Hold It In Contempt
HIGH Judgment is still a helluva videogame.
LOW This particular version of Judgment is a rip-off for those who already own it.
WTF At least they didn’t call it Judgment: Enhanced Edition.
I said this recently, and I will emphatically say it again — there was no finer development house over the course of the previous console generation than Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. When factoring in both the quality of their original releases and the recently-unheard-of way in which they churned out hit after hit after hit after hit, there really is no comparison.
In eight years, they released twelve games — six original titles, four exceptional remasters, and two from-the-ground-up remakes done with in-house tech. They ported/remade the entire Yakuza franchise to modern hardware, looked at what they had created, then threw a bunch of it out and made it play like Dragon Quest to shockingly entertaining results. Somewhere in the middle of that, they found time to make one of the greatest anime/manga based adaptations of all time with Fist Of The North Star: Lost Paradise. Also, a few members of the team got their start at Sega making Super Monkey Ball, so they remastered one of those out of boredom, I presume?
Somehow, between development of Yakuza 6 and Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, they also made an outstanding procedural courtroom drama/murder mystery called Judgment. Now knowing all that, I defy anyone to name a dev who was even in the same galaxy as RGGS last gen.
Judgment first came Westward in June 2019, and I could spend many paragraphs explaining how wonderful Takayuki Yagami’s investigative beatdown of both the Japanese mafia and the Japanese pharmaceutical industry truly is, but Darren already did that for us back when the game launched on PS4. I’m in near-universal agreement with his assessment, and I encourage those who have not played Judgment to read his thorough breakdown. In short, it uses the assets, settings, cultural tropes, and mechanics cultivated over years from the Yakuza franchise to create a completely separate adventure that is uniquely its own thing. It’s a fantastic yarn to untangle, and before this review gets negative, I want to firmly stress that the main takeaway I hope people get from this review is that they should play Judgment.
That just got easier with Judgment ceasing to be a PS4 exclusive and coming to next generation platforms. This should be a happy occasion, but as a satisfied customer of the PlayStation 4 version, I can’t help but shake the feeling Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s most ardent supporters got the raw end of this deal.
Like other Dragon engine games (Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami 2, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon), Judgment struggled to maintain a solid framerate on base model PS4s while topping out at a relatively stable 30fps in 1080p on PS4 Pro models. On PS5, the game runs at a rock-solid 60fps in 1440p — a substantial improvement — but the only other enhancements are some slightly improved shadow effects and faster load times. Judgment on PS5 also contains all the DLC from the first release, but these mostly amount to buffs for the drone flying mini-game and some outlandish outfits for companions.
The enhancements make an already-stellar-looking title shine a bit brighter, and the framerate in particular tightens up the combat a great deal. However, I would probably be more impressed if I hadn’t been playing the PS5 version of Yakuza: Like a Dragon for the past month. Here we have two games made by the same developer, published by the same company, and sharing the exact same engine while also featuring the exact same enhancements from PS4 to PS5, yet one is a free upgrade and one is $40. In fact, the free Like a Dragon upgrade is actually superior, because it offers players a 4K30 option that Judgment‘s PS5 version does not.
And that right there is the problem — the precedent for free upgrades has already been set by Sega themselves.
The PlayStation 5 has been out for over five months now, and cross-generation releases have almost universally adopted upgrade paths for digital and physical owners of previous iterations, most of which are free. PS4 games like Crash 4, Final Fantasy XIV, and Hitman III all gave free upgrades to existing owners. Tony Hawk 1+2 did charge $10 for an upgrade, but at least it had true next-gen features like a high framerate mode for 120hz displays and full DualSense controller support. Judgment on PS5 has neither. Furthermore, instead of releasing next-gen versions, games like the recent Destroy All Humans! Remake, Star Wars: Squadrons, and a litany of Sony PS4 exclusives simply got patches to recognize and take advantage of new hardware, and a few of those are enhanced even further than Judgment‘s PS5-exclusive version.
The bottom line here? Instead of adopting what is a clear industry standard at this point, Sega is trying a new move and already-existing fans of Judgment will have to pay $40 if they want the enhanced experience. Control: Ultimate Edition and Devil May Cry V: Special Edition may have also been $40 with no upgrade paths for previous iterations, but those both offered substantially more enhancements than what Sega have given us here.
While I’m elated that this underappreciated gem gets another chance at the spotlight and also excited for the new fans who will discover it for the first time, the choice to charge those who’ve already supported the game on PS4 feels like a cash grab given how other re-releases have been handled thus far, and the situation is made even worse by how little the game is actually enhanced.
Judgment is a wonderful title that’s absolutely worth playing. New players coming in at $40 will have a fantastic time, and Ryu Ga Gotoku’s work comes with the highest possible recommendation, but the choice to burn owners of the original PS4 release was the wrong one.
Disclosures: This game was developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and published by Sega. This game is available on XBX/S and PS5. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS5 with an HDR Certified 4KTV. An estimated 2 hours of play were devoted to playing this version of the game for technical analysis, and while this version of the game was not completed, the reviewer has completed the game on another platform. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game has been rated M by the ESRB for Intense Violence, Strong Language, Blood, Partial Nudity, and Use of Alcohol. Judgment is a procedural drama centering around the criminal underworld, and all it entails. On top of the ample swearing, sexual imagery and brutal violence, the subject matter and methodical pacing isn’t suited for young ones, or even teens. This is a game for adults.
Colorblind Modes: The game features no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has subtitle options during cutscnes, and the dialogue is presented in thin white font. The size of the text is not able to be resized or altered. All dialogue and instructions are provided in text, and there are no necessary audio cues. I’d say it’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game’s controls are not remappable, but both the camera and first person perspective mode can be inverted.