After all these years, and growing up with Windows 3.1, I have seen an entire evolution of computers and software. Touch screens and large resolutions were a pipe dream just 15 years ago. Now it's the norm. Going from a Packard Bell (yes, before HP) that couldn't run 3D Ultra Mini...
By now, you've already made up your mind about Diablo III, and this Ultimate Evil edition—a next-gen repackaging of the console port of the original game plus the Reaper of Souls expansion—probably won't change that. Still, Blizzard Entertainment has had ample time since 2012 to rebalance and re-enchant, so to speak, the core gameplay into an even more entertaining and challenging ARPG. So if you have yet to delve into the loot-based action series or have been waiting diligently for an improved and extended console port of Diablo III, now's as good a time as any to devour Ultimate Evil.
For the uninitiated, Diablo III forms the baseline standard of the ARPG genre, banking on technical grace and graphical polish instead of out-of-the-box design, and changes enough of the mechanics from Diablo II for easy adaptation to the console. A swifter beast than its predecessor, Diablo III challenges you to choose one of the six classes, whack all manner of demons and beasts on an isometric battlefield, gather loot, gold, and experience, and destroy the primordial evils of Hell including the titular Diablo. Defeating the hordes of hellspawn depends on you calibrating and utilizing the proper set of skills, some which inflict status effects or are more effective for crowd control, all while bobbing and weaving around enemy attacks.
The Ultimate Evil edition capitalizes on the sheer production value of Diablo III—the smooth animations, the steady 60fps framerate at 1080p, the voice-acting for both the female and male versions of each class, and the vast, randomly-generated environments. On closer inspection, this next-gen version brings better textures, but the headline features are the cross-platform saving and the four-player local co-op. Your progress in Diablo III on last-gen consoles can be imported via Battle.net, and three friends can enter the game with hardly any noticeable stutter in framerate. Despite the quick menu system, though, the inventory management still manages to hamper the action with each local player needing to inspect armor and set new skills at each level up.
Several additions encourage co-operative multiplayer, though solo play isn't actively discouraged particularly with the assistance of an AI companion. The new player mail system allows you to send marked legendary gifts to those on your friends list, and the new Nemesis system gives you the chance to slay a monster which killed one of your friends. Defeating the nemesis, beyond the satisfaction of vengeance, will earn you a better loot table than most foes, but if the nemesis manages to best you, it will continue to plague your circle of friends. Loot drops are marked to specific players as well, so that you don't have to spend time wailing over which person deserves which item.
Along with the extended level cap of 70, as if the six tiers of Torment difficulty aren't enough, the Reaper of Souls expansion lengthens the campaign and brings along much-touted Adventure mode. When combined with the numerous bounties and Nephalem Rifts (the PS4-exclusive Rift based on The Last of Us is especially neat and tongue-in-cheek), the appetite for endgame exploration and loot should be satisfied. More can still be done on this front, though, and Blizzard will need to produce a solution to retain players for a longer time.
As a value buy, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition is unquestionably solid and, given its enhancements over the last two years, is difficult to fault. Sure, the soundtrack isn't terribly interesting, the story largely doesn't matter, and the inventory could have a running list of the most recently collected items. But disregarding these very minor gripes, it has all the dangling carrots you want to take a lowly character, beat the game as a Level 59 monk within three days (like I just did), and savor every minute of it.
Copy provided by publisher. Review based on PS4 version. Also available for Xbox One, PS3, X360.