Judgment (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 22.06.2019

Review for Judgment on PlayStation 4

While the Yakuza series quickly built up a huge fanbase in Japan, it took a good deal longer to truly get a translation for the West. Even with SEGA landing the legendary Mark Hamill to provide a voice, by cutting out content in localisation and skipping releases, the developer managed to alienate fans. That's changing now, thankfully. With Yakuza Kiwami making gamers in the West experience just what they've been missing out on. The Dragon of Dojima's sprawling epic is finally getting the respect it deserves - but, his tale isn't the only one from Kamurocho. Last December saw a new tale emerge in Judgement, and it's already receiving its English release just six months later.

While the protagonist of the Yakuza games was, fittingly, a Yakuza, Judgment puts the player on the side of law and order. The protagonist here is Yagami Takayuki, and he's the hottest thing in town right now; a lawyer who has just managed a defence on a murder charge. Something even more amazing considering Japan has a 99% conviction rate. It's an interesting fact that isn't some random element of the game, but an actual fact from real life in the Land of the Rising Sun. So young a lawyer, Yagami suddenly finds his office is overwhelmed with calls for his time, something annoying the hell out of the rest of his branch, especially his senpai Shintani.

The latest call for Yagami isn't quite so flattering though. It's the police. Calling to inform Yagami's firm that the defendant he managed to get acquitted has done something terrible. He's killed his girlfriend, and burned her house to the ground. This shakes Yagami to his core. The girlfriend, Emi-chan, isn't the only thing that died that day. Yagami's career as a lawyer and his belief in himself died too. Cut to three years later, and Yagami, or Tak to his friends, has become a classic hard-boiled detective, who runs his own investigation agency in Kamurocho. He has a friend left too in an exiled Yakuza from the Yakuza branch family that helped raised Tak. The Matsugane Clan, a subsidiary of the Tojo clan.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

The pair is taking on simple little jobs around town. Tak's reputation is enough to get people to hire him, and his old boss at the law firm passes some things his way from time to time - but there are big changes in the world of Kamurocho. There's a gang of masked street kids engaging in random crimes for fun, and mixing in a good bit of parkour. Worse of all though, are the serial killings… someone has been going around killing Kansai Yakuza. Killing them, and removing their eyes.

That type of slaughter is the basis for the first chapter and case in the game and sets into motion a much larger story. Tak is hired by his old senpai to help out on another murder case. One of the Kansai Yakuza that has turned up eyeless in an alleyway, and the blame is falling at the feet of the Matsugane Clan Captain, Hanamura. Tak is closely linked to both sides of the defence. After the tragic loss of his parents at 15, he had two men looking out for him growing up. The head of his Law Firm, Ryuzo Genda, and the patriarch of the Matsugane family, Mitsugu Matsugane. This storied past gives a lot of baggage for Yagami on the investigation, especially when the suspect is a man he constantly butts heads with. A man who thinks little of him and sees him as a constant outsider.

The first chapter introduces many of the key gameplay elements in the quest to seek out evidence to absolve Hanamura. These include tailing suspects, following close behind while staying out of sight, utilising obstacles to huddle behind whenever they happen to glance in Tak's direction. There are chases, where suspects sprint through the packed streets, and have to be chased down via QTEs. Finally, there are investigation moments, switching to first person and examining an area, hovering over specific items to identify clues in the environment or to choose the correct dialogue choices in a conversation.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

These segments are major parts of each investigation, but the core gameplay from the Yakuza games are the heart of the game. Wandering around Kamurocho at Tak's leisure, getting to know the inhabitants, blowing absurd amounts of yen at the myriad stores - including real-world locations like Don Quixote, that will have visitors to Kabukicho feeling those old pangs of wistful yearning - and, of course, busting skulls of punks on the street. The combat is classic Yakuza through and through. Yagami can switch between two different styles by hitting the down button on the d-pad, either Crane for groups of enemies or Tiger for one-on-ones. The controls are simple enough with a light attack, heavy attack, grab, and block, but they're widely expanded upon by unlocking new abilities and moves. As expected, the beloved, huge, finishing moves return. Giving players the chance to use some truly devastating attacks, and regularly take aspects of the environment and use them as weapons against the enemies. Nothing quite like finishing off a drunk street punk by smashing a bicycle on his face.

There's a sort of Tarantino meets Kitano lense over the whole affair. A beautiful, hyper-violent, neon production that is full of the sort of style is also familiar for anyone who has played any other Yakuza game. But, it's even more improved here. FMVs before showdowns are a particular highpoint, with some stunning cinematography guaranteed to get the viewers hyped, swooping around the characters, the soundtrack pulsing to a fever pitch. Absolutely wonderful.

Also, just like the Yakuza series, there is an absurd amount of side activities to undertake. There are plenty of real-life SEGA arcades with classics like Fighting Vipers, Puyo Pop, and plenty more. There are darts and billiards. There's Drone Racing, Mahjong, Poker, and Black Jack. Then there are the other inhabitants of Kamurocho. As each chapter progresses new green symbols appear on the minimap, and each of these introduce a new NPC, who often needs help with something, whether that's a girl struggling to learn English, a coffee connoisseur looking to find someone to learn to appreciate the bean as much as he does, or a delusional gaijin "Ninja." Each of the locals has a few simple tasks to help them out, which then increases Tak's city reputation, granting various benefits along with giving a few skill points to unlock various abilities.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

This is a wealth of side activities and yet it's still just the tip of the iceberg. The main bulk of the content on top of the story chapters are made up of side investigations. These can be undertaken from various sources of information and like the overall tone of the game, they run the gambit between the wacky and the serious. There is another group plaguing Kamurocho entitled the 'Twisted Trio' that are introduced to Tak by a pair of twins suffering at the hands of one of them. The sister of the pair has had her underwear stolen while it was drying on her apartment balcony. In trying to find the culprit, Yagami faces off against the 'Panty Professor,' a man who uses drones to steal underwear to sniff.

To give him super strength. The scent of Eros granting him superhuman powers based on his swelling libido. Yeah… this is just the first of the Twisted Trio. Swiftly followed up by a perverted track runner reminiscent of a Jojo's Bizarre Adventure character that likes to grope butts… his name is Ass Catchem. Yup. There's also silliness like Ghost Busting, solving riddles for an author, and capturing sexual harassment. Conversely, on the serious front, there are crazed stalkers, a maniac planting bombs around the city, cheating spouses, and more.

Back to the actual story though. This is without a doubt the best part of the game, and considering the high quality across the board, that makes it even more notable. There's a grand narrative playing out which perfectly interweaves a huge host of characters and groups, there are some major twists and reveals that are genuinely well written and shocking. Yet, the writer still manages to pull off plenty of the series signature humour too. Unsurprising really considering it comes from the Yakuza mastermind, Toshihiro Nagoshi himself.

Screenshot for Judgment on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Easily on par with its predecessors in the main Yakuza franchise, but (and this will be hard to believe) in many ways this actually stands above them. In particular, Judgment contains the best story in the franchise to date. Yagami's tale is a captivating one, filled with imaginative twists and utterly surprising moments, told with the signature Yakuza style, flawlessly juggling comedy with drama, containing many three-dimensional characters that are easy to connect to. Best of all, there's more to this than just the story. The gameplay is massively fun, and there is a positively absurd amount of things to do. For Yakuza fans this is a must buy. For those new to the franchise, this is the perfect opportunity to jump in.






Action Adventure



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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