Too bad there’s not a shape-shifter class in Diablo III as it would epitomize the sequel’s brisk evolution over the past two years. The PC version in 2012 was the first iteration to arrive and left many franchise fans clamoring for more features and fewer bugs. Those concerns were partially addressed with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 releases a short time later marking the franchise’s console debut. A PC expansion, Reaper of Souls, trumped both of its predecessors in almost every way imaginable including a new final act. Now we have Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition debuting on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as Xbox 360 and PS3, for what is the first game of the bunch truly deserving of a “definitive” label and hopefully the last update before Blizzard teases Diablo IV.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition isn’t so much designed for PC players that have already put in 100+ hours into the Reaper of Souls expansion as much as it is for everyone else. By and large the differences between the versions are tweaks as opposed to gameplay extensions. But how wonderful those tweaks are, and surely even the most hardened PC Reaper of Souls player might be lured to Xbox One or PS4 with local couch and online co-op, and couch co-op extending to four player split-screen in a franchise first.
Not to be left out, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 players can import their characters into Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively, to save a lot of time and dig into the new fifth act previously unavailable to them.
I’ve been playing the PS4 version and the DualShock 4 controller, combined with some interface tweaks, take away a lot of the guesswork found in previous versions. The Item selection screen is accessed by simply pressing the impossible-to-miss Touch Pad, while button mapping is displayed directly on the HUD. This design is seamless and more importantly allows you to make on-the-fly armament decisions without pulling your mind entirely out of combat.
A brilliant new mechanic is the ability to roll and flip away from attacks with a single button push that first debuted in the Xbox 360/PS3 Diablo III versions. Being able to evade fast attackers fluidly and quickly counter strike when their guard is down saves many hearts. And as any Diablo player is well aware, those hearts are critical later on, especially when potions are running low and enemy counts high on higher difficulty settings.
Evasion works hand-in-hand with the new Crusader class, a lumbering armored knight that can at times be difficult to control as he swings around a massive mace. Evasion helps this big guy get around easier in the confines of combat, and he does seems to become more agile as he levels up.
Another subtle yet wonderful addition is the ability to hold down attack buttons for a sustained attack or spell casting rather than mashing the button until a finger cramps. The option to mash is still there for players who want the pure and nostalgic experience. Once button holding is discovered it’s extremely hard to go back.
The goal in Diablo III is not merely to win the campaign, which can come relatively easy on the lower difficulty settings — especially when playing with friends. It’s to play with each of the game’s six classes and get sucked into loot collection, leveling up, and scoring the rare legendary items. Diablo games have never been forgiving in awarding players with its finest rewards in a timely manner, and Diablo III is no different. If you want your classed characters to be all they can be, be prepared to put in countless hours of play and never come to the realization that you’re truly “done.”
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition isn’t a monumental leap forward for the franchise, but it is the most complete and bug-free version available today. It also runs silky smooth on PlayStation 4 in 1080p 60 frames-per-second and makes the sometimes rudimentary graphics look as good as they possibly can.
As new-generation consoles approach their first year on the market and early adopters complain about a lack of new AAA games heading into the holiday season, along comes Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition to placate the mob. It’s fun for new players, offers meaningful new features for veterans, and is the perfect late-night couch co-op cure for parents forced to watch their kids play Minecraft all evening.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition was reviewed on PS4 and furnished by Blizzard Entertainment for the purposes of this review. It was released on August 19, 2014 and is also available for Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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