Judgment – Review

Eyes of judgement

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Kamurocho, a city that many gamers have been to several times and have experienced several incredible stories. You’d think that the city would have run out of stories to tell but that is not the case. RGG Studios once again take us back to the city of Kamurocho to tell a tale of violence; revenge, corruption and murder.

This new adventure is from Judgment, a spin-off of the acclaimed Yakuza series. Don’t let the word spin-off put you off because not only is it a thoroughly gripping story, it’s one of the best the studio has ever told.

 

Story

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The story of Judgment follows Takayuki Yagami, a former lawyer who was disgraced as a client of his of whom he got acquitted for murder, was arrested for murder at the scene of the crime months later. The game picks up months after the events that damaged Yagami’s reputation and is now a private detective. After he helps a friend with a case, Yagami becomes fixated on a string of strange murders that have been happening all over Kamurocho. What he discovers is a sordid tale of corruption, lies and murder, a story that is quite possibly one of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios’ best.

I can be here all day writing and talking about how much I loved the story of Judgment. The pacing, aside from a slow start, is nearly perfect. The detective crime drama plays out over a number of chapters with each one starting with a recap of what happened in the last chapter. It feels like it was written as a TV show and each chapter is an episode. If this is indeed the case, then they did a great job.

I was thoroughly gripped by the story from start to finish and there were moments where I was so into it, that I didn’t want to turn it off. I stayed up late multiple nights whilst playing this. I was playing at 3am and I thought to myself, it’s time for bed. That didn’t happen as something very interesting happened in the story and then I didn’t go asleep until 5am. I was so enthralled by this story that I had many late nights and my sleeping pattern was all over the place for a few days. The last part is on me, not the game’s fault.

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The protagonist, Takayuki Yagami is a great character, he’s flawed but he knows that and his character development throughout the game is fantastic. His buddy and fellow private detective Masaharu Kaito is brilliant and delivers some of the game’s more light-hearted moments. Some of the funniest moments in the game involve Kaito and they provide a nice break from the seriousness. The rest of the cast is wonderful, with each person giving excellent performances.

The only complaint I have with the story is that the first chapter is very slow. This isn’t new from games by RGG Studios, both Yakuza 3 and Zero took a while to get going but when Judgment finally releases the shackles, there is no stopping it. I thought it was necessary to mention this as some people might not like how long it does take to pick up steam but do stick with it as you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a story. A story to remember.

 

Gameplay

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Nuts, crazy and downright bonkers are words to describe the gameplay for Judgment. Like the Yakuza games, the gameplay is varied, one moment you are beating up thugs, the next you playing the crane game in the Sega Arcades. The main crux of the gameplay is the combat and it feels as the developers have finally nailed the beat em up combat with the Dragon Engine.

RGG Studios have been using the Dragon Engine since Yakuza 6 and it allowed for combat to be more fluid. Combat in Yakuza 6 was fun but it was dialled back a bit, presumably because they were still getting used to it. Things were majorly improved in Kiwami 2 as the combat felt more fleshed out. In Judgment, they have improved upon it again as combat is much more varied and a lot smoother.

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Yagami can switch between two fighting styles, Tiger and Crane. Crane is a fast-moving combat style that is best used when there are multiple enemies. Attacks in the Crane stance don’t do a lot of damage but the speed makes up for that. Tiger is a power-heavy style that whilst it can work with crowds, it is best used against a single bad guy. The moves in the Tiger stance are brutal and really pack a punch but it isn’t as quick as Crane.

The combat still feels arcadey much like the Yakuza games, which is a good thing. What further highlights the arcade feel is the ability to run up and jump off walls in fights. In Judgment, Yagami can run up walls and push himself of them and follow up with a crazy looking attack. It’s over the top but it’s damn fun to watch and to pull off. The combat feels more influenced by martial arts in Judgment than in any other game RGG Studios have done. There’s a mix of old and new school martial arts, with the Tiger stance representing the old and Crane representing the new.

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Yagami is a private detective so beating up hooligans isn’t the only thing he can do. He can also lockpick, thumb bypass and chase, tail and identify suspects. Lockpicking is done via getting the pins in the right places so you can unlock the door and most of them have a time limit. Thumb bypass requires you to use both analogues to turn the wire and unlock the door. Both are covert ways to unlock doors but you’ll be doing a fair bit of lockpicking throughout the game.

Tailing plays out as you’d expect, follow the suspect until they reach the destination and don’t get spotted. It’s the same as any other tailing gameplay aspect in gaming. You’ll be doing a lot of these throughout the game, maybe a bit too many.

Sometimes you’ll be tasked with chasing a possible criminal throughout the streets of Kamurocho and this is its own mini-game of sorts. You run after the person whilst dodging various objects such as bicycles and bins and various things that the suspect will throw at you. Lockpicking and tailing bad guys is a small thing but it does help add to the detective feel of things.

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They aren’t the only detective like things you’ll be doing in Judgment. There are times throughout the game in both the main story and the side missions, where you will be gathering evidence and questioning people. Gathering evidence usually boils down to photographing pieces of evidence with your phone and then you can use these in conversations later.

As you progress through the game you will end up questioning people and they will ask you to show evidence. Sometimes you’ll be given multiple choices whilst questioning people which allows you to get more evidence and more story details. All the detective gameplay elements are cool but I wish there was more variety to it but what it is present, is rather good.

 

Graphics, Sound and Music

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Judgment is a very pretty game, the character models look great especially the main characters. The city of Kamurocho once again looks gorgeous and at night it is something to behold as the neon lights reflect off the puddles of rain, creating some beautiful imagery.

Some textures look a bit wonky but I only found them when I was fooling around in my drone and look at the to of buildings. Some signs didn’t look as good others because of the textures. You can’t see them on street level when you’re walking around as Yagami but they’re noticeable when you’re piloting the drone. It’s a small gripe and it’s only a small number of signs with that problem, so it’s nothing that’s going to kill your enjoyment.

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The sound team at RGG Studios have once again delivered a belter of a soundtrack. The main menu music has an aura of coolness around it and I very much like that. The combat music is great and a couple of them have a very 90’s Sega vibe to them and I am all for that. When you’re tailing a suspect the music that plays feels as if it has come from a modern crime noir drama, which I would imagine was what they were going for.

All of the music in Judgment is pretty damn good and I’ve added the soundtrack to my playlist when I’m writing. Thank you, Sega for giving me some more music to jam to.

Sega went the extra mile with the localization of Judgment as not only has it been translated, there is also a full English voice dub. I’ve played with the Japanese voice-over and English subs and with English voice-over. The Japanese voice acting is stellar as it usually is in games from RGG Studios and the English voice cast have also done a fantastic job. If the lack of an English voice dub was the reason you couldn’t get into the Yakuza games, then don’t worry because Judgment has you covered.

 

Replayability

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The Yakuza games always a wealth of content for the player to do, which creates a lot of replayability after doing the main story and Judgment is no different. Aside from the main story, there are a fairly large number of side missions for you do. Some of these have a serious feel, some missions have heartwarming moments (looking at you Captain Cop) and others are ludicrously funny.

There’s a bunch of activities for you to do, Mahjong, Blackjack, playing one of the many Sega titles at the arcades (play Virtua Fighter 5)  and going on dates to name a few. There’s plenty of stuff for you to do and there’s bound to be at least one thing that will get you hooked. In my case, it was the Sega Arcades (this applies to the Yakuza games as well), the drone racing and the Dice and Cube mini-game.

Several games from Sega’s illustrious library are in Judgment but my favourite is Virtua Fighter 5. It just feels good to play Virtua Fighter 5 on PS4 (Virtua Fighter 6 when Sega?). Drone racing is clash high speed and neon lights and it is extremely fun. The courses aren’t too challenging and you can customise your drone. Unlocking all of the parts will take a very long time so completionists will have some work to do.

The Dice and Cube mini-game is quite simply, incredible. This particular attraction is rather addictive and I may have spent a little bit too much time playing it. Yagami puts on a VR headset and you are placed in a virtual reality version of Kamurocho and to move you have to roll a dice. Whatever number the dice rolls on, you will move that many places. You can land on free zones where you’ll get nothing, safe box squares which require you to lockpick a safe to gain a large amount of loot and enemy squares which means you have to fight a group of enemies.

In the Yakuza games, I often get hooked by certain mini-games. In Yakuza Zero it was the pocket circuit racing and in Yakuza 6 it was the baseball activity. In Judgment, it is the Dice and Cube attraction but it is done so well and is so incredibly fun to play, that Sega could release it as its own game on the PS Store. Seriously, it is that good.

 

Verdict

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Judgement is yet another spectacular game by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios. The story is thoroughly gripping throughout and the characters are very well written. The combat is fantastic and is the best it has been since the switch to the Dragon Engine. Fighting really does feel like you are in a Martial Arts movie.

Judgment’s first chapter is very slow to start off with which can put off some people but if you stick with it, prepare yourself for one of the best games of 2019.

What Judgment also does, is that it shows that Kamurocho even though we have visited it numerous times, still has plenty of engaging stories to tell. I eagerly await the next game by RGG Studios and my next trip to Kamurocho.

Score:

9/10

 

Judgment is available now on PlayStation 4.


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