Yakuza: Of the End First Impressions

The gritty Japanese mafia series takes a sharp turn towards zombie town, and we were there to try to find out why.

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Sega's Yakuza series is best known for being a gritty, if often over-the-top, portrayal of life in the Japanese crime underworld. That reputation is about to change significantly, with the newest game in the franchise--Yakuza: Of the End--shifting gears considerably by introducing zombies. You read that correctly--there will be zombies (and plenty of them) in the next Yakuza game.

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Of course, with the previous game in the series--Yakuza 4--yet to be released in Western markets, the wait for Sega's undead epic could be quite a ways off. Yakuza: Of the End wasn't playable at this year's Tokyo Game Show, but Sega was showing off quite a lot about the game via an extended trailer at the publisher's booth.

The long-form trailer was only in Japanese, so we had to try to pick up details about the game as best we could. When it comes to story, it seems that the Kamurocho district (based on the real-world Kabukicho area in Shinjuku) has been overrun by the living dead. With the situation getting worse by the hour, the army decides to cordon off the area, erecting large metal walls around Kamurocho to contain the zombie hordes.

Into all of this comes four characters from previous games in the Yakuza series. The man with a predilection for white leisure suits--Kazuma Kiryu--is back, as are Yakuza 2's Ryuji Goda, Yakuza 4's Shun Akiyama, and the eye-patch-wearing Goro Majima. All four will be playable, although it wasn't entirely clear from the presentation what form co-op play would take. What the presentation did show was that Of the End will have a much heavier focus on guns, with each of the four characters specialising in a specific weapon. Kazuma sports a high-power rifle, Akiyama wields dual pistols, Goro has a shotgun, and Ryuji has a Gatling gun attached to his arm. Each character will be able to use other weapons, but it seems they'll have greater proficiency with their favourite boomsticks.

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While the zombies in Of the End number in the thousands, they look to be a different breed from the ones shuffling around in that other zombies-overrun-the-world series, Dead Rising. The undead in this new Yakuza game look like they'll be fast moving and aggressive, running after the game characters as soon as they spot them. There will be other monsters to take on, too. The presentation showcased a few giant-sized enemies, as well as some creepy-looking opponents that shuffled around on four legs.

Guns won't be your only method of dispatching foes in the game. Vehicles look to be drivable, with one scene showing off one of the game's characters piloting a tank to mow down the undead. Objects in the environment can also be used--some examples shown included shooting the gas tanks of abandoned cars to cause explosions and shooting platforms to let loose heavy debris to crush enemies.

Variety looks to be a key ingredient in this particular zombie apocalypse. Even though the dead have risen from their graves, it doesn't mean that the generous number of minigame and side-quest activities of previous Yakuza games won't be a feature of this title. Your chosen playable character can still partake in activities like table tennis, fishing, pachinko, mahjong, darts, and more.

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Yakuza: Of the End is definitely a major departure for this franchise, but based on what we saw at TGS 2010, it looks like it'll be a fun diversion. There's plenty more to find out about this game--including if and when it'll make it outside of Japan--so keep it tuned to GameSpot for the latest information.

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