Minecraft, the product of a small development team out of Sweden, has become a household name, making an appearance on nearly every platform on the market in some form or another. The latest rendition to be realized is on the next-gen systems, such as the PlayStation 4. With every version of the game special for each platform, what does 4J Studios’ console port uniquely give to the PS4?
Right off the bat, what one will notice is that the graphics are intentionally bad, and newcomers will especially have that wall to traverse. To make matters more difficult, not much is explained to help players really get started without research, prior knowledge or heavy trial and error. Though this may come off negative, this is the inherent charm of the concept behind Minecraft: libertarianism; the act of using what one finds and creates is what makes a libertarian successful, and Minecraft can bring that out of anyone. No directions will be pointed for new players, as a map, a chest containing random starting items, and a completely unknown terrain will be the only guides. And though the game doesn’t hold one’s hand, it does give small tutorials whenever something new is discovered–though finding applications for those new somethings will be up to the player. Putting all this together, returning to the very pixelated world of Minecraft gives a sense of naturalism that, when thinking about it in any right, doesn’t make a lick of sense since everything looks boxed and blotchy, but the more time spent in the game yields a new eye for what each block can do, simulating a reality that can only be found in-game.
Button schemes make the game incredibly accessible. Even though a mouse and keyboard will always be more facilitating, quick moves with the Triangle button and splitting item stacks with Square are only a few of the shortcuts that bring the game conveniently to players’ thumbs and pointer fingers.
Blocks of material can be found, dug, shaped, broken down, and reformed in many different, relative ways, and the creativity that surrounds this concept is what makes Minecraft so very attractive to players. Quite often, Minecraft has been coined "Lego for Adults," but a title like that deteriorates the living world and dangers that take place within the game. Just as easily as objects can be created, they can be destroyed. In this world–36 times bigger than it was on the PlayStation 3–the dangers have been increased in an almost equal fashion. I logged many, many hours on the PS3 on my way to the Platinum Trophy, but the one key difference–outside of the sheer scope of the game–was the enemy’s spawning rate. Specifically, Creepers were much more invasive and frustrating than before, and they make even less sound than before, which results in random explosions and spontaneous deaths far too often than they should. Whether this was a development direction to take or not is besides the point, because even the Easy difficulty proves formidable. So, newcomers and veterans alike: beware of the Creeper infestation; and it might be a good idea to tame an ocelot at the first possible chance.
The overall performance of the game is much greater than on the previous console generation, as hiccups in performance only occur now when traveling across the map at fast speeds. Even now, the servers are more reliable. Additionally, players can build and adventure away from the host without having to worry about input lag or delays in performance or frame rate drops. While on topic, even more players can play in a single-game session at one time, and though the original reports claimed that only four players could play on a Minecraft map at one time, I have been able to play with a total of six people in one game at one time. The game’s performance will depend on the host’s internet connection, of course, but with my 50MB connection, I was successfully able to play split screen with my fiancée as well as host the four other players while we both were in party chat with them while streaming Netflix on our PS3.
The following is a disclaimer that must be indicated before players get sideswiped: a glitch exists within Minecraft that will make items stored in chests completely disappear. No official statement has been made regarding the exact issue, but many signs point to a recurring problem that’s been around since the game’s inception on PC, where this glitch results from the overall map getting increased. Specifically, user reports have surmised that the issue may result from the host saving the game and quitting while away from what the host would call "home base." This very glitch happened to me, and though I did save and quit away from my home base, I had also brought in two new players who hadn’t touched my game session before, which equals out to have eight separate players associating with my game. Regardless, developer 4J Studios is on the case according to the team’s Twitter page, but the existence of this issue cannot be ignored. For now, I’d recommend playing on small maps, so as to reduce the amount of risk factors.
Another less significant problem revolved around inviting players while in split screen. First, playing split screen allows both players to be online while playing the game, earning Trophies for each player. In doing so, the PS4 clearly becomes taxed as sending invites to other players quite often causes the game to freeze and the invites not to be sent. An easy workaround is having the game session public, but that also means that anyone with the game on your friends list can jump into the game and do what he or she likes. Invites did work on occasion, and the constant auto-save of the game made turning off the game on the fly a no-risk factor. Regardless, reaching out to other players while in split screen is still a struggle, even if this issue won’t reflect on everyone.
Really though, even with the issues and new challenges, Minecraft is a game that has affected a generation of gamers in a way that most titles cannot begin to fathom or emulate. The level of available creativity is staggering and only limited by what the player can learn about the game. To put rhyme to reason, those who owned the digital version on the PS3 will only have to pay $4.99 for the next-gen upgrade, but even $14.99 is a steal for a title so immersive. Add-ons also come cheap, featuring texture packs that change the look and feel of the game in new, intriguing ways. Trophy hunters will also want to jump back into the world, because each version has its own Trophy list, and some new trophies will keep hunters guessing and researching past what they already know. Remote Play also makes this title very accessible, and even though the upcoming PlayStation Vita version will likely trump this feature, the ability to play the same game from anywhere will always have its appeal.
Minecraft makes a very successful splash on the next generation, but it’s not without its bumps in the road. Split screen, disappearing items in storage, and the a random hiccups are all microcosms to a much bigger hole that cannot possibly be filled or explored in one-hundred or even two-hundred hours. With the challenge greater than ever on home consoles, fans would be crazy to skip out and newcomers would be missing a great, accessible chance to see exactly what this libertarian title can offer.