A Few Blocks Quick Of PC VR Launch

Minecraft is one of the biggest games in the last 10 years and has inevitably made its way to some VR platforms. Now Minecraft finally has PSVR support on PS4. But does Minecraft PSVR leave you with the same sense of awe and wonder the base game does? Or does everything collapse into a pixelated, blocky mess? Here is our Minecraft PSVR review.

Over a decade ago, Minecraft was released as a simple Java app for the PC. Although it had a basic concept, it grew in popularity and quickly became a mega hit. In 2014, Microsoft bought developer Mojang for $ 2.5 billion. Since then, the Minecraft IP has expanded to new platforms and spin-off games. However, VR versions of the game were few and far between.

Oculus Rift support was added to the Windows 10 version of the game in 2016, and touch controller support was added a year later. Until recently, however, Minecraft wasn’t seen on Oculus Quest or PSVR, two of the biggest headsets out there. While Quest users are still looking, a new update recently added PSVR support for owners of the existing game on PS4.

Back to basics

Most people know how Minecraft works and if it’s their type of game, so we won’t focus too much on the core gameplay. But in case you need a refresher …

Minecraft is an open sandbox with great creative potential. In the main survival mode, you follow a basic structure of events that most new players follow: build a house before dark, hide from zombies at night (or fight them), venture further away from your house the next day and expand your base with new materials when you return. There are a lot of variations, but that’s the beauty of the game. It is a loose structure that perfectly fits the line between subtle guidance of the player and enormous control.

This is why Minecraft has caught the imagination of children around the world – there are things to be done, but no right or wrong way to do them. It’s all up to you.

Minecraft Psvr Review

Changes for PSVR

The PSVR version of the game is available as a free update for owners of the base PS4 game. This means that if you don’t already own Minecraft on PS4, all you have to do is make one purchase and easily switch between them. It’s the Bedrock Edition too, so it has the same content as other platforms, all major modes, and cross-platform play, both inside and outside of VR.

There are a whole slew of new settings added specifically for PSVR, including rotation adjustment, HUD removal, and more. It is an extensive range of options and the developers should be commended for providing many tools for users to reduce nausea and find a solution that is convenient for them. Unfortunately, personally, I still found the game incredibly nasty – partly due to the rapid artificial movement and the large size of the blocks, but also thanks to a few other problems …

Questionable control decisions

Ultimately, Minceaft PSVR has the same content and gameplay that you know and love from other platforms. However, the PSVR implementation has some issues that hold it back significantly compared to other versions of the game.

The main problem with PSVR is the lack of support for the PlayStation Move controller. The only way to play the game in VR mode is with a DualShock controller, which quickly becomes a problem.

Minecraft is a crosshair-based game. Everything you do depends on aligning your crosshairs over something – kill enemies, open a chest, mine some dirt. In most VR games, the crosshairs are controlled by motion controllers such as Oculus Touch or PlayStation Move. These allow you to position a crosshair independently of your head. Alternatively, some games – like Dreams or Firewall Zero Hour – can bypass this by using the DualShock’s gyroscope and light bar as a method to move the crosshairs independently.

Minecraft Psvr Review

In Minecraft PSVR, this is not the case – the crosshair position is tied to your head. The only way to move the crosshair is to physically move your head. Do you want to mine a block right below you? Well then check it out. Are you trying to slap your sword on zombies while running backwards? Well, good luck in perfectly aligning your crosshairs with your head every time you need to land a hit.

This system makes head movements instrumental and detrimental to playing the game. Tasks that should be quick and routine, like sorting your inventory or placing a series of blocks, become tedious and frustrating. It’s an annoying and downright impractical solution.

Also, because of the limited tracking range of PSVR, you need to use the correct stick to click into place or gently rotate to make large panning movements that you then fine-tune with your head. It’s such a complicated system that you don’t have to focus on the game anymore. It feels like a coordination challenge, almost like being asked to stroke your head while rubbing your stomach just to play the game. It never works well.

Minecraft Psvr Review

Proof in the PC VR pudding

What would be frustrating would be that implementing support for the PlayStation Move controllers would likely have completely resolved this problem. While the lack of joysticks on the moves would mean the movement would need to be realigned (which other games have successfully managed), they would offer movement controls for crosshair positioning.

Just check out the Oculus Rift version of Minecraft available for the Windows 10 version of the game. It supports 6DoF motion controls where the touch controllers act as virtual Minecraft hands – items on the right, toolbar on the left. This system is exactly what you’d expect from Mincraft VR – you can point your hand at an object that will move the crosshair independently of your head.

This is much more convenient, reduces nausea, and opens the game up to resemble something much closer to the version you’ve previously played on PC and consoles. But even without implementing Move support, the aforementioned DualShock gyroscope control solution could have been used instead. There needs to be an alternate control scheme for PSVR that works better – other VR versions of the game have already proven this.

Minecraft Psvr Review

Living room mode

Living Room mode is another way to play Minecraft on PSVR that was carried over from the Rift version. If you’ve ever used a Netflix app in a VR headset, this is the Minecraft equivalent – living room mode puts you in a small room (made from Minecraft materials) and places the game on a flat screen in front of you. The controls are reset to a standard controller layout with the crosshair assigned to the right joystick.

Ironically, this is a great way to play the game in VR on PlayStation 4. It works well and doesn’t have any of the control issues of full immersive mode. According to the developers, the Living Room mode has been implemented as a convenience feature – you can simply press it at any time by pressing the control pad – so that nausea-prone individuals can quickly switch out of full immersion when they start feeling queasy.

Minecraft PSVR living room mode

The Living Room mode works well, but is a bit irrelevant to the game as a full-time VR solution. If you’ve only used this mode while gaming with a headset, all you get is nothing other than playing the game on PS4 only without a headset.

Minecraft PSVR Review: Final Impressions

It’s a shame I spent so much time on this review talking about what Minecraft PSVR was doing wrong – it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to focus on. There is no getting around how unforgivable the current PSVR control scheme is, however – it makes the game boundary unplayable, nasty, and physically taxing on your neck. It’s a shame because Minecraft is a fantastic game and there is great potential for a great VR version on PlayStation 4. As a fan of the franchise, it’s disappointing that the three year old Rift release is doing a better job.

When Minecraft launched, one of the biggest talking points was its scope and the immersion that came with it. You could create your own entire city and the blocky pixel art graphics didn’t matter because you were so ingrained in this virtual world that you had created. When you add multiplayer to the mix, it even shares some of the world-building DNA that can be seen in social VR apps like VRChat or Facebook Horizon. Unfortunately, all of the immersion from the original game is lost at PSVR – you’re so busy with the controls that full immersion seems like a pipe dream.

Since there seem to be many solutions available to fix the problem, there really is no excuse why Minecraft PSVR is playing as badly as it is. Minecraft remains a fantastic game and one of the most popular of all time, but implementing it on PSVR stands in the way of being fun. You’re better off playing without the headset – Minecraft on PSVR is a blocky mess, and I’m not talking about the resolution.


Minecraft PSVR rating points

Minecraft is available now on PS4 with PlayStation VR support for $ 19.99. For more information on how we got that score, see our Review guidelines.

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