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Minecraft: Xbox One Edition review – The best-selling game is better than ever on Xbox One

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that today would be the official release date of Minecraft: Xbox One Edition. The game actually ended up launching yesterday evening, perhaps to line up more closely with the debut of the Playstation 4 version on the same day.

Although Minecraft is already available on other platforms like Xbox 360 and PC (but sadly not Windows Phone), the release of the Xbox One version still warrants excitement. For one thing, owners of the 360 game can buy the Xbox One Edition for only $4.99. More importantly, this version brings a ton of improvements over the previous one, such as 1080p support, improved draw distance, and larger worlds.

Still don't get the fuss? Our detailed review with exclusive hands-on video and screenshots will set you straight.

Hop into the tutorial

After launching the game, players can select between playing the Tutorial, creating a new world, or importing an Xbox 360 save. First-time Minecraft players will want to start with the tutorial. It seems to be basically unchanged from the Xbox 360 version, walking players through movement, crafting, and other game mechanics.

As a bonus, the tutorial world contains lots of rare materials in relative abundance. You can stick around and earn lots of Achievements for completing tasks like crafting or cooking specific items.

Learning to survive

Once the tutorial ends, players will have to learn to survive on their own and fend off predators. The daytime in Minecraft is safe, a time for exploration and collecting materials. Your unique game world is truly vast, stretching out in all directions, even up and down. At first you're simply tasked with building a shelter to sleep in and survive the night, but eventually you'll be able to concentrate on building new and better things, including weapons like swords and bows and arrows.

Those weapons will come in handy for hunting animals like cows and pigs, but also monsters. Once the sun goes down in Minecraft, all manner of monsters start to lurk: zombies, spiders, skeleton archers, Creepers, and several more. The stronger ones can end your life quickly if you're not careful, forcing you to respawn without any of the items you previously carried. Don't worry, those items remain where you died, should you wish to return for them.

But the hordes of monsters can certainly prove problematic, which is why staying indoors is usually the safest option. Monsters can still tell you're in a building and try to attack, but the door will hold them off for at least a while. If holing up and trying to survive the night proves too stressful, you can simply choose to sleep in a bed until morning – as long as there aren't any monsters around when you get in bed.

You'll have to manage your health and hunger if you want to stay alive. The key to both is simply eating good food. You can plant and harvest vegetables like carrots and potatoes. You can also catch fish (just remember to press Left Trigger right when the lure bobs underwater) and kill animals for meat. Then you'll want to cook that meat with the furnace. You can even cook more complex recipes like mushroom stew, pumpkin pie, and cake. Yum!

The Minecraft Store

Minecraft comes to Xbox One with support for (I believe) all previously released DLC from the Xbox 360 version. DLC comes in three categories:

  • Skins: Change the appearance of your character! Although the game is normally first-person, you can switch to a third-person view by clicking in the left stick. Also, other players can see you and admire your cool appearance. Minecraft offers packs of original characters and licensed character packs as well. You can choose from a great variety of Marvel skins, for instance, including the Guardians of the Galaxy pack. A Doctor Who skin pack will be released later this month as well.
  • Textures: Change your world's appearance with completely different texture sets.
  • Mash-ups: These packs include skins, textures, and unique environments to explore. The three packs currently available are based on Halo, Mass Effect, and Skyrim. Unfortunately, you can't earn Achievements while playing in the mash-up worlds. Each mash-up costs $3.99. Players can also sample the worlds from the mash-up packs for free, but progress can't be saved in the trial versions.

The Minecraft Store is built-in to the game and features its own intuitive interface for navigation and purchasing. You can also buy through the traditional Xbox Store, but that's much clunkier.

Performance and improvements

Minecraft is a visually basic game, but in the same deliberate way as Super Time Force. The blocky 3D graphics and simplistic textures evoke feelings of the 32-bit era. Except that 32-bit games never really had the complexity of Minecraft's vast worlds. Nor did they run in the beautiful 1080p resolution offered on Xbox One.

Blocky graphics or not, the art style is a deliberate stylistic choice that makes this game different and unique. In fact, the distinctive appearance has been one of many factors that made Minecraft one of the best-selling downloadable games of all time. You should really get over it.

Besides the increased resolution, the Xbox One version runs at a smoother frame rate than the 360 game. It seems to hit 60 fps (the sweet spot) most of the time, though the frames will dip a bit if things get too hectic. The draw distance is much improved, allowing players to take in just how vast the game world really is. Speaking of which, the worlds can be 36 times larger here than on the 360. That's a lot to explore!

The actual times for generating new worlds and loading save games are still a bit longish, but that's a Minecraft staple. This version saves games much faster than the 360 game, so that's a bonus.

Multiplayer

You might not expect it, but Minecraft offers excellent multiplayer support. Four people can play together in split-screen on one system, and up to eight people can join online. Split-screen players can join online games as well, so populating games should be a snap. Split-screen players can even earn Achievements.

The downside of split-screen is that the UI elements are pretty small compared to single-player. You'll want to sit relatively close to the screen if you hope to deal with crafting and similar tasks.

Still, Minecraft works very well as a cooperative game, with players working together to build complex structures or simply to survive. You can adjust the difficulty to be as easy or challenging as you like, or switch to Creative mode if you don't want to deal with enemies or restrictions on movement. Like Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, this is a great game to relax with while socializing with friends.

Achievements

The Xbox One Edition has 50 Achievements worth 1,000 GamerScore, and of course they stack with the 360 version's 400 GamerScore worth of Achievements. Many are easy to get; I knocked out 15 in less than two hours. But there are some hard ones, such as playing for 100 days, and building a minecart track of over 500m length in a single direction. Those will require some dedication!

Overall Impression

What's the big deal about Minecraft? In a nutshell, it offers a deep and engrossing survival simulation. You can spend a lot of time exploring your uniquely generated world, or even hop online and team up with friends. And you can also play Creative mode, building wild and intricate structures and completely reshaping the game environment.

Survival gameplay isn't for everyone, nor is creating things. But don't say you "don't get it." That's like saying you don't understand building things with LEGO blocks, or sculpting, or painting.

Remember, the Xbox One Edition is only $4.99 for owners of the Xbox 360 game! Just try to buy the game and the discounted price should show up, though the discount has been hit-or-miss for owners of the 360 disc version. All DLC purchased from your Gamertag on 360 will show up as free in the Xbox One game as well.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

72 Comments
  • It came out early last night. I am so excited
  • I thought that Minecraft officially released for windows phone >.
  • I wish it would come to windows phone, but I read somewhere that the developers said Windows phone doesn't have enough users. But that was a year ago, so hopefully they changed their minds.
  • Yah m also thinking the same.. xD
  • What's Minecraft?
  • I've heard of this but I've never really gotten what it is about, pr of its about anything at all. I get the idea you just do whatever you feel like within the worlds loosely defined rules and natural stuff happens that requires you to maintain it and continue playing. SIM City meets Animal Crossing is my guess.
  • Meets infinite lego pieces of 1x1 :)
  • Play. Create. Balk at the creation
  • Think of a cross between Lego and an rpg combat system, and you're close. If you want to play, I recommend the PC version, which gets all the updates first, has the most features, and can be modded. The best mod is WesterosCraft, which is the world of Game of Thrones and ASOIAF, almost totally made into blocks, it's really fun to explore. The British Geological Survey also made the impressive Ordnance Survey Minecraft Britain into a layered version with all the correct geology... Minecraft is impressive, and you're best playing it for yourself. It's a limitless version of Lego. I love it, and so will you, in all likelihood :) EDIT: Modded, not nodded!
  • Got it last night when the news broke on here. If I could actually build my kids school like a Minecraft building, then incorporate lessons in Minecraft style builds or adventures, they would LOVE school.
  • Game is crap they promised so much took years and did not even come close to delivering if you have a360 just play it or PC not Xbox one it's a waste of even 5
  • Gmerdude, I don't think you know what you're talking about. This version is as good as or better than the Xbox 360 version in every way. Please don't troll.
  • Actually thank you I do I own all versions I'm saying it's nothing better then the 360 version
  • Well, read the review (as everyone should do before commenting anyway). This version is objectively better in several ways. To say otherwise is lying.
  • lol gmerdude get your s*** straight. Read the freaking article. Also learn to type I can barely understand what you're saying.
  • You've got no idea what your talking about. This version is way better than the 360 one, on so many levels. One of the biggest I find is it doesn't stop the game to auto save constantly
  • Did you really expect better graphics? :P
  • Bwhaaaaaa
  • Lively article Paul.... Thanx
  • I know a lot of people love them but I cannot get into this new thing of pixelated games. It is funny the article mentions Super Time Force because it is one that I had in mid. I downloaded it since it was in Games For Gold but I don't know if I will be playing it because its style is just not my thing.
  • I hated super time force
  • Wait? Pixilated games are new? I certainly remember playing Super Mario Bros in fully shaded 3D. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • You have got to be kidding me. You seriously took my post to mean that pixelated games are new or are you trying to make 'smart' comments?   I mean pixelated games in consoles that are capable of so much more.   I have played plenty of pixelated games when that was the norm and didn't think anything about it.   Even SNES games look better than some of these things being released today. And trying to prevent another 'smart' reply. No, looks aren't everything. I am not saying that all a game has to do is look pretty and that's it.
  • Pixelated* and I would love to see what you can come up with to top it. Art style does not determine game play or game quality. While it was a limitation 20 years ago, now it's a choice. Hell I'd much rather something in a lower rez that's fun over some polished turd anyday.
  • Haha, called it.   Please read my post above.    
  • "I can not get into this new thing of pixilated games " Do explain that since it's apparently not what you meant. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • He means the new trend of making current generation games running on current generation hardware look like 30 year old pixelated games.  Was it really that hard to understand or are you just being difficult?
  • Better pixels, yes its better.
  • Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!
  • I'm a pro at Minecraft and it feels weird looking at a description of how to play the game :D
  • When I read that it had 1080p support, I chuckled a little because the game is so pixilated, but looking at the picture, it really does look good.
  • This is a great example of why the resolution war is stupid. Detail sometimes matters more than resolution (but not in Minecraft).
  • On the plus side, increased resolution means more detail in split-screen, and that actually matters. :)
  • I agree, split screen at 720 murders my eyes on the 360. Couldn't play that for more than 3-4 hours if I had friends over.
  • 1080p support for 32-bit pixelated graphics...oh the irony for those of us who played the original pong on tv...
  • I had Sears Pong
  • Still have the orginal Atari Pong sitting on my desk at my home......Ran on C batteries...Along with my Vectrex and Atari Touch me....
  • Binatone Colour TV Master Mk IV 01/4974 1976
  • I'm looking forward to using this to introduce my kids to the game.
  • Very excited this came out.  Nice to have 1080p on a consle.     Just to clairify, the game is not pixilated, nor does it look pixilated.  The game is using 16x16 textures on the blocks, but nothing about the game is pixilated.  The games runs at 1080p on the Xbox 1, so unless you have a very large TV, or are sitting too close to your TV, 1080p is not going to look "pixilated".
  • You might be thinking of the word aliased (blocky or jagged edges). According to Wikipedia, "pixelation is caused by displaying a bitmap or a section of a bitmap at such a large size that individual pixels, small single-colored square display elements that comprise the bitmap, are visible." Which definitely applies to Minecraft's texture maps.
  • That does indeed describe the texture map, and thank you for providing the correct context to describe the game.  The deeper issue is the lack of understanding by many people that this game is some how low performance or looks bad due to an intentional decision on the art design.  The game, in general, is very fluid, all lines and objects fully adjust to changes in POV, and generally the game looks very clean IMO.  I have also seen computers called a "gaming" computer that can't run this game to its full potential, thought with the addition of better multi core support to thread chunk generation, a much wider selection of computers should run the game much better with 1.8. I understand that the definition of pixelation is different than how I referred to it, but that definition has very little relation to how the haters of Minecraft refer to it, and what they mean when they say it, though TBH, the people that say these things I think really mean "I dont understand anything about games, game design, or how a computer really works, and only play Call of Duty or w/e"
  • I think a lot of those people may have only seen the game in screenshots, maybe only glanced at it to boot. I say this with experience, because before I ever tried it,I had only seen some pictures, hadn't paid out any attention. In fact, i dismissed it because i thought it looked like junky "pixelated" graphics. Not that i hate pixel art but in static pictures of this game it doesn't really convey how it actually looks. It can look quite bad before you ever see it in motion.
  • It's gameplay that matters anyway. It is (or was originally) an indie game in alpha, so they did not focus too much on graphics.
  • Not available in Canada yet.
  • people STILL play minecraft?! wtf
     
  • really. better than ever, there is the pc version
  • I'm loving it, but I gotta say I wish I could just toggle the old music back on; I liked it better. Also, the map item seems to be a little bit messed up-- if I walk to the edge of my world according to the map, my icon turns into a little dot (instead of directional arrow) and I can keep traveling for a long time... As though the map doesn't actually represent the entire world?
  • You have to make new maps once you exceed the boundaries of the old one. It's the same on PC.
  • Oh! I had no idea. Thank you for the info!!!
  • Well as my son said after playing for one hour no different dad its the same as the old one, Fine if you enjoy the worlds being bigger. But where is all the new content that we were supposed to be getting? (Son has put down the controller and back to the pc version).We were going to be getting horses so where are they? Im not hating on the game but it's kind of sad we only get 1080p and bigger worlds but nothing new in game after 9 months waiting for its release. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • Why is this still not on Windows Phone?
  • Why are a lot of games still not on Windows Phone?
  • I am totally going to get this. 5$ is a great price.
  • Framerate drops in MineCraft on the Xbox One??? What in the code is bogging down the framerate as the Xbox One is technically able to cope with anything that Minecraft can throw at it and can push way more polygons than the best minecrafter could ever build on screen?
  • If it's anything like the PC version of MC, it doesn't need a reason to run badly.
  • Sloppy and bloated code is the culprit. It was originally written in Java and massively bloated. It is being converted to C++ by 4J studios. So there are things that need ironing out.
  • Yea, I was not going to buy this but, I will end up buying it..... I've been playing Minecraft from the first release on the PC. I also run my own Lava and freebuild server on Classic minecraft (Check it out, do a search for "DavidinCT")that is up and running 24/7, I created the Portal (when you connect) and see the big houses(one with a full theater in the basement) and corporate building I made...there is even a secret in the basement. You need the WOM client and a PC logon to connect. I have the 360 version because family plays it, I know they will hit me up on the "1" so for $5, I guess I will grab it....why not ?
  • It's still best on PC.
  • Does it run in 60 FPS ?   I have Intel core i7 Haswell and Nvidia gpu and minecraft with mods still is killing my PC.... damn that java...
  • Downloaded it last night : )
  • The early release of the game had nothing to do with the ps4 version. A lot of xb1 digital content gets released in its marketplace the evening prior to the official release date.
  • Examples besides Dance Central Spotlight?
  • Great article... But still can't get over it...
  • Well I'm going to "block" off some time to play this one!
  • 2 newbie questions please:
    1. Can you play online with 360 or pc users?
    2. Can you install mods? The store thing sounds a bit limiting.
  • No, none of the versions in question support cross-platform multiplayer. Which makes sense since they all have different restrictions on world size, etc. Plus Microsoft just rarely allows any Xbox games to cross-platforms (never so far on Xbox One). It does not support mods, unfortunately.
  • I hope this game would come to WP too
  • Anyone else experience a freezing problem with the Xbox one version? Everytime I try to load a new world or old world the game freezes and makes me jump back to the Xbox One start screen..
  • I'm getting it. :(
  • 1080p for a game with 80's block graphics? Go figure.
  • Why isn't it coming to windows phones