A string of murders on Yakuza members has the city of Kamurocho on the brink of gang warfare. Takayuki Yagami, a disgraced lawyer turned private detective is now swept up in the murder cases leading him into the path of the warring Yakuza clans. This is the main story of Judgement, a spin off title in Sega’s long running Yakuza franchise.
Playing as Yagami you’ll use your detective skills to investigate crime scenes related to these murders using new gameplay mechanics that feel like they came out of a modern point-and-click adventure game. These segments are all done in first-person and have you searching various scenes for clues to help you better question subjects involved in any given case. A lot of the staples of a Yakuza game are here, as you will run down the streets of Kamurocho fighting plenty of thugs and Yakuza members . You have the option to stop and eat at a variety of local restaurants as well as find various side activities like batting cages, drone racing, and the brand new VR Dice, a chaotic board game inspired mode where you earn big cash in ridiculous fights.
Judgement has you switching between two fighting styles, one focused on crowd control with wide sweeping kicks and the other being more beneficial for one-on-one fights. Once I acquired more skills I found myself to be more engaged with the combat, but I still didn’t really feel like the game gave me enough reasons to explore the combat all the way. During combat encounters you’re charging up a meter that once filled will allow you to pull off EX Moves. These powerful attacks will change depending on your current whereabouts in the arena and you can purchase new attacks from your skills menu. These are flashy and satisfying to pull off, but after seeing these moves 20+ times, they begin to lose their luster when combined with the already repetitive combat.
After trying out some of the side activities I found myself mostly drawn to just sticking to the main quest-line. Some of the side content helped with unlocking minor abilities or had some good humor, however activities like drone racing or playing poker had little effect on the overall game so I didn’t feel the motivation to play them after the game introduced them. The twists and reveals were enjoyable to watch but a lot of the actual missions I was playing felt archaic. Doing a “follow the suspect” mission for the fifth time grinded a lot of key moments in the main quest-line to a halt. There’s definitely a few great moments hidden throughout. Like some cool boss fights and a dramatic escape sequence all done while riding a skateboard. But these moments didn’t make up for a lot of the more generic missions types I was doing much more of.
I was hoping for Judgement to be a more stand alone title that set itself apart from its predecessor. It ultimately feels like more Yakuza just without the characters you’re already familiar with. Fans of the franchise will still find a lot to enjoy, but don’t expect it to break new ground. In some ways the focus on Yakuza in the main narrative felt like a crutch as a lot of the game still largely wrapped back around to them being a central focus both on the sides of good and evil. The new detective abilities added some decent gameplay variety, but when a mission still just winds up ending with a big street brawl with the Yakuza it kinda feels a bit like a missed opportunity to try something fresh.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by the publisher