Hands-On: Diablo 3 makes the shift to consoles
Blizzard has been doing damn fine work on the PC over the last few years. If you need any proof of that, just ask anyone you know about World of Warcraft or last year's release of the best-selling Diablo III. However, they haven't really messed with consoles as of late, which is a shame. They did damn fine work in the old-school SNES days, between the strategic The Lost Vikings and the shotgun-packing adventure Blackthorne.
But, alas, a return is finally coming, as the team is working on a console version of Diablo III, with a few reconfigurations. Auction houses won't be making their way into this version of the game, but you'll stand a better chance of picking up random loot from skirmishes as a result. You'll also get all the updated data through 1.7, with more promised through patches in the months ahead – so it'll be just as current as the PC game. Finally, there's a new control scheme in town – and it's not half bad.
In Diablo III, you play one of many characters setting out to save the world of Sanctuary from an evil force known as, what else, Diablo. This means you'll be fending off against skeletons, demons and other monstrosities using a number of attacks that are within your reach.
Considering that the game was originally introduced with keyboard and mouse controls in mind, some of you were wondering just how Blizzard would get such a control scheme to work on a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 controller. Well, good news – it works just fine.
Movement is now relegated to the left analog stick, while the face and shoulder buttons hold separate attacks, with up to six within reach. Some are stronger than others, and you'll need to find that fine balance of combos when it comes to facing juggernauts or stronger enemies within the game. Fortunately, we found no problem executing our attacks with the controller, and we put together some fine tactics when others joined in to the battle.
Speaking of multiplayer, it's great. Up to four people can take part in a session in drop-in/drop-out fashion, either locally or online via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. The sessions we had were fun, though, honestly, there were a couple of people that were slacking. Ah, well, it was an E3 demo. Some folks just aren't prepared for this kind of awesomeness. We'll forgive them.
As we mentioned, there's a bunch of loot dropped when you defeat enemies, including rare items you'd normally find in the auction house. While this feels more like a game of chance than going after the item you really wanted, it also keeps you on the hunt until you find what you're really looking for. That certainly beats droning around aimlessly, doesn't it?
One area where Diablo III could use some clean-up in, however, is the presentation. The audio's not bad, but on more than one occasion, we ran into muddiness in the game's visuals, as if they weren't quite finished yet. Granted, the game still has a couple of months in production before its release, so we're estimating that Blizzard is already on clean-up duty. At least the animations are good, and some of the lighting effects manage to stand out.
No, Diablo III isn't one of those games that will make you swear off the superior PC version in favor of a console one, but for those who can't quite access that game – or feel left out when trying to play it with a keyboard and mouse – this version seems like the way to go. We'll see how it fares when it arrives this September for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and sometime later this year for next-gen consoles.