Review by ChemicalReaper
"Does Mojang's breakout indie hit deliver the same bang on consoles?"
MineCraft, the breakout indie hit created by Mojang, finally reaches one of the consoles. Three years later, though, and does it still offer the same charm?
MineCraft: 360 Edition is a lovingly recreated version of the original MineCraft beta. It has been practically rebuilt and re-coded by 4J Studios to run smoothly on the Xbox 360's comparatively limited hardware. The game overall runs at a very crisp 60fps: however, because of the 360's limited RAM, and because draw distance is so high, building massive structures, looking over the world map from a very high vantage point, or playing multiplayer with many players in the same area building simultaneously can all bring the frame rate crashing back down to a more standard 30fps. Although the difference is highly noticeable at first, the game quickly settles in at 30fps, and you start to overlook the fact that the difference even exists.
MineCraft: 360 Edition is built on a fairly early beta of the PC version. This means it lacks many of the advanced features from 1.7 onwards. While this does not detract hugely from the game for new players, anyone who has become accustomed to the PC's abundant features - adventure mode, for example, which adds a stamina bar, the need to hunt and eat, and the ability to stack food items - will probably feel that the 360 version is barren and devoid of fundamental gameplay elements.
Now, super advanced graphics have never been a selling point of MineCraft, but comparing gameplay videos and screenshots reveals that textures on the 360 are rough even by MineCraft's standards: this is probably due to the combination of larger screens (I've never seen a 42" computer monitor), more pixels, and upscaled textures. Anti-aliasing is noticeably absent, but that would lead to a trade off between smoother graphics and MineCraft's traditional blockiness: a trade off that, in my opinion, would go against the game's fundamental artistic style.
Another source of disappointment to those familiar with the game is that the 360 Edition's game world is limited to a map size of 1024x1024 blocks. Again, this probably won't matter so much to players who are new to the game: it's simply a compromise between draw distance/pop-in and world size. It is rumored, though, that 4j will try to expand the size in future updates.
Speaking of updates, 4J already has an update planned for late May: this would introduce Pistons to the 360 Edition along with some other minor additions (such as shears for collecting wool, rather than punching sheep).
Although the 360 Edition will always be behind the PC version in terms of features, one has to appreciate how well 4J has rebuilt the game to work on a console. Yes, rebuilt. This isn't some crappy ported-to-console game.
Let's take a look at the controls, for example. Traditionally, shooters are easy to work with on both PCs and consoles because they utilize the same basic controls. Although a mouse makes aiming smoother and more accurate, games like Halo have refined controllers to offer a very nearly identical experience. But for RTS games, building games, and anything with an appreciable inventory system, consoles have always had difficulty adapting, especially for games that originated on PCs. On the other side, we have games like Skyrim, where inventory management was at home on consoles, but which PC gamers found was too sensitive to mouse movement.
MineCraft: 360 Edition takes a different approach. When viewing your inventory or using the crafting system, the cursor "snaps" into boxes: the result is a smooth-jerky-smooth-jerky experience, but compensates for a controller's relative inaccuracy compared to a mouse and keyboard.
Likewise, item crafting has been simplified to a system of button presses: X to open the crafting menu, Left Trigger to interact with the game world, Right Trigger to mine/dig/chop/attack (if a sword or bow/arrow is equipped), B to drop items, Left and Right Bumpers to change between groups of items. Additionally, rather than being required to place items in the correct pattern on a grid to create an item, an item can be created simply if you have the right parts oringredients.
Finally, one of the most impressive features of MineCraft: 360 Edition. Thanks to Xbox Live integration, it is possible (and super easy) to jump into a game with your friends and build away to your hearts' content. Work with each other, sabotage each other's work (and risk finding yourself no longer invited to future games!), explore together, live together, fight zombies together. MineCraft is the ultimate do-what-you-want sandbox game, and, despite lacking in features compared to the PC version, it has never been this easy and fun to roam an open sandbox world with your friends.
Story: N/A N/A
Gameplay: 8/10 I'm hesitant to give Minecraft a 9 or a 10 in this category as gameplay really is so simplistic and repetitive, but the sheer amount of stuff you can make and build is really what makes this game what it is.
Replayability: 9/10 You can always come back to play more; maybe add another level to your floating sky-castle, build a mob spawn trap, add another dungeon, etc.
Graphics: 7/10 Again, this is a hard category to rate. Minecraft's graphics are obviously not great, but it's done that way purposefully. So in that regard, the graphics have succeeded at what they attempt to do. But, to be fair to other games, I can only give the graphics a 7 (which still isn't that bad, really).
Audio: 4/10 C418's music is just incredibly awful. It's annoying, it's repetitive, and it doesn't really work in-game. Thankfully you can turn it off. The other sounds digging and placing blocks can get irritating after a few hours.
Multiplayer: 8/10 Aside from a few Live-related problems (lag can get pretty bad if you try to connect more than two or three Xboxes in one game), playing with friends can be great fun.
Rating: 7/10 (B)
The Bottom Line: Despite a few bugs - mostly resulting from Live-based multiplayer - MineCraft: 360 Edition offers a fairly smooth, incredibly fun sandbox game where your imagination is only limited by the number of blocks you can mine!
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 05/16/12, Updated 03/04/13
Game Release: Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (US, 05/09/12)
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