From developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios and publisher Sega comes a brand new spin-off of the hugely popular Yakuza series. Judgment is an action-adventure game that has players taking on the role of detective on the mean streets of Kamurocho. You can check it out now on the PlayStation 4.
Platform: PlayStation 4
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios
Modes: Single player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
A totally immersive experience
Despite my best intentions, I’ve not yet had the pleasure of enjoying a game in the Yakuza series. So naturally I jumped at the chance to get a glimpse into the franchise by playing the new spin-off title. I’m definitely happy to say that Judgment more than exceeded my expectations coming in fresh to the Yakuza universe.
Primarily, I can’t believe just how immersive an experience Judgment truly is. The streets of Kamurocho are buzzing with character and life. Going about day-to-day tasks through the lens of protagonist Takayumi Yagami is like being transported into a brand new world.
It deeply reminds me of my first time playing Shenmue—another game centering around a slice of Japanese life. However, if Shenmue was a groundbreaking and revolutionary experiment title showing what games of its ilk might be capable of, Judgment is that dream fulfilled. There’s so much to see, do, and interact with in the world of Judgment, you may have to occasionally remind yourself that there is a main story to play.
A deeply satisfying detective thriller
In Judgment you’ll play as detective Takayumi Yagami, a disgraced lawyer who now ekes out a living plying his skills to clients in the private sector. However a string of serial murders draws Yagami in and forces him to re-examine and confront issues from his past. Thus in order to move forward, Yagami must confront the skeletons in his own closet.
The main story campaign is extremely satisfying in both length and overall quality. The narrative is told with remarkable skill and the voice acting and cinematics are top notch. I’m typically the type of player that likes to dally and play around with side quests, but the primary narrative of Judgment is so engaging that I constantly had to know where the story was going to go next.
A blend of combat and social skills
Judgment is a blend of action and interaction. Yagami is a skillful fighter, and you’ll spend a lot of time putting those skills to use on local thugs. As you unlock further skills and abilities Yagami will learn additional combos and powerful new attacks to crush his foes.
In order to keep Yagami fighting even during open world play, Judgment has random attackers constantly accosting him on the street. The game simply explains them as goons looking to earn street credibility, but the thin premise is a bit silly. Nevertheless, it does serve to inject a bit more action into the game when Yagami is otherwise simply wandering around.
Fighting is not the only gameplay mechanic however. In other situations players will employ a number of skills including dialogue choice, logic, and deduction while in conversation with the citizens of Kamurocho in order to solve crimes and ultimately advance the story.
Like any good detective, Yagami is skilled in arts such as surveillance and photography, tailing his targets, and even a good footrace now and then. Unfortunately these tasks can become a bit repetitive. You can only tail a mark at a walking pace and duck behind cars and sign once they become suspicious so many times before the process becomes a bit of a rigmarole.
The chase scenes feel a bit dated as well. There really isn’t much innovation in quick-time events designed to guide players around crowds and over trash cans and other obstacles. These are mechanics that previous games in the genre pioneered and relied upon, but it would have been nice to see a game like Judgment try something new.
That said, I suppose to an extent it does actually accurately define the life of a private detective—after all, it isn’t all high profile action and excitement. Sometimes you simply have to put in the legwork to get to the meaty part of the job.
With a little help from my friends
It isn’t all work and no play for Yagami. The streets of Kamurocho are alive and bustling with potential distractions. Nearly every building is open and explorable, and they are full of interesting characters.
There are as many as fifty unique friendships that Yagami can develop outside of the main campaign and side cases. These interactions not only give Judgment so much more playable content, they truly make the game come alive. By going about town, helping people and becoming entwined in their lives, Judgment offers a whole new level of immersion.
Judgment also features a wealth of mini-games and other similar distractions. It really does feel like its own self-contained little world. I definitely think it is a good thing that the main storyline of Judgment is so engaging. Otherwise, I could easily see myself endlessly distracted by its endless minutiae.
Yagami can spend his time gambling (poker or blackjack), he can play Mahjong, visit the batting cages, participate in drone races, and so much more. He can even visit the arcade and play full versions of classic Sega arcade games. Many of these activities are so fleshed out that they are essentially genuine experiences unto themselves.
Judgment is an incredible detective story that takes place in a truly immersive world
Judgment is a lengthy game, but it very rarely feels sluggish or dull. The main narrative is a true thriller, and players should be on the edge of their seat waiting for the next plot turn. Some elements of the gameplay can become a bit repetitive, but nonetheless the game is so intriguing and immersive that it’s hard to justify not wanting to spend as much time with it as possible.
+ Epic, engrossing cinematic story
+ Vibrant, immersive world
+ Plethora of side activities and social interactions
– Some repetitive gameplay
– A few dated mechanics such as QTE’s
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF JUDGMENT
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5