Subnautica (PS4) Review
Amazingly addictive gameplay loop
Oddly engaging plot in a survival game
Inconsistent pop-in distants
Game crashes randomly during gameplay/while saving
Subnautica is indie survival game that has been in early access on PC for several years now, and one of the favorite go to games for many Twitch streamers to randomly fall back on. The game was beautiful, expansive, and immersive—something that not many indie games that have openly been in development can openly tout. The game recently released for the PS4, and the major question is how well many of these aspects have carried over.
The game still maintains all of the same content as the original, which is to say that it still looks and sounds amazing. After crashing on the planet and coming out of the escape pod for the first time, the Playstation 4 is able to give the same sense of wonder and amazement at the world that only Bethesda and Nintendo games are normally able to do. At times the ocean itself can feel both massive, while the caves that the player is expected to explore can feel oppressively claustrophobic.
The small hang ups of the game carry over as well. The main problem with the start of the game is that there isn’t much direction when first starting out, most instructions are given through text logs that can be read, and some information needs to be inferred. On most of the modes of game the player is expected to eat and drink by capturing animals and using them for food, but the problem is that the way the game is designed it is heavily implied that the animals of the planet aren’t supposed to be harmed in the first place.
When the really bad problems start are with the port of the game itself. From the moment the player jumps in the ocean random frame rates can be expected. The draw distance of everything will also random from several hundred meters to a handful of feet in front of the avatar. The worst example is when surfacing from a deep dive for air, upon breaking the surface the game will stutter and sometimes outright freeze for several seconds before continuing. Several times this happened while in a sort of sea-weed forest that went from the floor of the ocean to almost the surface. Going back under again the plants wouldn’t reappear until I had been swimming by them for several seconds.
This is, sadly, not even the worst problem. The game likes to crash as well. During review the game crashed during a save, meaning that that three-hour session was simply gone forever. On checking the internet on the issue it appears to be known, and happens to some people 1 out of three times during saving. So, the simple act of recording progress is a dice roll. There are also reports that the game will simply crash for no reason. The developer is supposed to be aware of this issue and working on it, but at time of review it has not been addressed.
The real problem with Subnautica is that it is a really amazing game, but it is a mind-blowing game that was not ported very well from PC to console. It controls well, and leads to a great sense of exploration and place—to the point that it would be crazy to play this game with a VR headset. But when there is no promise that it will allow saves, massive load times, and frame rate problems, this is probably not the system that this should be experienced on. This game should be experienced, but if you are interested look into the game on Steam instead of here.
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