Diablo 3 PS3 review – PlayStation’s latest evil in residence is the hell of the ball

diablo 3 ps3

This is quite the coup – the threequel to one of the PC’s most revered franchises, on your PS3. Over a decade in the making, and record-holder for day one sales in the domain of mice and keyboards, Diablo 3 is a true industry heavyweight. If you’re uninitiated but you’ve heard the buzz and glanced its high fantasy artwork, there’s a good chance you’re expecting an epic somewhere on the scale between Avatar and the Bible. With more amulets of 2-3% cold damage.

Diablo 3 PS3 review

It’s time for a bit of expectation management, then. Diablo 3’s story isn’t a life-affirming parable you’ll retell to grandchildren, nor does its gameplay tear down the very foundations of the dungeon crawler and rebuild them in its own image. Despite its hardcore fanbase and menacing iconography, this is an accessible – even casual – proposition. Oh, excuse me a second. There’s one of those hardcore fans now, asking me to sign for this parcel marked ‘Anne Thracks’.

It’s simple. Your role in the fantasy kingdom of Sanctuary is to press X until there are no more bad things. If that sounds reductive, it is a bit: there are five classes to pick, each with their own energy resources and tactical intricacies, and the bad things in question are hellspawn of myriad variation. But it’s certainly not intended as a criticism. The greatest pleasure in Blizzard’s storied hack ‘n’ slash is doing exactly that, undistracted by secondary objectives or extraneous mechanics.

Diablo 3 fetishises mass slaughter expertly, throwing wave upon wave of unholy meatsacks towards you from all angles and letting you enjoy the power you wield over them. Then, when beaten, those meatsacks explode in a glorious, pornographic shower of gold and loot. This is the only game on PS3 that comes close to Borderlands 2’s obsessive item drops, turning each monster into a stumbling lottery ticket that just might hold a game-changing rare crossbow when scratched (well, eviscerated).

Further to the cause of perpetuating the slaughter, you’re served delicious XP bonuses for massacring 20 or more enemies at a time. As you level up, you gain secondary killing abilities and increased character stats (though this is about the extent of its RPG leanings). Kill to amass loot and XP. Use loot and XP to do more killing. It’s an irresistible Skinner box that actually grows more enjoyable through repetition. And it is repetitive: missions only ever ask that you kill everything in a certain area, and then sometimes fight a boss. Once you’ve run the 20-hour gauntlet once, the done thing is to play it again on a higher difficulty against larger hordes to find even more powerful loot. And then again.

This is the only game on PS3 that
comes close to Borderlands 2’s
obsessive item drops

It’s an altered beast from the troubled PC version that required a constant internet connection to play and thus led to Error 37-gate when the game’s servers couldn’t handle the traffic. There’s no such requirement on PS3, though net co-op play is available in addition to four-player local co-op that stays coherent by not splitting the screen and instead zooming out to oversee the bloodshed from a sensible distance.

diablo 3 ps3Menus have been redesigned as radial affairs for minimal fuss, and the camera’s been drawn towards the player – handy if you’re playing the Barbarian class, annoying if you’re a ranged character like the Demon Hunter who thrives on creating space between yourself and your targets. Universally welcome though is the evade move every character performs with a flip of the right stick to quickly roll away from danger or towards a revitalising health orb.

Aside from its console tailoring, Diablo 3 is a hack ‘n’ slash that feels as though its design documents have been excavated from darkest 2001, and then been lavished with the highest production values 2013 can muster. And that’s a fascinating approach to the problem of modern reincarnations.

Starbreeze’s Syndicate, Ninja Theory’s DmC and 2k Marin’s original design for its Xcom shooter were all lambasted for taking liberties with their source material, somehow missing the point of their prequels. Diablo 3 by contrast is nothing if not the essence of the original games, and the anachronisms it displays in everything from an absence of character customisation to low-rent animations are more endearing than underwhelming. It’s an ancient evil residing in a new place, and the marriage of Blizzard’s defiantly old-school dungeon-crawling with its mesmerising craftsmanship works unquestionably. A deceptively simple and expertly constructed Beelzebub-basher, translated smartly for a platform not immediately receptive to the genre.

Our Score

Score: 8