Review by Matt S.
It's truly impressive that Blizzard has been able to find yet another way to release Diablo 3. Following the PC launch of the game way back in 2012, we've already had one release of it on PlayStation 3, and now it's been re-released, and simultaneously made the jump on to the next-gen consoles for the first time.
Most of the attention on this particular release will be on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, but let's break away for a second to have a look at the Ultimate Evil Edition as it sits on the PlayStation 3. As a game that has already been available on the console for around a year, is there enough additional content to justify the disc-based re-release?
Hmmmmmmm... yes and no. The reality is that the Ultimate Evil Edition is more of an expansion pack than anything that deserves a full retail release. But then the base click-em-up gameplay is so good, and the extra content is worthwhile, so as a purchase it still makes sense.
So, what's new in the Ultimate Evil Edition? There's a new chapter (Act V, and it's a good one), and a higher level cap (70) to take the quest to new heights of danger. Every action-RPG skill you've ever developed will be tested if you ramp the difficulty of this puppy up. There's also a new character in The Crusader, who is a handy fellow (or lass) with plenty of armour and some nice new tricks up his or her sleeve.
Most significantly there are now loot runs, in which players descent into randomised dungeons filled with enemies to slaughter and treasures to find. And it's in these Nephalem Rifts where players will find the reason to buy the PlayStation versions of this game over the Xbox releases - Blizzard has dropped a few of The Last Of Us' enemies into the game to join the slaughter. Fighting off waves of Clickers, Bloaters and Stalkers is pure fan service, but it does work in the context of the game and adds some value to the game. There's also some equipment that's exclusive to the PlayStation platform, called the Guise of the Colossi, which as you can guess takes inspiration from Shadows of the Colossus. Given that Shadows is such an entirely different game to Diablo 3, both in tone and theme, this inclusion doesn't sit right with me at all. But hey, I was too busy killing Clickers to care.
This content is locked away for right at the end of the game, and as with any Diablo game it can feel like a grind to get there. Thankfully players can import their saves from the previous Diablo 3 on PlayStation release, so they don't have to start all the way from square one again if they don't wish to.
Blizzard has spent the last couple of years tweaking the core Diablo 3 gameplay, and these tweaks do create a more streamlined and generally enjoyable game in the Ultimate Evil Edition. Loot drops with less frequency but greater quality, and there's a Paragon progression system for more experienced players once they get to the end-game which provides incentive to keep playing on.
The social side of the game has been enhanced too, with clans and groups making it easier to get involved in multiplayer sessions with decent human beings, though for my mind the best way to play co-op Diablo 3 remains the local multiplayer. Sit down with a friend, grab a controller each and you've got a recipie for the perfect beer-and-chips gaming night.
The good news for Blizzard has been that Diablo 3 hasn't really been bettered on console over the past year. There's been a couple of classics emerge on PC, but for those who predominantly play consoles this remains the newest and most masterful of hack-and-slash RPGs. And because of that PlayStation 3 owners who haven't made the upgrade to Sony's new console may well find themselves enjoying this beast all over again - especially when you reach the end game and the extra content and higher level cap has a chance to shine.
The gothic horror atmosphere of the game is as brilliant as ever, too. Though Diablo 3 was never the most immediately beautiful game, everything within it - from the character design to the environment layouts, the way enemies shamble about, the haunting ambient sounds and music, and the incredible (if overblown) cut scenes create a tense, dark environment that is so complete that it remains a rare achievement among games.
But really this is an expansion pack, and it's going to cost you almost as much as a new game, so if you are a veteran of Diablo 3, be aware of that.
- Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld
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