(The Project Judge (Judge Eyes) demo is only available on the Japanese PlayStation Store. If you want to try the demo, you will have to create a Japanese PlayStation account)
Sega could have another hit on their hands
During the PlayStation Lineup Tour Sega’s CCO (chief creative officer) and director of the Yakuza series Toshihiro Nagoshi, went on stage to reveal a new IP called Judge Eyes aka Project Judge.
Project Judge is being developed by the Ryu Ga Gotoku team, the folks behind the Yakuza series. At the event, Nagoshi also announced a Project Judge demo for PlayStation Store Japan. Luckily, I have a Japanese PlayStation account so I downloaded the demo and played it. After playing the demo twice, I can safely say that this game is going to be good. So without further ado, here are my impressions of the Project Judge demo.
The demo starts off with the cutscene that is shown in the story trailer for Project Judge. It takes place in a grey, smoke-filled lawyer office with tonnes of files and paper all stacked on the shelves. A man who looks like the head of the law firm is on the phone with a potential client whilst smoking a cigarette. There’s a lawyer who looks a bit grumpy and somewhat pissed off that his co-worker, the main protagonist, Takayuki Yagami keeps getting clients when he doesn’t. Across from Yagami is a young woman who is having an intense conversation on the phone, it’s a phone call that will change our hero’s life dramatically.
Thanks to the information given to us at the PlayStation Lineup Tour, we know that Yagami was a big shot lawyer and was able to get one of his clients acquitted on a murder charge. However, that same client murdered his girlfriend and set fire to her house. The crime stained Yagami’s reputation as a defence attorney and so he walked away from that life in shame. Fast forward a few years to 2018 and Yagami is now a private detective and now there’s a serial killer on the loose.
The demo doesn’t focus on the main narrative of the serial killer. In this vertical slice, you are following a suspect with the help of a fellow private detective who is dressed rather flashy, similar to Goro Majima. Yagami is disguised as a homeless person but some delinquents decide to pick a fight with him and boy, will they regret that decision.
The fight with some thugs acts as a combat tutorial (yes, you’ll be doing some fighting in Project Judge) and if you’ve played a Yakuza game, you’ll get the hang of it very quickly as the controls are pretty much the same. If you’re a fan of the Yakuza series like myself, as soon as you start fighting, the combat will feel and look different. Yakuza’s main protagonist Kazuma Kiryu fights aggressively and each style he has had have all been grounded. Yagami is pretty much complete opposite of Kiryu, he’s quick, agile, attacks really fast, he can launch people in the air and combo them and he can even jump off walls and attack enemies.
If you want to compare Yagami’s fight style to any of the Yakuza characters, he’s closer to Shun Akiyama than Kiryu. Our private detective also knows a few Heat Moves (they may be called something different in this game) and he has unique actions that I haven’t seen in a Yakuza game. You can pick up weapons off the street like a traffic cone and use them against the bad guys. Some of the Heat Moves for the weapons are re-used from Yakuza games which I was expecting to be honest. I’m happy with fresh Heat Moves for Yagami’s combat style.
Near the end of the demo, you will have to fight a boss and this unlocks a second fight style. There are two fight styles and for the sake of clearly identifying them, I will call them “Blue fight style” and “Red fight style”.
You start the demo off with the Blue fight style which has fast punches and kicks and it also has increased manoeuvrability over the Red fight style from what I can gather (I’ll be able to provide a more accurate analysis and comparison when I play the full game).
The Red fight style is much more grounded and aggressive and it seems to dish out a little bit more damage (again, I’ll have to wait until I play the full game to provide an accurate analysis).
Both of the fight styles have unique Heat Moves which is nice to see and is to be expected, given that each fighting style in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami has unique Heat Moves. Each fighting style is also more aligned with an actual martial arts style in comparison to Kiryu’s arcadey street fighting style. Both fight styles look as if they could come from a Donnie Yen or Jackie Chan movie which as a fan of Martial Arts movies, I find this incredibly cool.
Let’s talk about the other part of the gameplay, the detective aspect. The demo tasks you with doing some detective work and one of the things you have to do is to identify the suspect after losing him. This part of the demo was really good, you are given a pencil sketch of the suspect and from that and the list of notable features on the side, you have to find the target in a crowd of people. It’s a cool little feature that help makes you feel like you are a private detective.
After identifying the suspect, you have to tail which is a classic detective trope. Tailing the suspect is accompanied by some intense thriller genre style music, to give it a movie feel. You have to be careful when you’re tailing your target, you have to hide behind signs, cars and blend in with a group of people, all to stay incognito from the person you are following. There’s a little detail here that caught my eye. Certain pieces of cover like a sign or a group of people might not be the best form of cover but Yagami pulls out his phone so it looks like he is just minding his own business. It’s a small touch but I like it, it adds to the character’s role as a private detective.
Of course, things go wrong and we have to chase after the suspect and it plays similar to Yakuza’s chase sequences, yet here it is more refined. You have to move your character left and right to dodge crowds, there will be obstacles in your way an in order to pass successfully you have to perform a QTE. The person you are chasing will throw things at you and you have to perform a QTE sequence in order evade the items being hurled at you.
Movement during this chase section felt very fluid, smoother than any chase sequence in the Yakuza games. The improved chase sequence might be a result of the team getting used to doing these sections or it could be thanks to the Dragon Engine, which is being used for this game. Either way, this is best chase sequence the Ryu Ga Gotoku team have ever done and I look forward to more in the full game.
There’s a part of the demo where we see a drone that clearly belongs to our detective but unfortunately, you don’t get to control it. I know from the gameplay trailer we can do drone racing as an activity but I don’t know if we can use it ourselves during investigations, I shouldn’t see why not though.
After the opening cutscene in the law office, Yakuza fans will find themselves in a familiar place. Yes, we are once again in Kamurocho, the city that never sleeps, the city that has something to do or something weird to experience on nearly every single street. Now I know this may be disappointing to some and it is to me a little bit but I have a little bit of hope that Kamurocho isn’t the only location we will be visiting.
For those wondering if Kamurocho is in the same state it was in Yakuza 6, it isn’t, the Champion and Hotel districts are explorable. Part of the demo takes place in the Champion district, I can’t say if there are any significant changes to the area as we are only in one specific area but it’s nice to know that we can visit the area once again, this time in modern-day Kamurocho.
The demo was short but I came away impressed. The cutscenes are very well written and performed which we’ve come to expect from the Ryu Ga Gotoku team and the new characters all seem interesting. The gameplay is familiar, yet new which is nice and above all, it is a lot of fun. The return of Kamurocho may disappoint some but it doesn’t bother me too much, in fact, I think I know Kamurocho better than I do my hometown so visiting the city feels almost like I’m home, it’s weird yet calming.
After playing the demo I was left thinking, Sega could have another hit on their hands here. With more eyes on Sega and the Ryu Ga Gotoku team thanks to western releases of Yakuza 0, Kiwami, 6 and most recently Kiwami 2, this is the perfect time for the team to launch a new IP. You know what to do Sega, knock it out of the park.
Are you excited for Project Judge? Let me know in the comments below or you can tell me on Twitter – @ThatGreenDude95