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Review

Judgment Review - Like A Tiger

  • First Released Jun 21, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Jun 20, 2019
  • PS4

"Don't you know we have gun laws in this country!?"

It's a strange thing to knowingly bid farewell to a fictional character you've followed for over a decade, and then learn to love their replacement. I teared up a little when longtime protagonist Kazama Kiryu finally exited the Yakuza series (presumably for good) at the end of The Song Of Life. But as we wait for Yakuza to begin anew in earnest, Ryu ga Gotoku Studio has crafted a different opportunity to revisit the staple setting of Kamurocho as newcomer Takayuki Yagami, a disgraced defense attorney turned private investigator. And fortunately, despite some unremarkable additions to the standard RGG template, by the end of Judgment it's hard not to feel like you want to spend dozens upon dozens more hours with Yagami and friends.

Yagami might not be a yakuza, and Judgment might not be a mainline Yakuza game, but you'd be mistaken for thinking that the overarching narrative of Judgment doesn't heavily adopt the criminal theatrics that RGG Studio has become known for. While the plot kicks off with a relatively straightforward investigation into a serial killer, Yagami's investigation into it uncovers a vast, complicated and interweaving conspiracy of secrecy and betrayal that involves the history of the cast, the Japanese legal system, the Tokyo police department, multiple yakuza factions, and higher stakes beyond. It's an unsurprising escalation, but it's told in such a way that keeps you glued to the screen--the mystery is gripping, the drama is irresistible, and the performances are excellent.

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Yagami and his partner Kaito are the primary emotional conduits, and they remain incredibly empathetic and genuinely likable characters throughout. They have interesting personal dilemmas and arcs of their own, and a warm, convincing dynamic together, regularly joking around and pulling one another's chains, and sharing determination when they need to. Kaito is a former yakuza who acts as the brawn to Yagami's brains--though Yagami still manages to be an impossible kung-fu savant, for reasons that are never truly explained in any meaningful way, and in skinny jeans, no less. The two bring a delightful vibe to the otherwise serious nature of the story, and they are treasures.

In some ways, Yagami is more believable and well-defined as a protagonist than Kiryu was in the Yakuza series. Where you were often encouraged to put Kiryu, a typically unwavering deity of honor, through uncharacteristic sojourns into weirdly perverse pursuits, Yagami rarely acts in a way that feels out of character, nor are you allowed to get involved in anything that goes against his demeanor. It's a notable quality that helps to make him more consistently likable, even if he does do something you think is idiotic.

Judgment's side activities do their best to reflect Yagami's nature. Side missions are mostly framed as citizens calling upon Yagami for his private investigator services, though are still a place for RGG Studio's penchant for absurdism to get a workout. More interesting is the game's Friend system, which allows you to befriend dozens of unique individuals spread across Kamurocho, whether via side missions or their own discrete activities. Performing a variety of tasks in service of a person will level up your friendship with them, eventually giving you access to perks like secret items on a restaurant menu or a helping hand in combat. It's a nice thematic element that rounds out Yagami's character as a good-natured, friendly neighborhood PI.

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The uncomfortably debaucherous side of RGG games is still present in Judgment, though it's mostly left to be associated with the more unsavory characters and aspects of the plot rather than Yagami himself. That means the saucier activities of Kamurocho are gone, including the entertaining cabaret club management minigame. Instead, there's a dating aspect where you can grow closer to women Yagami has already befriended over the course of the game, which involves regular interactions via in-game text messages, and eventually a series of dates. It feels more wholesome as a result, though only as wholesome as a 35-year-old man dating a 19-year old can be.

Elsewhere in the game's entertaining array of side distractions, Judgment features an incredibly robust Mario Party-esque board game, a two-player port of Fighting Vipers, an original light-gun shooter called Kamuro Of The Dead, an obviously-made-in-a-different-game-engine version of pinball, and drone racing. That's on top of a healthy, familiar selection of Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Puyo Puyo, UFO catchers, darts, batting cages, Mahjong, Shogi, and various casino card games, among other activities, all seen in previous Yakuza titles.

There are plenty of other familiar aspects that return from previous Yakuza games, but not all of them shake out to be in Judgment's favor. For example, while the game's major cinematics are lovingly rendered and animated as always, lesser, more stilted character models with cold, dead eyes still dominate a lot of the game's cutscenes and suck some emotion out of the otherwise excellent drama.

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Kamurocho is another weary aspect, which is an admittedly blasphemous notion at first--the district itself still feels lively, bustling, and full of things to do--but this is still very much the Dragon Engine-era Kamurocho from Yakuza 6 and Yakuza Kiwami 2, both of which released a year prior. But it's not just the fact that Kamurocho is still relatively fresh in your mind if you've been following the series closely (there are only a handful of new interiors), it's Judgment's lack of a meaty palette cleanser--nearly all Yakuza games since the 2005 original have featured an additional city to free-roam in, or at least additional protagonists to help add a bit of excitement to the series' familiar formula. Judgment has a tiny additional interior location situated outside of Kamurocho, but it's purely a story setpiece.

Conversely, many of Judgment's attempts to add to the core Ryu ga Gotoku template wear out their welcome almost immediately. Yagami's position as a lawyer-turned-private-eye means there are a lot of segments that involve tailing and chasing people, getting into places he isn't supposed to, searching for clues, and making deductions. The prospect of performing all of these thematically appropriate activities would be attractive were they not all mechanically boring in practice.

Tailing and chasing people are the biggest offenders, made worse by the Judgment's heavy reliance on them. Slowly following targets through the city while trying not to let the targets spot you (they're all very on edge) is a dull, slow, and arduous process which is often made more frustrating by the infamous RGG Studio movement system, which is clunky at the best of times. A reliance on predetermined hiding spots strips the act of any dynamics and creativity. Chases are faster but equally monotonous auto-running sequences where you need to steer Yagami left and right within a set path, avoid any obstacles, and perform the regular quicktime event to keep up with a target. With the exception of one amusing sequence on a skateboard, the game's numerous chases are all ultimately stale, when they should get your heart pumping.

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Searching for clues and making deductions are poised to be the more attractive mechanics due to the game's legal bent--Yagami will sometimes need to search an area in first-person for clues or explain a hypothesis or contradiction. But these moments are let down by being incredibly straightforward, and expecting something that sits anywhere near to what you might find in a Danganronpa or Ace Attorney game would be misguided. You're provided with a checklist of things to find during search scenes, meaning the discoveries don't feel revelatory--but finding the hidden cats is the real treat here. Deduction segments feel more like opportunities for the game to make sure you've been paying attention to the story so far, rather than a chance for you to join the dots and stumble upon the discovery for yourself.

While the mystery in Judgment is certainly a journey that you're merely accompanying Yagami on, the lack of player agency in the detective segments makes them feel like a useless chore. There are two different types of lockpicking minigames--which are fine, if uninspiring--and there's also a bizarrely unexciting mechanic where you have to choose which key on Yagami's keyring to use when entering certain doors. The most interesting new idea is the addition of a couple of brief sequences where you play as one of Yagami's co-workers and go undercover, which only left me wanting to see that idea explored even further.

Ultimately, most of Yagami's progress is made by doing what all good protagonists in RGG games do best--kicking the shit out of people. Yagami has two different kung-fu influenced fighting styles: Crane style is designed to deal with groups of enemies, whereas Tiger style focuses on single-target damage. Fighting starts off feeling a bit clunky and limiting--especially the flashier Crane style, whose moves come with long recoveries and see Yagami spend more time doing flips than landing hits--but this changes over time as you upgrade Yagami's combo speeds and attack damage, making the risk of opening yourself up more viable. Tiger style is more intricate and versatile, however, with a much larger and more powerful variety of moves to unlock and use--including an exploding palm technique that's a blast to use again and again.

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Additional fighting techniques are introduced to flesh out Yagami's flashy, acrobatic style and include the ability to leapfrog enemies, wall jump, and link attacks off those maneuvers. The Yakuza series' explosive "Heat" moves appear as "EX" moves, allowing you to execute devastating cinematic special attacks, reliant on specific environmental and combat situations. Despite not being a Yakuza game, combat is your primary interaction with the world in Judgment. Fighting all sorts of delinquents, gangsters, and at one point, a group of academic researchers is still very entertaining, though, and it's great that there are abundant opportunities for you to lay down some street justice.

It's disappointing to realize that Judgment is at its best when it veers closer to the mold that it came from. Even though the game's familiar fighting and side activities will happily keep you occupied, it's a shame that the most intriguing and unique additions are also the dullest things about Judgment, because the new roster of characters have been wonderfully crafted otherwise. Yagami, Kaito, and the supporting cast are incredibly endearing, and following their every move as they unravel the sinister machinations looming under the surface of Kamurocho is a sensational journey. I can't wait to return to these characters, but I'm hoping we can all do something different next time.

Back To Top
The Good
Yagami, Kaito, and the cast of supporting characters are absolutely wonderful
Intriguing mystery drama
Plenty of entertaining side activities
The Bad
Detective-themed minigames are tedious, irritating
Investigative segments are too straightforward to feel worthwhile
No location variety eventually makes Kamurocho feel stale
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Edmond Tran has played and loved almost every single Ryu ga Gotoku game, even the Japan-only Kenzan! and Ishin!, which he understood none of. He spent about 40 hours playing Judgment with code provided by the publisher.
23 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for deactivated-5d4e6334bc1ce

Looks good!

Can't wait to give it a go.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

By the way, if you haven't been to Japan, and you are planning to go there, think twice about ordering anything that has meat from their fast food outlets.

It's not that their meats would poison you (hardly), it's that their meats have been heavily marinated.

You are more likely to taste whatever that gave them their flavour than you would the taste of iron/copper that you would get from less-marinated meat. You wouldn't know how fresh their meat is if they have been heavily marinated. (Their marinates are anti-oxidant enough to preserve meat for a long time.)

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Oh grud, that selfie with a beat-up Yagami at a fast food outlet with a waitress.

It's the perpetuation of the entertainingly infamous trope / design limitation of NPCs never responding to how the player character actually looks.

Heck, the only times that I recall where NPCs actually do acknowledge the player character's exterior appearance is when the player character goes around with nothing equipped and in their undies like in Elder Scrolls - or completely naked like in Saints Row III or IV.

But they don't bat an eyelid when the player character wears nonsensical shit, and also not in cutscenes (think Dead Rising).

Avatar image for Soulglove
Soulglove

Thank you, Edmond

Avatar image for midna
Midna

Cannot wait to play this! Ryu Ga Gotoku never disappoint.

Avatar image for balugha
Balugha

I cancelled my pre-order as soon as I saw the many "walk and hide" quests that Assassin's Creed games are filled with....

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

I'm looking forward to a PC version with much better graphics and performance. It's a good thing that Sega now considers the Yakuza series and such to be a mult-platform series.

Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

@lonesamurai00: Are you now claiming that Judgement is confirmed for PC like you did with RDR2?

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

@aross2004: How can I confirm that, although it is obvious that they are destined for a PC release.

Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

@lonesamurai00: I was referencing your claim that RDR2 had been confirmed for PC when it has not. Like you, I also assume that it will land on PC at some point, but an assumption does not equal a confirmation.

I was just trying to determine if this was another of those times where you use your assumptions to claim that there was a confirmation.

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

@aross2004: I'm not making an assumption, it's more of an... educated guess based on current trends - BUT since you don't like assumptions let's use some common sense based on even more of the current industry trends.

1. Developers at GDC (Game Developers Conference for the uninformed), have for the past five years proclaimed the PC platform as the most important platform for making their games.

2. Many developers have held back games on the PC platform for further development to insure that the game is great on what they deem their most important platform - makes sense to hold games back for more development time if it is the most important platform to your company doen't it.

3. Every third-party game releases on the PC today, some on PC first, some are PC/Xbox, some only on PC/Switch, and some only on PC/PS4, but they all eventually release on the PC.

4. Many game series that were never on the PC before are now on the PC platform - some of which are remastered last gen games that have not been remastered for current gen consoles, but only for the PC.

5. The CEO at Take-Two says that releasing Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PC would be a good thing.

"Dead Redemption 2 On PC Would Have 'No Downside,' Take-Two CEO Says"

https://www.gameinformer.com/2019/06/07/releasing-red-dead-redemption-2-on-pc-would-have-no-downside-take-two-ceo-says

6. Sega states that PC and mobile will become their primary focus.

"Sega wants to focus more on overseas and PC markets. Profits have dropped for two consecutive years, but PC ports have been helping"

https://www.pcgamer.com/sega-wants-to-focus-more-on-overseas-and-pc-markets/

Now these are the current standards in the video game industry, and as such, I never needed to give any confirmation of anything because the industry has already done it for me.

Your response please?

Avatar image for zackgrutza
zackgrutza

@lonesamurai00: IF the Yakuza 3,4,5 remasters come out they will definitely be hitting ps4 before PC. hell I could see Judgment coming out on PC before the Yakuza remasters

Avatar image for stephen2532
stephen2532

@lonesamurai00: honestly the way Kiwami 2 on pc is a mess I would not expect much SSAO looks bad and need more options for AA so I doubt it will be better

Avatar image for zackgrutza
zackgrutza

@stephen2532: LMAO what problems? YK2 is nowhere near a mess IF you look at the reviews. hell if probably your PC if you cant run it

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

@stephen2532: Bottom line is however it looks it will surely be better on the PC - that's my point that the PC will be the best version.

Avatar image for stephen2532
stephen2532

@lonesamurai00: I understand that much

A user has gone through and saw all the engine problems on the steam forums also

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

@stephen2532: I have purchased and finished every Yakuza game without one issue whatsoever. The sentiment for the games on Steam is very positive, in fact the reviews on Steam are mostly about the gameplay and hardly at all about anything else.

Kiwami 2 is not a mess. none of the Yakuza games are any kind of a mess, not in terms of game performance entirely. Now if you are having issues then they are your issues.

To call the game a mess is just inaccurate on your part. To say the game is a mess implies that the game has pervasive, widespread issues and they just don't, so it's fair to say that the game has been a mess for you and your PC.

PC Gamer reviewed it and came out with an 88/100, which is an extremely high score. Again these may be your issues alone. Sega themselves are very happy with sales of the game on Steam, which is why they are now proclaiming the game to be a multi-platform game with both PC and PS4 from here on. Perhaps it is a reflection on the health of your particular computer.

Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

@lonesamurai00: I've never finished a Yakuza game :), but I do enjoy them.

Avatar image for Mraou
Mraou

I'll wait for the PC version.

Avatar image for siarhei
siarhei

Preorder cancelled :)

Avatar image for nsa_protocol44
NSA_Protocol44

@siarhei: LOL

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Judgment More Info

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  • First Released Jun 21, 2019
    released
    • PlayStation 4
    Judgment is the next game from Yakuza developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.
    8.3
    Average Rating7 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Judgment
    Developed by:
    Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
    Published by:
    Sega
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol