Judgment (PlayStation 4) Second Opinion Review

By Sandy Wilson 30.03.2020

Review for Judgment on PlayStation 4

The Yakuza series has seen a great push in the west of late, SEGA, after the fan push for a release of Yakuza 5 has seen the potential in the market, and released onto gamers a tirade of Yakuza titles with much less delay between the Japanese and Western releases. With Judgment, SEGA takes another angle on the release opting to offer a more in-depth localization, including fully dubbed English and including the full original Japanese voices for the "purists." The development team wished to try a game that would allow them to experiment with the world, and transform the Dragon Engine, seen in Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2, into something even more refined and even more flexible. Time to step into the shoes of lawyer/private detective Takayuki Yagami.

Following in the footsteps of its older more expansive brother, the Ryu Ga Gotoku/Yakuza series, Judgment brings players back to Kamurocho to explore a new type of crime story, featuring series mainstays such as excellent combat and a thrilling dark and well-realised story about the Japanese crime underworld. Being cast as an outsider to the Yakuza, gives the developer a chance to explore new options and to paint a potentially less silly and dark story.

In Yakuza, while playing as Kazama Kiryu, it feels like he doesn't quite fit with the underworld however, the story of Zero and Kiwami shows him clearly striving to become a member of the Yakuza almost naively believing he can change the way they are, by mirroring his father figure, it created a dissonance that Judgment manages to steer clear of by instead having a much more obvious divide between the main character's motivations and the antagonists' while still having the deep connection and embroilment in the Yakuza families.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

Something that has always stood out in Japanese storytelling, is the ability for the author to weave a narrative that doesn't necessarily feature a bad guy and a hero, but rather a complex narrative that has characters clash over their own personal motivations. To understand what this mean, here's a dive into the opening chapter: Yagami begins as a lawyer - he has what is considered the biggest win of his career, making him incredibly popular, and with this attention, he is being modest and trying to remain focused on the task at hand. However, it all goes to hell in a hand basket when it turns out that the guy he just had cleared was, in fact, the killer, and was indeed guilty after he commited murder again.

When this revelation comes to light, Yagami quits his position believing he had no right to be a lawyer as he caused the death of an innocent party with his work. He decides to become a private detective to make amends for his past transgressions. This begins to come full circle when you discover his methods are sometimes violent, or lead him to break the law to uncover truths that may have been hidden. This increases the conflict in Yagami, who begins to realise what path he is on. It's incredibly easy to be drawn into the story and characters when they feel so real - it's very easy to relate to them.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

There are a plethora of gameplay styles in here. Tons of mini-games, missions, and other activities most of which belong in a specific genre, and have a unique control style. The main brunt of the game is exploring the world of Kamurocho, and taking in its extremely detailed streets, stores and residents. This is also the final game to adopt the Yakuza series main gameplay style of 3D beat 'em up fighting, with Yakuza 7 heading into new territory with turn-based battling and…. hooo boy, the fighting is insanely detailed and freeform. Yagami has two stances with which he can fight, one for crowd control and one for 1-on-1 battles.

Both control in the same way with light and heavy attacks, grabs and blocking. However, they feature slightly different physics and animations, for example in the crowd control fighting stance Yagami does much wider kicks, and has more momentum as well as a much higher chance to hit multiple enemies with each strike. It feels a lot like Yakuza Kiwami 2, but now with even more free-flowing movement and world interaction, it's possible to smash through shop windows making their staff too scared to serve Yagami, or it's possible to, if fighting drags on in the street, get caught by the police neither of which benefit the player, therefore, the focus lies with beating opponents fast and efficiently, unless the fights are part of a story mission. So how does the game keep this system from becoming stale?

Well for starters as with Yakuza, Judgment has plenty of RPG elements with a plethora of skills to unlock, from health boosts, to extra fighting moves when drunk or near certain "friend" characters. These skills are the base progression system that helps the exploration feel like it has more value. It's possible to get experience points by completing fights, but also from taking part in events, and even simple things like consuming food across Kamurocho. These skills can have world based benefits too, where before smashing windows resulted in shopkeepers not serving Yagami there is a skill to negate this which is a nice reward for players who find themselves in a lot of fights putting in some hard work. The detail is something that the developers seemingly thrive upon.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

As with Kiwami 2, the visuals feature absolutely huge amounts of 3D modelled objects, including the food in restaurants, items on shop shelves, and more all of which can be closely inspected using the game's first-person camera. Loads of physics objects litter the streets, and most of these can be deployed in fights. The small visual upgrades to the graphics engine makes this the best looking Ryu Ga Gotoku studio creation, with smooth antialiasing, a solid 30fps (on Pro), and what seems like more detailed reflections and lighting, offering an air of authenticity and realism its predecessor only came close to. This refined lighting makes the daytime scenes pop where ultimately things looked flat before.

As briefly stated in the intro, this localisation has full English voice-acting for those who want it. It's a bit hammy and dramatic, but ultimately enjoyable dubbing. Personally, the Japanese voice acting is where it's at lending an authenticity to the characters and world, obviously as it is set in Japan. There is very little wrong in here, as it strives to loosen up the Yakuza series gameplay by taking further steps from Kiwami 2, and really expanding the gameplay systems. The only real downside is that sometimes it gets incredibly dialogue and cut-scene-heavy, which may turn off people who would rather just go and punch things. Ultimately these intricate stories and the world are so intriguing that it's incredibly hard to escape from its draw.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Judgment is another solid game from Ryu Ga Gotoku studio that expands on the Yakuza series staple gameplay, world and pacing, in great ways. The developer seem to have relished writing about a non-Yakuza character, and adding in systems that highlight that Yagami is a civilian and shouldn't be involved in many of the game's scenarios. This comes heartily recommended, not just to fans, but for those who don't want to get invested in the wider series, but are intrigued by the makeup of the Yakuza games. Amazing and mind-blowing in a way only something from this studio can be!

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 25.06.2019   North America release date 25.06.2019   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date 25.06.2019   

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