Rust Console Edition should be rubbish. Double Eleven’s tardy PlayStation 4 translation of the seminal PC survival smash has taken its sweet time to release, and it’s not exactly enjoying the smoothest launch period, with crafting bugs, hit detection hiccups, and some of the most vomit-inducing visuals we’ve seen in years. Despite all of that, there’s a reason Facepunch Studios’ online craft-‘em-up has retained a passionate fanbase since 2013 – the truth is, we can’t stop thinking about this game.

While this version is separate from the Steam release, it very much retains the spirit of the original – it’s just lagging years behind in terms of features and updates. This means that you’ll still start out bleary-eyed on a beach, with little more than a rock and a pair of underpants to your name. Your objective is to survive on a moderately-sized online open world map, where other players are also trying to get by. You can team up if you like – but you’re more likely to get your head caved in.

The social experiment here is stunning: everyone is in the same predicament, but the human element makes the gameplay beautifully unpredictable. You may encounter someone who appears to be friendly, only for them to stab you in the back. Alternatively, playing the hunter is delightfully devilish – you can sit back in the shadows, watch someone loot a bunch of in-demand items, and then pick them off with a crossbow arrow to the skull. Heck, you can even keep them alive long enough so they can watch you pick their fidgeting corpse clean.

The early exchanges are brutal – intentionally so. If you die, then it’s back to the beach, with all of your loot removed. Your goal, therefore, is to set up digs as quickly as possible; build a small shack in the woods where you can store your gear and erect a sleeping bag. From there, assuming you can properly maintain it, you’ll be able to respawn in your base. Fascinatingly, your home will persist on the servers even when you’re offline – but you’ll need to ensure it doesn’t decay by supplying it with the right materials.

And it’ll need to be properly fortified if you’re planning to go to sleep for the night. A den made out of twigs and mud will be blown to smithereens, and all of your items will have been picked clean when you log back in. It’s this sense of persistence that makes the game difficult to get out of your head; knowing that all of your progress is at the mercy of others on the server even while you’re not playing is fascinating to say the least.

The game really does make you work for all of your gear, too. In terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, it’s similar to Minecraft, where you’re chopping down trees and gathering up stone in order to build tools and weapons. Once you’ve got all of the basics checked off, you can start constructing workbenches and research desks, which eventually enable you to build devastating weapons and more industrious appliances.

This is where Rust Console Edition sets itself apart from other survival games on PS4: the online element means, once you’ve got some firepower on your utility belt, you’re going to be getting into gun fights as you wrestle for territory and collect the best loot. Honestly, few moments in games are more powerful than wandering around, armed with a shotgun and full body armour, and happening upon new players who are armed with a stick. The proximity voice chat feature really helps capture the moment, too, enabling you to quite literally hear the fear.

The gameplay loop is underlined by the fact that servers wipe periodically, meaning even if you were able to effectively defend your base, then you’re going to be starting all over again in a few days or weeks. This puts everyone on the same playing field, and it makes working your way back up the food chain entertaining. You have to mentally accept that nothing lasts forever here – the game is, quite literally, called Rust.

It’s a shame the presentation is so corroded, though, we suppose. While it’s not necessarily the end of the world, better visuals could have really helped immerse you in this game world; instead, you’re going to be confronted by some seriously ugly textures and models. The graphics are, frankly, so bad that it affects playability – distinguishing which kind of rocks can actually be mined, for example, should not be this difficult.

The game’s riddled with bugs, too – although, the odd crash aside, we must admit we personally haven’t had too many problems so far, touch firewood. Hit detection hiccups and a pretty poor control scheme mean that firefights are less fun than they should be, and we’ve seen multiple reports online from players who’ve been unable to actually craft items like they’re supposed to. Double Eleven’s stressed that it’s committed to fixing the problems, but it is irritating to see games continually launch in this state.

Conclusion

Rust Console Edition is punishing and a real test of your resolve. The game’s persistent online world – which continues to exist even when you’re offline – paired with its rewarding survival loop make it hard to get out of your head, however. The ephemeral nature of your progress means it’s oddly unique, and the human interactions you’ll encounter along the way give the title limitless replayability and unpredictability. Yes, it looks like garbage and is clearly in need of a patch or 10,000 – but even now, as we write this, we can’t help but wonder whether someone’s blown the door off our base and is rifling through our belongings.