on your current enemy. It's really a shame, because Monster Hunter Freedom is a pretty sharp-looking PSP game. The different zones are pretty small, and the load times as you travel from one zone to another disrupt the pacing of the game, but there's lots of atmosphere to the background environments, and it's hard not to admire your character once you've equipped it with some of the more epic-looking gear.
Monster Hunter for the PlayStation 2 was bolstered by the inclusion of online play, something that Monster Hunter Freedom does without, though you can still play locally with other monster hunters by choosing to go into the "online" version of the hunter's guild. Along with being able to take on all the usual quests with up to three other players, Freedom introduces new treasure-hunting quests, which are faster paced than the usual quests and simply require you to deliver a bunch of items you recover off monsters, or find in the field, back to the base camp. The multiplayer in Freedom can be fun, assuming you have nearby friends who share your enthusiasm for killing prehistoric monsters, but it's still no substitute for a proper online mode.
Like the PlayStation 2 game it's based on, Monster Hunter Freedom has a lot of pretty cool content that is roadblocked by a camera that requires near-constant babysitting and a slow-pouring combat system that doesn't feel fully realized. The fact that there isn't exactly a boon of games like Monster Hunter for the PSP makes it slightly more appealing than its predecessor ever was, but even then the various flaws are all but too much to bear. Even if you've already come to terms with these problems in the original Monster Hunter, Freedom is still crippled by the absence of real online play, something that no amount of cat chefs can compensate for.