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Judgement (PS4) Review

July 23, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
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Judgement (PS4) Review  

I’ll readily start this review by saying that I loved Judgement. Considering how the rest of this year is going, game-wise, it’ll be in a list of favorite games of 2019, when all is said and done. It does have a few quirks, and one major issue, but when all is said and done, it elicited the same feeling of discovery that Yakuza 0 had, at least for me. In short, it is a superb game with one big failing (which I’ll get into below).

Judgement has you playing as Takayuki Yagami, a former lawyer turned private detective. He, along with his ex-Yakuza friend/employee Kaito get embroiled in events surrounding a serial killer in Kamurocho. You (as Yagami) get on the case of hunting down the serial killer and bringing him or her to justice. Along the way, you’ll get enmeshed in the politics of the city, of some of the Yakuza clans running the city, and doing side cases for a multitude of people within the game.

On the bare surface, and if you ignore the main character, Judgement could easily pass as another Yakuza game. It’s in the same city, most of the fundamental gameplay mechanics are the same, heck even some of the arcade games are the same. But, the devil is in the details and there are a few both additions and omissions that make Judgement a more unique and rewarding experience than some of the past Yakuza games.

To start with, Yagami has two different fighting styles, Crane and Tiger. Crane style is meant for groups of enemies while Tiger is generally for one-on-one fights. Honestly, I used Crane for like 90% of the game, because even against solitary bosses, it was still highly effective against them.

The rest of the battle system is very much the same from Yakuza 6 or Kiwami 2. You have light and heavy attacks on square and triangle, with the grab button being circle. Instead of Heat Actions from Yakuza, you have “EX Actions” but they are the same thing, even re-using animation from Yakuza 6 with certain objects or situations. The only real difference is the Wall-Run Attack.

Wall-Runs involve you sprinting at the wall and running up it about 4 or 5 feet. You can then launch yourself off of it, to deliver a Superman-like punch to an enemy. The attack looks cool but is pretty situational. For instance…you kind of need a run to pull it off. You also need somewhat of a run to approach a wall correctly, if you try to do it too close to a wall, you’ll just kind of bounce off. Still, it is effective against certain enemies (usually bigger guys or bosses) and kind of homes in on the nearest guy.

Another slight switch is that “Substories” are now changed to “Friend Events”, but they are the same thing from Yakuza. You’ll meet random people and need to do something for them, bring them an item, save them from being beaten up, do some dialog options, and so on. Eventually they can become your friend, which will usually mean they will occasionally give you an item in the game world or they will try to help you out in the random street fights you’ll get into.

In addition to Friend Events, you can also complete Side Cases as part of your detective agency. Honestly, these are almost exactly the same as the Events, but they are a bit more involved, as far as the detective gameplay elements. Most of these also boil down to eventual fights or some deduction work, but at least you earn quite a bit of money completing them.

The detective elements are the real different thing in this game and they are a bit of a mixed bag. You can use a drone to survey some buildings and spot specific persons of interest in it. Also, in some rooms, the game will become first person and you will need to find specific things to advance the case or get through the building, like key cards, maps, files, that sort of thing. This stuff works decently well but can get aggravating at times if you can’t find the one thing you need to actually advance the mission. There are also locks to pick, in two different lock picking mini-games, but neither is hard or really annoying.

Other times, you’ll need to chase a fleeing suspect around Kamurocho, which is a Temple Run-like mini-game. You have limited control over Yagami as you chase the person around from a somewhat pulled out behind the back perspective. Quick Time Elements appear here as you have to press the corresponding button or movement icon to get closer to the objective. These chases aren’t ever “bad”, per se, but the controls are a tad cumbersome. It’s just incredibly scripted, so it’s a QTE fest and not actually dynamic.

By far the worst detective element are the follow missions. You’ll end up tailing a lot of people in this game and it’s all so tedious. Some people won’t be so bad, only going a few blocks to get to their destination, but others will lead you around half the city, so it becomes a 5 minute long quasi-stealth sequence. The basic gist is that you have to follow someone around, keeping them within viewing distance but not close enough for them to become suspicious. The person will sometimes turn around, and there will be “Blend” points that light up where you can just wait until they turn back around. If you lose track of the person, you’ll have a timer to find them again, otherwise you’ll have to restart the mission.

This whole system feels like some weird Assassin’s Creed mechanic. I can understand the idea of tailing someone, but the system they came up with just seems very archaic, if a bit random. Why would Yagami have to follow the person at all? He literally has a drone that he can fly across the city, why not use that to track the person? These tracking missions aren’t game-breaking or anything but they are one of the real annoying aspects that you’ll have to do over and over again.

As far as the other usual side content in a Yakuza game, most of that is still in Judgement. Darts, Sega arcade games, UFO catchers, Mahjong, gambling, dating women, are all in here. There is a big omission of Karaoke, unfortunately. Judgement is a slightly more “serious” game than Yakuza, which is fine, but man, watching/hearing Yagami belt out some songs is a real missed opportunity.

There are three big new side things you can do: Kamurocho of the Dead, the VR game and Drone Racing. I’ll get into them here:

1. Kamurocho of the Dead is a game at the Sega Arcade. It is basically a version of House of the Dead using the controller to aim and shoot zombies. You have limited shots before you have to reload, have a few grenades to deal massive damage and you are trying to escape Kamurocho alive, amongst the zombies and other creatures trying to kill you. It’s not bad, but the aiming cursor (first person, mind you) is a tad slow.

2. VR Paradise – This is an interesting thing, it’s basically a Mario Party style game where you can earn a ton of money. You roll a dice and move Yagami around a board game, either landing on prize spots (to get money or items), mini-game spots (lock picking), or fight spots, where you have to face enemies under different conditions. There are also good and bad creatures on the board, the good one dramatically increases your prizes and has lucrative mini-games, while the bad one steals your stuff, and you have to chase it down. The goal of the game is to get to the end, but you have limited dice rolls, so you have to plan what you want to focus on. To do this game, you’ll need a “Play Pass” that can randomly drop from enemies, or as rewards for certain side missions.

3. Finally, there is the Drone Racing, which is the worst part about the entire game. The actual mini-game is fine, you race against other drones along a track, you have a turbo meter that gradually fills up, you have boost circles to hit or repair circles to repair your drone from hitting stuff as you race. As you do more racing, you’ll have to upgrade your drone accordingly, with new frames (body), engine, turbo, etc. This is all well and good.

The problem, and reason this game isn’t getting a 10 review score from me, is that the Drone Racing is inherently unbalanced and all-but requires you to buy a $7 DLC pack to actually win the last championship. You want to win this championship because it gives you part of a pass to do the VR game an infinite number of times, thus giving you an infinite amount of money. The DLC pack includes a frame for your drone that gives you 6 times the amount of durability as the one included in the actual game. For the last championship, you’ll be going through very narrow passageways at blistering speeds, so you’ll be taking a lot of damage. If your drone takes too much damage, it will get destroyed and you get no points for the race.

This may not actually bug a ton of people but it’s the biggest strike of the game to me. Why not just sell a money double DLC thing for $5? They are also selling those VR Paradise Play Passes, 10 for $1, which is still a tad gross, but not as disgusting as the Drone thing.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
On the whole, I did enjoy my time with Judgement a lot. I dropped about 40+ hours into the game, so that should tell you how much I did like it. Judgement has a more serious, less goofy sensibility than the Yakuza franchise but I think that it works well. Yagami is a much deeper and mature character than Kiryu ever was, and that reflects itself in the story and other characters you come across in the game. It does lose some of the goofy charm, sadly there is no “Chicken” real estate manager, but it is quite an effective mood and I enjoyed my time playing.

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Judgement, Marc Morrison