Minecraft is quite simply one of those games that will go down in history as a truly revolutionary idea. Markus ‘Notch’ Persson’s block busting sandbox has rapidly transformed into a cultural phenomenon, sprouting memorabilia, fancy dress costumes, and, of course, console ports. This PlayStation 4 release is very much similar to its PlayStation 3 predecessor – but dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover a wealth of minor refinements and massive improvements sitting beneath the surface.
All of the basic controls and gameplay modes from its last-gen predecessor remain unchanged, so turn your attention to our original review for a deeper overview of the moment-to-moment gameplay experience. This is still a far more casual affair when compared to other popular survival games such as Don’t Starve, but there’s plenty of depth on display, all of which is outlined in the fairly thorough tutorial mode, which will teach you everything from collecting materials to building your first structure.
Given the additional horsepower, the majority of the improvements on display here are performance based. With improved draw distances, you’ll be able to see your creations from miles away. It seems like a minor improvement, but if you’ve ever got lost in the title’s gigantic voxel world, you’ll appreciate the ability to see your shelter or friends from an increased distance. The setting looks stunning, too, thanks in part to the ultra smooth frame rate, and the sharp 1080p presentation.
Elsewhere, improved controls allow you to manage your inventory with the touch pad, but otherwise remain the same. The amount of usage that you get out of this extra feature will definitely depend on your personal preference, but we found that it was easier to move items around using the analogue sticks rather than the DualShock 4’s new finger sensitive surface. Realistically, though, whichever option you choose, you’ll find yourself snapping between objects and inventory spaces with relative ease.
It’s the size of the world, however, that perhaps brings the biggest sea change. While they may not be infinite like they are on the PC or even in the Pocket Edition, the increased scope from the previous console version gives you significantly more freedom to explore and discover new and exciting locations. Considering that these include everything from lush jungles to giant mountains and expansive caves, you’ll be buccaneering for hours on end. In fact, if you’re lucky, you may even stumble upon secrets such as sand temples or stone fortresses full of tempting loot and deadly booby traps.
Should you encounter any enemies during your journey, you’ll find that the combat is extremely basic. While it can be quite rewarding early on, it quickly devolves into a mindless slaughter. The end-game Netherworld does add a decent challenge, but by the time that you reach it, you’ll likely have obtained gear that far outclasses any of your foes.
That’s not to say that the release is easy or boring, though. The dark becomes the biggest threat that you’ll face in the title, as enemies will only spawn in gloomy areas. Exploring at night or in macabre mine shafts can easily lead to massive ambushes by skeletons, spiders, zombies, and more – there is no worse feeling than spotting a creeper near a newly crafted shelter or structure. That’s because, if you’re discovered, the antagonist will instantly attempt to blow you up – and your precious creations as well.
This feeling of vulnerability leads to some extremely intense and high pressure scenarios, outclassed only by the sense of relief that you’ll feel as you find your way back to your fort. It may be easy to dismiss a world made out of bricks, but the simplistic setting certainly plays host to some of the most memorable moments in recent gaming.
And you’ll be able to share those adventures with friends, as local co-op and online multiplayer both return – even if the ability to host worlds on dedicated servers is still missing from the console experience. You can still share your surroundings with your friends and family, but your pals will be unable to continue playing in that setting if you sign out.
And as insignificant as that may seem, it’s easily one of the title’s largest pitfalls. Building and sharing your creations is some of the most rewarding fun that you can have in this title, but limiting that experience to an online host diminishes a lot of its value – especially seeing as content and character progress will not transfer from world to world. Sure, the excellent share functionality included with the PS4 does help to mitigate this issue, but anyone looking to play with friends should take it into consideration.
The other major absentee is mod support. While this feature is uncommon on closed consoles, it’s still a substantial addition that has contributed to a lot of the success of the PC version. Make no mistake, the stock version of this game is fantastic and all, but by allowing players to fundamentally adapt the experience, developer Mojang has cultivated a community that’s always releasing surprising tweaks to the already impressive experience. Subsequently, this version does fall short of the computer-based build.
Even without the ability to install mods and play on infinite worlds propped up by dedicated servers, Minecraft: PlayStation 4 Edition is still a strong addition to your next-gen library. The improved visuals and larger settings alone make for a significantly better experience than is currently available on older consoles. Granted, the title’s not to everyone’s tastes, but there’s a reason that it’s dug a path into the hearts of millions of players since its initial release in 2011 – and you’ll probably have an inkling of whether you’re a fan by now.