'Diablo 3' hits consoles, brings offline co-op to Xbox and PS3

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It’s been over 10 years since the release of the last “Diablo” iteration, and now console fans have the opportunity to hack, slash and smash their way through waves of monstrous foes. “Diablo 3” hit consoles Tuesday, bringing a faithful translation of the addicting mouse-and-keyboard game-play to Xbox and PS3.

“Diablo 3” was initially made available to PC gamers in May 2012, selling over 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours of sale. But the debut was mired in controversy when players discovered that digital rights management software required constant Internet connectivity and the auction house feature gave an unfair advantage during online gameplay. Developer Blizzard Entertainment took both of these objections into account when reformatting the game for consoles. “Diablo 3” now possesses some notable distinctions from its PC sibling. 

The dark fantasy world of Sanctuary acts as the backdrop for the game’s plot. After players choose a particular character class, they take control of protagonist Nephalem, a hero on a quest to turn the tide against demon forces. All five playable character classes present their own merits, so gamers are encouraged to choose one that best suits their playing style. While the witch doctor can summon undead minions to attack enemies, it can’t use crossbows for ranged combat like the demon hunter. Over time, character abilities can become more specialized by racking up kills and finding collectible runes.

“Diablo 3’s” game-play retains the age-old premise of the hack-and-slash adventure: Run through the hellish corridor, kill the monsters, steal their goods. As such, the story is only a faint murmur in the background, meant to give players a passable explanation for all the carnage. But then again, who needs an excuse to kill endless waves of fiery demons? Unfortunately for console gamers, Diablo’s isometric presentation makes for some clunky controls on standard gamepads. The immediate accuracy of a mouse and keyboard has now been replaced with the awkward joysticks of Xbox and PS3 controllers. Switching between weapons, attacks and passive skills takes some getting used to and won’t quite live up to the pace of PC rigs. 

Graphics and level design are also not a huge plus for “Diablo 3,” but they do their part to keep players immersed and content. For the sake of frame-rate, character details are relatively modest and environments are only slightly destructible. As the game progresses, however, levels become noticeably more ornate and chaotic, adding appeal as gamers venture deeper into the hellish underworlds of Diablo. While not open-world by any means, Diablo does allow a certain level of exploration for players seeking to find collectible items. 

Offline co-op is the biggest talking point about “Diablo 3.” Unlike the PC version, this new iteration allows friends to share the same couch and screen for a more cooperative experience. That said, both players should be prepared to start the game anew without any of their previous character upgrades. Ranking and customization can quickly mismatch teammates if they haven’t started out at the same skill level. Creating characters strictly for co-op is the best way to circumvent this problem.

At its heart, “Diablo 3” is a PC game with very limited cross-platform compatibility. The console version of the game provides a reasonable translation of the game-play and inserts some promising features, like offline co-op and versatile character customization. Players new to the franchise should not come for the story or the graphics, but instead for the gory satisfaction of killing, collecting and ranking up.