It’s no secret that I love the Yakuza series. A crime series as engrossing as The Sopranos with combat that is an evolution of Final Fight, what’s not to love? Judgment is Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s latest attempt at a spin-off, last time they delivered the underwhelming Yakuza: Dead Souls. Judgment picks up after the excellent Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. In this preview we’re going to cover the first chapter of the game and be prepared for a lot of comparisons to the Yakuza series.
While the Yakuza series is deeply rooted in the rankings and betrayals of the criminal underworld, Judgment gives us a look at the other side of the fence. We play as Takayuki Yagami (Takuya Kimura), a private detective. He was once a rising star as a lawyer but quit after a serial killer he managed to free killed a loved one of his. Yagami uses the law firm he used to work for to find new jobs to pay his way through life but is always in search of the killer he freed.
Watch the Judgment features trailer (Japanese version) below:
Much like Yakuza, Judgment isn’t afraid to take its time. The first chapter does an excellent job in humanising Yagami. Like Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza series, there’s a lot of depth to Yagami and in fact, there’s more potential for Yagami to be a stronger character. Yagami’s first case is to prove the innocence of a Yakuza boss accused of murder and all the evidence is against him. Yagami has learned that being a successful lawyer means freeing evil people and finds himself with a tough moral dilemma. Yagami maintains the cool demeanour Kiryu has but questions if what he is doing is right. The writing team have learned a lot in giving more depth to the characters in a shorter amount of time, which is beneficial to new players as the Yakuza series did this over several games. That being said, it’s important for new players to know that this is a dialogue heavy game and they should be prepared for a lot of information thrown at them. Judgment does a better job at condensing this though and the quality of writing is as brilliant as it’s always been.
Gameplay-wise, the surface reflects a Yakuza game pretty perfectly. It’s set in the same sandbox almost every Yakuza game is and while that should be worrying, they’ve managed to fill it with excellent content. Seriously, this is the 9th game (at least) that uses this map and they’ve nailed it again, name one developer who could do the same! As you traverse it, thugs will attack you and the combat system is that of a brawler. Yakuza fans will feel right at home here and Yagami has 2 distinct styles. The “Crane” style is focused on group attacks and the “Tiger” style is more for one-on-ones. Ex-Attacks are context sensitive finishers, much like Yakuza’s “Heat” moves and are a joy to pull off. Like Yakuza, there are a host of fully fledged mini-games for you to sink your teeth into. Side missions are present and this time use a city-wide reputation system to unlock and you even have an upgradeable safe house!
Watch the Judgment combat trailer below:
For those worried that this is just another Yakuza title, Judgment offers a brilliant change of pace. It doesn’t forget that it’s a detective game and across the first chapter, you are introduced to its systems. You tail suspects much like Assassin’s Creed but that’s after finding your target by examining them, much like Sherlock Holmes, for far away targets you can use an upgradeable (and race-able) drone. You also must examine crime scenes much like Batman and interrogating suspects has you frantically picking the right option. This all brings a totally new aspect to the series and the best part of it is, is that you HAVE to pay attention. You aren’t merely watching cutscenes, you’re absorbing them. It’s not unforgivable though, getting everything right just awards bonuses, you’ll hit the main story points no matter your choice, though this could change later on. There are a few extra additions to the game that offer a nice change of pace for veterans but make it more enticing for newcomers.
Judgment builds on the excellent visuals that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life provided. Character models are outstanding and the city looks amazing. Those with a HDR display are going to be dazzled with neon signs at night and sun shafts through the day. The framerate did have issues and there was some screen tearing and poor anti-aliasing but this is pre-release build and the team have plenty of time to release a patch. Judgment nails the sound space, Kamurocho feels like a Japanese city. The hustle and bustle of the city far exceeds that of GTA or any other open world game for that matter. The soundtrack is also wonderful, mixing in tense tracks with cool guitar heavy beats. Voice acting is excellent in the original Japanese track but the English version suffers a little. It’s fine and stars some great voice actors and is also great for newcomers but the Japanese audio track is far superior.
View some Judgment screenshots in our gallery:
Judgment is pretty simple to sum up. If you like the Yakuza series, this is an excellent spin-off. If you have been on the fence about the series but put off by either the Japanese voice over or the sheer length of the series, this is a great way to dip your toes in. Based off the first chapter, this is a winner and a gentle reminder that taking your time to establish a world and then giving the player the tools they need is far better than giving them a giant world with no depth. If you have a PS4 and are looking for a game to pick up this month, save your pennies for Judgment.
EF Games will bring you a full review of Judgment around release, it’s available on PS4 in the UK on 25th June, 2019. For more information on the game check out the official Judgment website.