Yakuza: Dead Souls Review

Mundane combat and a lackluster use of its characters prevent Yakuza: Dead Souls from capturing the energy and fierceness of its predecessors.

Kamurocho has seen better days. This pleasure district was once a place where yakuza could relax and enjoy the simple pleasure of clobbering each other in the streets. Alas, those days are over. A zombie outbreak has shifted the focus of life in Kamurocho from brawling with the living to killing the undead. Unfortunately, the heroes and villains of earlier Yakuza games who take center stage in Yakuza: Dead Souls don't bring the same level of panache to gunning down zombies that they do to punching street toughs. It's initially entertaining to see Kamurocho turned upside down by this new crisis and watch these familiar characters facing an unfamiliar threat, but battling these zombies is a tiresome and frustrating process, and the series' signature charm is in short supply.

Don't let the fact that the box art displays four gun-toting heroes fool you; this is not a Left 4 Dead-style multiplayer zombie shooter. Dead Souls is a single-player, third-person game with a story that leaps from one familiar Yakuza character to another to another. You start out playing as Shun Akiyama, the fascinating moneylender who made his debut in Yakuza 4. But as pleasant as it is to see this likable character again, the narrative gives you too little time to appreciate his confident swagger.

It doesn't take long for all hell to break loose and Kamurocho to find itself swarming with zombies, and once that happens, the story becomes a cursory backdrop against which the slaughter of the undead takes place. It has its moments; the unbalanced way in which playable character Goro Majima actually relishes the outbreak for the sporting pleasure of killing zombies is unforgettable, and it all builds up to an outrageous finale in which series lead Kazuma Kiryu confronts a massive monstrosity and shares important life lessons. But these instances are few and far between, and on the whole, the story doesn't deliver the intensity and insanity that have helped make prior Yakuza games so memorable.

Even playing as a guy with a Gatling gun for an arm isn't awesome enough to redeem this combat.

This might be OK if the new brand of combat Dead Souls introduces picked up the slack, but it doesn't. As the four heroes of Dead Souls, you must fight your way through the streets of Kamurocho, and although the Yakuza games have always been about brawling, here, it's almost entirely about gunplay. You run around in third person, blasting zombies out of your way to clear your path from point A to point B or eliminating all the zombies in an area to fulfill an objective. You can do this with pistols, submachine guns, rifles, and Gatling guns; when you're playing as Ryuji Goda, your robotic right arm can transform into one of these massive weapons.

Most zombies are easily put down, but they have strength in numbers, and you frequently find yourself being knocked down by their attacks. Every time this happens, you need to mash X for a moment to get back up on your feet, and getting stuck in a loop of standing up only to promptly be knocked down again is enough to make you throw up your arms in frustration and consider letting the zombies win. To make matters worse, being mobbed by zombies often carries with it the unpleasant side effect of a stuttering frame rate.

If there's one thing we can all learn from the yakuza lifestyle, it's that you can never have too many energy drinks.

Even when it's not being so irritating, the combat is too basic to be enjoyable. When you're fortunate enough to have ammo for a gun that shoots continuously, simply holding down the fire button as you run up to zombies gets the job done with minimal effort on your part. You can stand still and switch to first-person view to target enemies' heads for more efficient kills, but it's rarely worth your time to do so. Despite spots scattered around Kamurocho where you can stock up on ammo and other supplies, at times you may find yourself needing to rely on your pistols to put zombies down. These pistols have infinite ammo, but each bullet needs to be fired individually, so combat becomes a tedious matter of pressing the fire button again and again.

A mechanic called heat sniping brings a bit of energy to the action, though it's not enough to bring the shambling corpse that is the game's combat back to life. Whenever your heat snipe gauge is full enough (which it frequently is), certain objects in the environment are highlighted. These are typically--though not always--explosive items, such as oil drums and gas tanks on cars. With the press of a button, you can aim and fire at one of these highlighted objects, at which point the camera dramatically follows your bullets through the air on their collision course with your target.

Successfully making a timed button press during this moment ensures that your bullets hit home and trigger a reaction that causes tremendous damage to zombies in the area. The cinematic flair these moments bring to the carnage is welcome, but you can employ heat sniping so frequently that it doesn't take long for these scenes to start feeling commonplace.

Amid the run-of-the-mill zombies who constantly block your path are more powerful mutants of various types. Cry babies have screams that can bring other zombies flocking to the area; monkey boys are quick and nimble; and hermits are encased in a thick layer of rock. But these mutants and the other sorts you encounter don't bring a sense of dread with them. Combat can be frustrating and tedious, but it never feels scary and rarely even feels dangerous. As a result, the appearance of mutants carries with it not excitement, but the apprehension that accompanies knowing you have to pump a lot more bullets into these particular zombies to get them out of your way.

You never know when a mannequin might come in handy.
Killing zombies sometimes nets you valuables and materials that you can take to your friendly neighborhood weapon dealer to have your guns and armor strengthened. It's rewarding to sense your guns becoming more effective at mowing zombies down, and in the game's occasional battles with grisly and powerful bosses, the added firepower is a big help. If you want a break from killing zombies, you can engage in the sorts of leisurely pursuits that have always been available in Kamurocho. Yes, during the zombie crisis, you can still stop in to Club Sega and use the UFO catcher, or chat up the ladies at a local hostess club, or swing for the fences at the batting cages.

It's amusing to pop into these establishments in the quarantine zone (after "liberating" them by killing a few zombies hanging outside their doors) only to find people inside enjoying themselves with no apparent cares about the trouble happening right outside. But you can also get through the entire game without touching any of this content at all. It's not integrated into the game in any meaningful way, and it's all the same stuff you may have already experienced in earlier Yakuza games. In other words, it's not very interesting, and it's easily ignored.

Don't let a little thing like a zombie outbreak prevent you from getting your shogi on.

Unfortunately, the problems with the combat, which makes up the majority of the game, cannot be ignored so easily. At its best, that combat is inoffensive but unremarkable. At its worst, it's tedious and infuriating. The game's four heroes radiate charisma but get too few opportunities to shine, and the recycled attractions of Kamurocho provide little incentive to visit these crowded streets. At least there's hope that this dark chapter in Kamurocho's history won't be the last. Much like the yakuza who populate it, you just can't keep a good entertainment district down.

The Good
Story has a few terrific moments
Improving your weapons provides a rewarding sense of progress
The Bad
Bland, frequently frustrating combat
Fails to capitalize on its charismatic leading men
Poor integration of Kamurocho's attractions
5.5
Mediocre
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51 comments
hahamanin
hahamanin

finally got the game and i have been playing it since the last three days and i have to say especially that the gamespot and ign reviews are totally wrong......for yakuza or zombie fans or not..u will enjoy this game and as for the controls they are dead easy

RenVeto
RenVeto

why is there no video review :(

LikeADragon
LikeADragon

although its not a brawler, I enjoyed this alot. And With Kazuma Kiryu, even though the controls are not the classic mano a mano, I always know that I still wanna Kick ass

j1965
j1965

I am enjoying the game and it's subtitles,that is why i brought  a ps3!

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

I find myself smiling seeing all the trolls coming out and giving this game hell because of Carolyn Petit whose recent reviews of late have been nothing but off the mark on several different games.  I personally think she needs a vacation or something because this game is fun super fun like going to a arcade and blowing a pocket full of quarters fun.  Yes sometimes the gun play can get tedious and repetive but then again what game doesn't?  Not to mention the yakuza odd twist of humor thrown into survival horror like arcade action.  If your a yakuza fan don't miss this game its everything the main series has plus upgradeable guns its worth checking out.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

I don't own the game but when I was at my brother's house this morning I started a new game and played it for 2 hours. It really is very enjoyable and will keep you hooked. 5.5 may be Carolyn's opinion but I can assure you that it will not reflect the opinion of most players. Buy it. I know I will.

bats94
bats94

It looks easy when compared with Yakuza 4-pistols with infinite ammo? I prefer using my fists much more.

gamekingpin
gamekingpin

I have not written a review for a game in a long time but I had to for this one because it definately diserved a better score. This game is fun fun fun, Gunning down hundreds of zombies Yakuza style!!! Frank West wished he could have did it like this.

shalashaska88
shalashaska88

I knew this was a bad idea. Yakuza 5 please!

SDFKrusher
SDFKrusher

I have to disagree with Carolyn on this review. I love the Yakuza series, and this spin-off is a worthy entry. Controls may be clunky, but they're nothing you can't get used to. The Yakuza formula still works great here and couple that with the wonderfully eccentric cast and you have a winner. Not everyone's cup of tea, sure, but worth checking out if you're tired of the usual military shooter swill.

snowblood1970
snowblood1970

Takes a minute to get used to the controls...other then that i love it!! Deserves more then a 5.5....common GS

zaero121
zaero121

I personally love the yakuza games and am fully aware that this seems to be a mediocre spin off.. but what yakuza fan doesn't want to run around as majima with a shotgun :)

MafiaMusic
MafiaMusic

typical mediocre PS3 exclusive. Just slap an only on PS logo on a box and its like the kiss of death. Terrible game.

Dumper1
Dumper1

ninjasung Posted Mar 22, 2012 11:02 am GMT They should get a English version which people are actually speaking English in the game. I get sick and tried reading the subtitles. You can read? You certainly can't spell. ;)

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

The game collectively is meant to be taken in as a sort of "what if" novelty. It's events don't impact the actual Yakuza game storyline whatsoever. If you like the Yakuza games, and you like to shoot zombies, you will no doubt have fun with the game as I am. Like a few people have already mentioned, gunning down zombies by the thousands is undeniably repetitive to a certain extent, but it's also really fun in this game's instance. Collecting materials to improve weapons, leveling up, and doing the side stories is a good time as well. So in short, if you like the actual Yakuza games and gunning down zombies is your idea of a good time, you should be playing this game already, anyone else it will be extremely hit or miss.

Xiosis
Xiosis

To bad GS didn't give this game a better score. I'm still buying it, when the price drops.

wamsy102938
wamsy102938

I knew this game would suck the second I saw it on "On the Spot." Good call gamespot!

ninjasung
ninjasung

They should get a English version which people are actually speaking English in the game. I get sick and tried reading the subtitles.

lpsyco666
lpsyco666

5.5 sorry but this is a very good...for this crap...

TheZanmato
TheZanmato

Yakuza doesn't need spin-offs :( Sega should release the English version of Yakuza: Kenzan instead of making Dead Souls :/ I'll just play Yakuza 4 :P

NS_Sonic204
NS_Sonic204

@sleepnsurf Surely, and hopefully, you are kidding.

Aderdunn_3
Aderdunn_3

Idc about the score...Seems fun to me...I'll definately try it!

Raxyman
Raxyman

@sleepnsurf *cough cough* BIOWARE *cough cough* That is trash...

strandny
strandny

@sleepnsurf "Japanese games are trash." It is possible that Western gamers (industry) are trash instead.

pokecharm
pokecharm

sad this wasn't better, but solid review, Caro :)

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@Arsyad00 *whispers* .....it's because it isn't on the 360...

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

The saddest part is that the team pretty much got the gunplay spot on for Binary Domain - if we could've had a combination of the two...

Banefire76
Banefire76

I agree with the reviewers comments for the most part but the game is much more enjoyable than a 5.5. The game would have been awesome if it had the engine used by the Yakuza team - Binary Domain. Then this game would have been a 10/10 easily!

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

Mindless Zombie killing think with some Yakuza as protagonist. That's all I wanted and That's all I got; exactly what the game wanted to achieve. I have no complains about it.

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

so many good game getting bad score . Conspiracy......

scratchisme
scratchisme

how do the graphics look that bad. It's almost like an old time crisis look.

Masenkoe
Masenkoe

Man... tough. I still wanna try it though

BSEE10
BSEE10

Mediocre... as expected.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

Pfft.... review doesn't matter much to me since I'm still having a ball playing it. This is just a nice little fanservice version of the series to me, it's nothing to take to seriously otherwise. It certainly worth more to me rating-wise than a 5.5. Hey, at least GS enjoyed it more than ORC....... (ooooo, I know, not right but couldn't resist, lol)

FlameEmperor
FlameEmperor

@B-boy not sure if your a troll or just stupid....

theJBlounge
theJBlounge

Hopefully this is a spinoff and not a reinvention of the series. I sadly have the PS2 Yakuza games but I haven't played them yet. In that long queue of games I need to play.

BillyColeman
BillyColeman

eh 5.5 game was a 7.5 to me its fun and easy to play/get into and i played the jpn ver

MonsieurEek
MonsieurEek

It seems like this game was in part developed as a test bed for Binary Domain, so the shooting mechanics ended up being not very refined.

elbert_b_23
elbert_b_23

the yakuza games hardly get good reviews and its a shame its a great series and i am loving this game but dead souls is fan service game and thats the big problem with this game and regarding the problems with the combat i don't get that it works well for me

TheGuardian03
TheGuardian03

Does it matter what it scores ? This is my favourite game this year so far, play the game and make your own opinion people don't let a score decide for you, at least rent it.

mystic_knight
mystic_knight moderator

I don't know, Carolyns points were all fairly accurate, it just seems the score doesn't actually reflect the comments so to say. Like oldgeezer99 i felt the quality was still there, and i too was giving it a 7. Regardless of the score, its an opinion from a pretty good reviewer, i would recommend the game especially since i love the Yakuza series, to be honest the biggest problem was actually the control scheme, Yakuza was never intended to be a shooting game, but the same mechanics with a shooting element did not really work for it. The gameplay itself is actually kinda fun.

B-boy
B-boy

japanes game delopent should stop game, you are making so bad

Wrathesoul
Wrathesoul

What is going on with the reviewers here at GS they having their monthly issues or something.. They keep giving good games midcore or worse reviews makes me wonder if the same person is reviewing them all and just wants to mislead people and on top of that the fanboys who live off every word a reviewer gives will make it worse causing people to not play something which they would really enjoy. This is a sad shame. Its not the games so much that are going downhill its the few sites who review them that are linked together and dont want to look like the outcast and say its good when the others want to make it look bad..Not impressed guys be the black sheep play it and rate it for the true item it is not what the other kids are saying.. Plenty of great good score reviews all over the net.

OldGeezer99
OldGeezer99

addendum: the reviewer's points are mostly all well written and correct, so thanks for those. and the gameplay engine is showing it's age, would be nice to see more particle/lighting based engine like in battlezone or other new releases, in yakuza 5. if you're a fan of the series it's worth getting, kind of like soul calibur 5, it's not perfect but if you're a fan it's good to get.

OldGeezer99
OldGeezer99

I disagree with a 5.5 rating, I would say a 7.0 or 7.5 is more fair. I liked the sense of urgency that the city closing off posed, and the bosses (like the final boss scene) were memorable. The charm of hostesses, karaoke, batting, darts and other mini games are still there, and having guns instead of just tedious fist-brawling like prior ones was a welcome change of pace. I think it would help to have a new city for Yakuza 5, since kamurocho while familiar is tired now. The gameplay is reasonably good, I finished this game in 16 hours and had a blast. Overall a decent enough game, much more gameplay time than sp mode with recent fps releases, and replay modes extend that further. It's a great series, would be nice to get a new city. Majima was funny and Kazuma was good to play as always. I'd give it a B rating, not an A but certainly not an F. Too harsh rating... as a longtime Yakuza fan I'd say this was worth playing, glad I bought it, I'll replay it in years ahead as I do the others, it's fun.

Yakuza: Dead Souls More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    The legends of Kamurocho make their final stand in the latest PS3 installment in the Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku series.
    6.7
    Average User RatingOut of 113 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Sega
    Published by:
    Sega
    Genres:
    Action, 3D, Open-World, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol