Giant Bomb Review

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Minecraft Review

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The Xbox version of Minecraft is both better and worse than the PC original, though it's most valuable for newcomers to the whole phenomenon.

Enough hours and elbow grease will turn this...

It's hard to imagine you've kept up with video games this long without becoming at least passingly familiar with the Minecraft phenomenon. But if you're like me, so far you've managed to avoid actually diving pickaxe-first into that blocky landscape and wasting dozens of hours building... whatever it is a person builds when they have access to a wide range of tools and no specific directives as to their use. For you and me, the new Xbox 360 Edition of Minecraft is a fine introduction to the world of tunneling to the center of the Earth in a desperate search for precious minerals, and constructing castles that take you weeks to build. Veterans of the far more robust PC version, however, more than likely won't find anything worthwhile in this scaled-down port.

If you don't actually know anything about what Minecraft is at this point, there are untold thousands of hours of YouTube videos out there to educate you. Let it suffice that it's a retro-lookin' open-ended sandbox where you harvest raw materials like dirt, wood, and stone, refine them into slightly less raw materials like glass, and then... well, you figure it out. As this was my first experience in any sort of Minecraft world whatsoever, I was terrified by the game's lack of direction for a couple of hours, until I finally decided that I was going to build myself a gigantic castle, which ended up presenting a series of small architectural and process-oriented challenges that I found pretty satisfying. This version does include a nicely paced (if poorly written) tutorial that smoothly introduces you to the steps required to make basic tools, build structures, and so on. It's also a rare case where the included Xbox achievements actually provide you some specific structure and guidance above and beyond the goals the game itself gives you, which are few.

...into something more like this.

That said, this "Xbox 360 Edition" is a strange beast that comes with what seems like an equal number of pros and cons when compared to the PC original. In the negative column: individual worlds are quite limited in size, considering the PC version will generate endless terrain for as long as you want to explore it. There's also no option for a persistent world that anyone can join at will; instead, the host has to be running their game and have it set to "online" for anyone else to join it, and all other players are dropped when the host quits. Naturally, you won't have access to any of the legion of mods that have been produced for the game. And most damningly, the 360 game is based on a year-old PC version that lacks a huge list of features like a hunger meter, new biomes, and randomly generated towns. The developers of this version hope to expedite Microsoft's typically onerous update process and bring it closer to parity with the PC game on a bimonthly basis, but whether or not that will happen--and whether they'll charge extra if it does--remains to be seen. The short version of all this is that if you've already spent a ton of time with the "real" Minecraft, or you want to delve straight into the most mature and feature-rich version of the game on the market, this isn't the one you want.

The 360 game isn't without its own improvements, though. Chiefly, the crafting interface is fast and largely automated, presenting you with an easy-to-browse list of recipes and allowing you to pop out axes and shovels, stairs, workbenches, and so on at the touch of a button, rather than forcing you to memorize ingredient lists and manually drag those ingredients into slots to make stuff. And while the persistence of your worlds is limited, the game offers an elegant way to view and join all of your friends' games while they're in progress. Most importantly, the game offers local splitscreen co-op that makes it an ideal casual experience for multiple people hanging around the house on a lazy Saturday afternoon. For me, the local co-op rapidly went from a mere bullet-point feature to the most valuable aspect of this whole game in the space of one of those afternoons. The game works really well on the 360 controller in general, and if you use the lowest difficulty, which disables monsters (like the infernal creepers who are constantly blowing up all your carefully constructed stuff), the game can be an awfully pleasant, lean-back sort of way to pass a few hours. Or more than a few.

The worlds are limited in size, but still plenty big to build some dumb stuff in.

In the multitude of hours I've put into this version of Minecraft so far, I had no trouble editing multiple worlds across multiple Xboxes, and playing any combination of local and online co-op with various friends. Though, there was one maddening experience where the game crashed when I used the save-and-quit option, failing to save in the process and obliterating all my work since the last save. Based on anecdotal evidence, I'm hardly the only one who's had that specific problem, so you're advised to use the regular manual save option frequently to make sure you don't lose any hard work until the game is patched.

In the future, this version of the game will live and die by the frequency and robustness of those promised updates and the extent to which they catch the game up to the progress of the PC original. The 360 Edition is a bit steep by Xbox standards at $20, though the PC version now costs a bit more (and some outlets seem to be selling this one for less, anyway). If you're reading this review at all, you probably own at least one platform, ranging from PC to Mac to the iPhone or Android, that Minecraft already runs on, but here and now, the 360 game offers enough value for block-building neophytes to justify its existence in a world where Minecraft has already seemingly been wallpapered everywhere you look for the last couple of years.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
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Edited by oso1990

I'll probably get it

Posted by SSully

@oso1990 said:

i probably get it

I like comment

Posted by FinalDasa

As someone who played a lot of the PC version I still find this version intriguing. This review highlights the dilemma of liking such a strange and ever evolving game and I think the Xbox version is the best version to get if you want to figure out if Minecraft is for you.

Great review! ^.^

Moderator
Posted by HydraHam

Got this morning and played for about 6 hours straight which is something i haven't done with a game in a very long time and realized i wasted half of my day off and i am not even mad about it.

Fantastic game and i will be blowing a lot more of my free time on it.

Posted by iAmJohn

Never would I have ever expected to see the words "Minecraft" and "Review" in the same sentence on Giant Bomb. It's a brave new world, folks.

Posted by jozzy

I am probably a dumbass, but is it possible to start a world without the tutorial town. I didn't see a way, but I was playing the trial.

Posted by goldenmnk

Did you make all of this brad? This is amazing!

Edited by Video_Game_King

How many mines can I craft?

Posted by Animasta

@Video_Game_King said:

How many mines can I craft?

all of them. all the mines.

Posted by HydraHam

@jozzy said:

I am probably a dumbass, but is it possible to start a world without the tutorial town. I didn't see a way, but I was playing the trial.

Yes, don't start a world using the tutorial lol.

Posted by insane_shadowblade85

You know, I would've never guessed to try and use trap doors as windows. I should totally do this.

Posted by Dezztroy

I really don't know what the point of releasing this on the 360 is, when pretty much any computer available can more than handle Minecraft. Not to mention the lack of content compared to the PC/Mac version.

Posted by jozzy

@Styl3s said:

@jozzy said:

I am probably a dumbass, but is it possible to start a world without the tutorial town. I didn't see a way, but I was playing the trial.

Yes, don't start a world using the tutorial lol.

Hmm, I just started a world and it asked me if I wanted to do the tutorial. I said no but I still stayed in the same world where that town is. Is there in the full version an option before you start a new world to start without the tutorial?

Posted by foolman

Good review Brad, im thinking of picking this one up but as of now none of my friends have it so.. I don't know. Seems like something that would be way more fun when played with friends...

Posted by PresidentOfJellybeans

Really wish this would come out on Steam!

Posted by CottonWolf

Brad's house is insanely awesome. I looks like it must have taken forever to build!

Posted by Gunslinger0130

Biggest issue with this that I see is the lack of any option for a shared world. I would love to pick this up and build shit with my friends but having to jump back and forth between worlds seems silly. 

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Posted by HydraHam

@jozzy said:

@Styl3s said:

@jozzy said:

I am probably a dumbass, but is it possible to start a world without the tutorial town. I didn't see a way, but I was playing the trial.

Yes, don't start a world using the tutorial lol.

Hmm, I just started a world and it asked me if I wanted to do the tutorial. I said no but I still stayed in the same world where that town is. Is there in the full version an option before you start a new world to start without the tutorial?

Are you not playing the full version? i assume you can only play in a tutorial level in the demo. In the full version you can play without that town because that's how i am playing right now.

Posted by Brad

The screens in the review were released by Microsoft, FYI. My world doesn't look nearly that cool... YET.

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Posted by Draxyle

@PresidentOfJellybeans said:

Really wish this would come out on Steam!

I assume this situation is like a Blizzard title. Their games are just so big of a deal that they don't "need" steam. They get more money selling it direct. Minecraft sales have certainly not been slow enough to warrant jumping off their proprietary platform.

It's a shame, I wouldn't mind seeing Minecraft (or all PC titles) show up on steam either.

Posted by mrsmiley

Definitely a good review. It's tough to review a game that has already been played by millions upon millions of people. I'm pretty shocked/disappointed that such an old build is what was used for this release, even with them planning on updates.

Posted by HydraHam

@PresidentOfJellybeans said:

Really wish this would come out on Steam!

Why? there is no reason to bring it to steam.

It's like a 1mb download, you can play it on their site and launch it through steam it doesn't make sense to bring it and the game won't gain anything by going on steam.

Posted by Getz

I'm just surprised there are still people out there who haven't bought this game yet. And really guys, there's no excuse for not buying the PC version; any computer can run it.

Posted by I_smell

There's something really hilarious about GiantBomb finally reviewing this, and it turns out Brad loves it.

Posted by Yummylee

@Brad: Has Vinny's law gone into effect yet? Clearly there'll be countless 1-1's on the PC version, but I'm curious to see how fast they crop up in the 360 version.

Online
Posted by Atwa

Blows my mind that you actually reviewed this.

The PC version is superior in every aspect, and it runs on anything. Why play this inferior port and review it.

Posted by InternetDetective

@Video_Game_King: The only limit is your imagination... and the invisible walls.

Posted by Arker101

I really would like to pick this up to play with friends, but man if you know and play with the Tekkitmods, it just trumps vanilla Minecraft.

Posted by murisan

@Brad said:

The screens in the review were released by Microsoft, FYI. My world doesn't look nearly that cool... YET.

Ha, I like how you pre-emptively answered this. I was wondering about that house. I'm sure your castle is cool, but that house is so damn proper.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

This review seems rather... unnecessary.

Posted by louiedog

@Dezztroy said:

I really don't know what the point of releasing this on the 360 is, when pretty much any computer available can more than handle Minecraft. Not to mention the lack of content compared to the PC/Mac version.

I checked the leaderboards a couple of hours ago and there were over 170,000 people listed. It's only been out for about 12 hours. Clearly there's demand.

Posted by Anwar

@ArbitraryWater: Maybe we'll see a review about RDR :P

Posted by Sooty

I hate this game on a controller.

Edited by C0V3RT

I know in scale, the world is much smaller in that it can actually end. But how is it handled and exactly how small/large is the area you can explore?

Posted by buft

I see a few people writing "any PC can run it" originally i bought the PC version for my son so he could play with friends, he has a laptop which is maybe 2 years old at this point , maybe 1 at the time and it cant run it smoothly. so for him the easiest thing to do would be to get the xbox version since its a much better experience.

Posted by louiedog

@C0V3RT said:

I know in scale, the world is much smaller in that it can actually end. But how is it handled and exactly how small/large is the area you can explore?

I haven't tested the borders, but from the few hours I played it seems like connected landmasses surrounded by water after which no more land is generated. The area is square and probably takes about 5 minutes to walk one side of, depending on the terrain of course. Like I said though, I haven't actually tested the borders by swimming out, but from the map and seeing no more land at the edges this is what it seems like.

Posted by WinterSnowblind

@Atwa said:

Blows my mind that you actually reviewed this.

The PC version is superior in every aspect, and it runs on anything. Why play this inferior port and review it.

It certainly will not run on anything. The size of the worlds and the fact it still runs on java means lower end systems will struggle a lot.

True, if you own a moderately capable PC, there's little reason to play this version.. but if you only have a laptop/netbook and/or want to play local co-op with some friends, there's no reason you can't have fun with this version too.

Posted by 2HeadedNinja

@Atwa said:

Blows my mind that you actually reviewed this.

The PC version is superior in every aspect, and it runs on anything. Why play this inferior port and review it.

because now that it is on consoles it matters ;)

Posted by 2HeadedNinja

@buft said:

I see a few people writing "any PC can run it" originally i bought the PC version for my son so he could play with friends, he has a laptop which is maybe 2 years old at this point , maybe 1 at the time and it cant run it smoothly. so for him the easiest thing to do would be to get the xbox version since its a much better experience.

That must be you then ... the last PC I saw that was not able to run minecraft smoothly was 10 years old, a 2 year old laptop should not have a problem running the game. Maybe the laptop needs a proper reset/reinstall?

Posted by Phished0ne

why would you ever ever ever build a house out of wood? all you need is one pyromaniac on your friends list to ruin everything

Posted by louiedog

@2HeadedNinja said:

@buft said:

I see a few people writing "any PC can run it" originally i bought the PC version for my son so he could play with friends, he has a laptop which is maybe 2 years old at this point , maybe 1 at the time and it cant run it smoothly. so for him the easiest thing to do would be to get the xbox version since its a much better experience.

That must be you then ... the last PC I saw that was not able to run minecraft smoothly was 10 years old, a 2 year old laptop should not have a problem running the game. Maybe the laptop needs a proper reset/reinstall?

When was the last time that you tested it on old/low end hardware? It's changed a lot in the last year or so. It used to run pretty well on just about anything, but since Beta 1.8 or so that hasn't been the case.

Posted by Stahlbrand

Boards of Canada + Minecraft = very fine way to relax on a night off.

Posted by Encephalon

We need another QL of Brad showing off his obsessive creations.

Posted by kurtbro900

Weird, I've never heard of this game.

Posted by C0V3RT

@louiedog said:

@C0V3RT said:

I know in scale, the world is much smaller in that it can actually end. But how is it handled and exactly how small/large is the area you can explore?

I haven't tested the borders, but from the few hours I played it seems like connected landmasses surrounded by water after which no more land is generated. The area is square and probably takes about 5 minutes to walk one side of, depending on the terrain of course. Like I said though, I haven't actually tested the borders by swimming out, but from the map and seeing no more land at the edges this is what it seems like.

Thanks for the info! Much appreciated!

Posted by AlexW00d

I read the review and don't see any pros to buying this version? Oh well. I guess it's a good thing this game FINALLY got some proper coverage on this site after being a thing for 2 years.

Posted by louiedog

@AlexW00d said:

I read the review and don't see any pros to buying this version? Oh well. I guess it's a good thing this game FINALLY got some proper coverage on this site after being a thing for 2 years.

Split-screen, tips & tutorials, and much easier crafting. It's easier to get into for new players and anyone who wants to do couch co-op. Other than that the PC version has a lot more to offer.

Edited by Chemin

I just love the fact that someone in the core GB crew finally experienced for themselves what makes Minecraft so addictive to people. Brad probably won't play it for much longer, but at least he has felt the just-one-more-block urge this game can bring upon you. Now he can at least chime in with a sentence or two if the topic presents itself in the bombcast, or some other place, without them dismissing the whole game like they've pretty much done up to this point. Which I never had any problems with, don't get me wrong, but I'm happier now. It's somewhat sad that it had to be the Xbox port that did it though.. Oh well, all's good. It seems like an easier version to start out with, so.

Posted by Willy105

Probably the best game of the generation. Although it's true that the Xbox version is very limited and already outdated, the more people enjoying it the better.

Posted by Dagbiker

Finally, a minecraft review.

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