Diablo has always been one of the PC's landmark series, a game that PC aficionados can hold up as one of their own premier exclusives. Our Diablo 3 PC review from May called the latest entry in the series "one of the most madly addictive RPGs of recent years. A modern game with an old school feel."
However even for a company as traditionally PC-focused as Blizzard, the opportunities to explore new platforms must be a sore temptation, and why not indeed when there's a substantial new audience to gain? So with Diablo III set to debut on consoles this September, we took the latest Xbox 360 version out for a spin to see how it measures up.
The first thing to note is that Diablo 3 on console will correspond to the very latest PC version, so 360 owners can rest assured they will be getting the full-fat, unexpurgated experience. Despite how most PC rigs can easily outmuscle current gen consoles, Diablo 3 is still more than enough of a looker to satisfy even John Inverdale and retains all the colour, fidelity and appeal of its PC counterpart.
One of the big questions any PC-to-console transfer must answer is how a mouse and keyboard driven game will translate onto gamepad. Rest assured, this is quickly resolved within your first few minutes of play. Movement is smooth and natural, with the second stick allowing you to perform some nice 180s and evades with confidence. You can lock onto foes with the left trigger (although it's not wholly necessary as the directional targeting works intuitively) and your D-pad allows you to quickly switch between items, with a handy icon-based shorthand also allowing you to quickly compare them.
The ability to map powers, attacks, magic and healing in any combination of buttons, bumpers and triggers certainly gives you plenty of options and within minutes, all becomes easy, instinctive and is quickly forgotten. Exactly how it should be.
"Questions hanging over the console controls are quickly resolved within your first few minutes of play"
On-screen there's plenty of indicators lifted from the PC version to monitor your progress and some nice cues to stop you getting lost on screen amid the sometimes busy combat. But behind the scenes a new radial menu system has been designed to ease character development and keep track of your loot and advancement.
Inventory, Skills, Party, Quests and Lore screens can be quickly flicked through via the shoulder buttons and there's also a very attractive character model, so you can see your hero in all their glory, with all their latest treasure and weapons on display.
So once you've had a bit of a tinker with your options and controls, you launch into the game proper and it's exactly the classic Diablo experience as you remember it, yet always slightly tweaked and enhanced for its new platform.
Blizzard's aim has been to make the game balanced but challenging, with a relatively straightforward start which becomes increasingly complex as you go along. Early on you'll be smiting all and sundry with impunity and able to survive by simply mashing buttons and spamming your attacks. Yet as you progress, difficulty builds too and you'll need to experiment with different techniques and tactics to succeed.
Each Diablo 3 level is procedurally generated, so although the overall layout remains the same, monsters and treasure and are randomised within it, so you'll never have quite the same adventuring experience twice.
Treasure goblins pop up once in a while to add some opportunist loot-gathering and monster-herding to proceedings, and occasionally you'll also find instances that break up the more free-form play. Pyre challenges, for example, are small mini-adventures scripted to add a bit more weight and heft to the story.
So that's the single-player version of Diablo 3 pretty much dealt with, a full and faithful rendering of its PC counterpart which has been skilfully tweaked for life on its new platforms.
But the real potential win for Diablo 3 on console, is what it offers for multiplayer. Fortunately, the options are impressive: you can mix and match up to four characters on the same-screen or online at any time and you could even bring your character over to a mate's house on a USB stick. It's straight up drop in, drop out too, so you can play and explore at your leisure and everything's been set up to make it as smooth and seamless an experience as possible.
"A slick multiplayer mode is definitely one of Diablo 3's finest hours"
Being big fans of co-operative gaming, we've been looking forward immensely to this and Diablo 3 doesn't disappoint. The different heroes provide a well-balanced team and if you can assemble four friends to play, it really does put a new spin on things. A couple of players usually tank-up and confront the hordes of demons head on, while missile and magic specialists can nip in to lay traps, then retreat back and hammer their foes from a distance. You can develop all sorts of tactics and techniques to battle Diablo's demons and the shouts of encouragement, taunts and plaintive cries of the fallen add a new layer of fun to the experience.
Multiplayer specific bonuses, like collecting golden globes, really encourage co-op play and result in perks like four-way lightning chain attacks. Meanwhile the ability to share or craft loot adds a whole wealth of gameplay features for the co-op connoisseur. It's like playing a modern, massive and beautiful version of Gauntlet from the comfort of your own sofa and the addition of a slick multiplayer mode is definitely one of Diablo 3's finest hours.
So Diablo 3 looks like it will be more than worthy of your attention whether you're a Diablo veteran or a comparative newbie. In fact, PC die-hards might well be tempted to re-visit the game, try a new character and take advantage of the wealth of social co-op options and the slick living room experience.
Console players new to the series or Blizzard games in general will have a chance to acquaint themselves with this hugely addictive RPG, which has been crafted with all of Blizzard's trademark polish and charm.
Doesn't sound like there's too many losers there. Demons beware.