Review: Judgment (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required
  • Move None
Title: Judgment
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (9.29 GB)
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Original MSRP: $59.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: M
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Part Yakuza… Part L.A. Noire… Part Streets of Rage… Part Shenmue… Part Phoenix Wright… Part SEGA Emulator… Part Animal Crossing?

Yes, Judgment has ingredients from all of these games, and blends them so well that often I was overwhelmed with the many things I could do. That’s not a complaint, because for the first few hours of Judgment I focused primarily on the story, which happens by default anyway, as some of the extra options in the game only become available as you complete certain story missions.

Much like the Yakuza games, the story in Judgment is pretty engaging, although I did find it a little less goofy, for the most part. I played it with English spoken dialogue, and even the acting was pretty decent (not something I was expecting).

You play as lawyer-turned-detective Takayuki Yagami. Yagami was a criminal defense attorney, until a suspect he defended was set free and murdered someone almost immediately after his release. Filled with guilt, Yagami leaves the field of law and becomes a for-hire investigator. Judgment doesn’t waste time getting started, and you are immediately tasked with investigating a murder case, where one Yakuza member is accused of killing a member from a rival gang.

While fighting is absolutely a core component of Judgment’s gameplay, it is far from being the only one. In fact, I found myself likening my experience to my time with L.A. Noire, what with the investigating component and even interrogations. Arriving at the crime scene, my POV changed to first-person mode, and I was tagging items of interest and logging them into my virtual phone’s clue app, where I could check on characters I’d met and clues I’d discovered.

Later, when interrogating the suspect, I could ask questions based on those clues I had found.

But let’s go back to the fighting component, because even the investigations and additional quests all point back to improving your fighting skills. Much like the Yakuza games, your fighting improves with time and unlocking combos cost SP. SP isn’t only earned in combat, but also throughout your investigations.

For example, when you are questioning a suspect, you can earn extra SP if you ask relevant questions for the case. You aren’t punished for asking the wrong ones, but you simply don’t earn a nice SP bonus. Additionally, you meet people across the city that can become friends. By helping them with their problems, you can also earn SP, in addition to special items (hence my comparison to Animal Crossing).

And then, of course, there is the combat. Very tight combat is key here. A lock-on button allows you to circle your enemies and keep them in check, while different fighting stances (like Yakuza) allow you to focus on single enemy combat, versus crowd control. Using SP unlocks various combos as well as moves that allow you to leap off walls and use the momentum to knock the living hell out of the thugs.

Fights are conducted as random encounters, so you can’t just beat up anyone you see in the street. But the fighting is great, and I often craved the encounters because I wanted a break from the murder mystery and just wanted to beat up some bad guys. I felt the balance here was just right.

I’ve only recently become a fan of the Yakuza games, thanks to the recommendation of a friend, but I immediately was hooked on the gameplay and story. Judgment‘s strengths are no different, and I found plenty to do; yes, even taking a break at the arcade and playing some Fighting Vipers.

Visuals:
So, my experience with the Yakuza games is playing remasters on PS4. I found the graphics to be adequate, with that tell-tale SEGA look. Judgment looks great. It still has that familiar SEGA style and I absolutely love it. The city it teeming with life and character models look great (complete with vibrant and crisp close-up textures). During combat, the animations are fluid and combine with great sound to evoke a feeling of kicking ass.

A lot of buildings are open to exploration, with tiny shops filled with product, cyber cafes, restaurants aplenty, and gambling bars. Interiors also exhibit great detail, with minor articles and boxes decorating the law office. In fact, you can spice your apartment with unlockables throughout the game. And of course there are the arcades, with faithful emulations of popular SEGA classics. The emulations are great and looked sharp on my 4K TV.

Audio:
I wasn’t expecting much out of playing the game in English, except for maybe being chastised by some purists, but I was surprised how well the voice actors did with their lines. Sure, absolutely, there were some cheesy moments (this is Yakuza‘s little brother after all). But during some of the more dramatic scenes, I found a very talented group of voice actors capturing some good emotions. Sorry purists, I don’t regret playing this in English.

Music and effects are perfect for the setting. And speaking of music: you have a record player in your apartment, and you can buy vinyl to play music while you chill in your place.

Online/Multiplayer:
There isn’t really a multiplayer component to Judgment; however, that didn’t stop SEGA from adding a “multiplayer component” to the game in the most endearing way possible. You can play some competitive two-player fighting with Virtua Fighter 5 and Fighting Vipers. And best thing is you can access these from the main menu.

Conclusion:
Post E3 2019, it’s become clear that a lot of the big PlayStation 4 games aren’t coming until 2020. I’m very glad for that, because Judgment contains all the perfect elements of a AAA title, with memorable characters, great action, and plenty to do. Surrounded by titles with more recognizable names, it might have been overlooked. But it sits proudly this summer, and I hope gamers take note. I was guilty of ignoring the Yakuza games for years. But I’ll not make that mistake again. Not after playing them and experiencing Judgment. These are great games, and this one made the formula a little thicker, while still maintaining that familiar flavor that Yakuza fans enjoy.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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