Apprentice mode, sharp visuals catapult ‘Diablo III’ for console

Concept: Return to a world of demons and angels in the most feature-rich version of Blizzard’s sprawling loot fest.

Graphics: The next-gen version exhibits a sharpness and sparkle that approaches PC quality.

Sound: The sumptuous soundtrack communicates both the dark tone and epic grandeur of the proceedings, while melodramatic voiceover adds narrative framework to the hacking and slashing.

Playability: In-game action is great, but the inventory and shopping screens take some getting used to.

Entertainment: A stellar port with a few strong new additions makes this the ideal choice for new-gen cooperative play.

Replay Value: High -- We reviewed the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the Ultimate Evil Edition. The game is also available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Two years is a long time in video games, and it’s rare that a release so far out from its original incarnation can generate excitement. However, Blizzard’s constant improvements and adjustments have led to a stellar port to new-gen consoles, including the complete experience available on PC, plus several smart bonus features. It’s an ideal way to play the game for the first time or the tenth, especially if you have any mix of friends to play with, either on your couch or across the country.

The richly imagined world of “Diablo III” is a visual treat, and hits all the requisite buttons for epic fantasy world building, but the cliched and predictable story isn’t what keeps you hooked. That honor goes to the finely tuned character progression and loot system. Months of tweaking have resulted in the fastest-paced leveling and equipment gathering yet.

A new apprentice mode is the most meaningful addition, pulling the stats of low-level players up to a competitive tier with their buddies, and then making the monster fights appropriately challenging for the newly powered group. Apprentice mode eliminates the frustration of players out-leveling each other, and lets the apprentice fly through those lower tiers of play.

The “Ultimate Evil Edition” includes both the base game and the expansion, which makes it an exceptional value for fledgling players.

The new-gen version of the “Ultimate Evil Edition” looks phenomenal, with a level of polish in the flashing magical effects and grim backgrounds that approach high-end PC quality.

However, the other major playability adjustments on console don’t fare as well. Inventory management and vendor interactions are handled on a radial menu. It’s functional, but more than a little clunky when trying to compare multiple items or switch between categories quickly. Given that loot management is so central to the experience, it’s too bad this system feels sub-par. In this regard, the PC version and its mouse-click options remain superior.

The complete “Diablo III” experience is enjoyable played solo, but by allowing a combination of online and local cooperative play for up to four players and adding some fun new social tools, Blizzard has made this the cooperative game to beat on new-gen consoles. No matter your experience level with the game, this is an excellent time to dive in to the action.