Go For The Eyes

HIGH The Heat action involving a passing car is inspired.

LOW Tailing minigames are never a good addition to any title. Ever.

WTF What is it with Yagami and cats, exactly?

Judgment, known as Judge Eyes in Japan, is essentially a spinoff of the Yakuza series featuring a new main character, and viewed from the other side of the law. It takes place in the same crime-infested streets of Kamurocho and features tons of punks to decimate with a variety of martial arts moves in the pursuit of justice.  

Players take control of newcomer protagonist Takayumi Yagami, a disgraced ex-attorney working as a private detective in Kamurocho. A few years back he pulled off an incredible courtroom victory that set an alleged murderer free, only for the accused to do more murdering almost immediately after release. This left a stain on Yagami’s character, so he quit his job and started up a detective agency… only it’s not going so well. As the story starts, he’s practically living on handouts and can’t afford to pay his rent. Rock, meet bottom.

As luck would have it, there’s a serial killer targeting a nearby yakuza clan, and it soon transpires that these new murders may be connected to Yagami’s past, so naturally he’s soon on the hunt to discover the killer’s identity. Unfortunately, there may be more to this case than meets the gouged out eyeballs, and surviving long enough to bring the killer to justice may not be as easy as it seems.

As far as Yagami goes, he makes for a pretty good lead character. He’s got a more casual approach to proceedings than Kiryu ever had, so he gives off a totally different vibe — he’s more approachable, and conversations often have a subtly different flow from past Yakuza games.

Unlike recent Yakuza releases, Judgment features a full English voiceover. While I usually opt for a game’s native spoken language when given a choice, I played through Judgment in English and am happy to report that it’s a sterling effort. Greg Chun and company bring their characters to life, and the translation is of high quality throughout.

On the other hand, Judgment features a number of detective-style minigames, and I doubt players will be too keen on them. Worst of the bunch is probably the tailing minigame, capturing all the pulse-pounding excitement of following an NPC around town really, really slowly without being seen. Other questionable inclusions involve selecting the correct key while opening locked doors, or locating a piece of evidence in first person views and tediously looking for the correct pixel before being allowed to progress. Thankfully, they don’t crop up often enough in the main storyline to do any lasting damage.

There are also other, more successful minigames such as chasing after criminals or picking locks that are entirely fine, though anyone hoping to revisit Yakuza favorites like frequenting cabaret clubs or seeing how Yagami does at karaoke are out of luck. Honestly though, their absence isn’t too noticeable thanks to a wide variety of pastimes including darts, baseball, a virtual Kamurocho that plays out like a board game, and the Club Sega boasts some fantastic choices such as Virtua Fighter 5, Fighting Vipers and Puyo Puyo to name but a few.

One of the mainstays of the Yakuza series has always been a bone-crunching combat system, and Judgment is no exception. Yagami’s a skilled and agile kung fu practitioner with access to two different styles – the Crane stance for mowing down crowds of enemies at a time, and the Tiger stance for unleashing pain on more powerful enemies. Both styles can be powered up with additional attacks such as timing the release of chi into an opponent’s weak spot, or flipping off the walls and unleashing superpowered beatdowns on enemies nearby.

That said, Yagami isn’t the force of nature that Kiryu was. This manifests in a couple of different ways, such as how getting shot with a firearm or smacked with a superpowered attack in combat will result in having part of his health bar ‘shattered’ and permanently diminished until he seeks out medical attention. He also seems like a more vulnerable character during story scenes, leading to a situations where it looks like he’s in a genuinely bad spot that he may not be able to punch his way out of.

The other small shakeup is that, as a lawyer and detective, Yagami may need to keep an eye on what people are saying and nudge them into letting things slip by ambushing them during a conversation or confronting them with unexpected evidence. Anyone who doesn’t want to think too hard isn’t out of luck here — mistakes simply subtract a small experience boost and allow for other options to be chosen for a correct answer.

Judgment may not be a truly new IP from the Ryu Ga Gotoku studio, but it offers the predictable excellence synonymous with most of their efforts. Anyone who’s played and loved Yakuza will find Judgment right up their alley, and anyone yet to sample the series now has a wonderful jumping-on point to see what the fuss is all about.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega. It is currently available on Playstation 4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 45 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains
Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language and Use of Alcohol. There’s plenty of swearing and violence and… yeah, it’s not really suitable for the kids.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are plenty of subtitles and onscreen prompts available to relay what’s happening, and I can’t remember any point where deafness would impact a player’s ability to enjoy the game. I’d call this one fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There’s no controller diagram in Judgment, likely due to the huge variance in controls between game modes. In combat, the left thumbstick moves Yagami, square is a weak attack, triangle is a stronger blow or Heat based action, circle grabs enemies, and X runs or dodges. Walking around, the left stick moves Yagami, the right controls the camera, clicking in L3 goes into first person, X interacts with objects and Circle cancels out of choices or menus. The D-pad uses various items, the touch pad opens up a map and and the Options button brings up Yagami’s phone – which is essentially a pause menu where more submenus can be accessed from.

Darren Forman
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3 years ago

It’s unclear in the review whether there is a choice of spoken language. The Japanese voices are still there if preferred?