Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have been best known for the Yakuza franchise over the years but two years ago they released a spin-off called Judgment. While Judgment was set in the same world as the Yakuza franchise, it introduced an entirely new set of characters as well as tried some new things in the gameplay like investigations. In my original review of the PS4 version, I mentioned how much I really enjoyed the story, new characters, and the wide number of things there were to do in the world but some of the investigation elements left me a bit disappointed. If you missed Judgment back then the teams have now released a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series version and while it doesn’t improve the areas I found fault with, it does look and play much better than it did two years ago.
The story of Judgment focuses on Yagami Takayuki, a shamed former lawyer who is now working as a private investigator. In his new profession, Yagami finds himself on the trail of a serial killer who is killing yakuza members and who’s calling card is to leave his victims bodies with no eyes. Once again taking place in the familiar city of Kamurocho, Yagami will be collecting evidence, investigating crime scenes, gathering information from various characters and more. I won’t touch on the main story too much for sake of spoilers but I found it to be gripping, emotional, and interesting from start to finish. There are plenty of plot twists and chapters will end with events that will have you wanting to start the next one right away to see what happens next. Almost the entire cast of characters, such as Yagami’s partner Masaharu Kaito, is well written and interesting to learn about as well.
The city of Kamurocho is once again a joy to explore and engage in the activities it has on display. The world isn’t anywhere near as big as what you would find in other open world titles but fans of this studio’s past games know they always load them with side activities to help give you different things to do throughout the game and Judgment is no different. There are sidequests you can go on and plenty of minigames to play such as arcade games which I always enjoy. These range from things like Puyo Puyo to Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers and a little fun fact is that you can even play some of these against another player in two player mode. There is a House of the Dead like light gun game called Kamuro of the Dead to play, you can go play poker, go on dates with various female characters, take part in drone races, and even jump into a virtual reality board game (no this game doesn’t support PlayStation VR sadly). Side missions are fun too and vary from serious matters to more fun and goofy missions that had me laughing at what was transpiring. RGG studio once again nails the side content which helps make this 50+ hour adventure even more worth taking on.
If you’ve played a Yakuza game then the combat in this will feel very familiar to you. If you’re new to these games altogether don’t worry as it’s pretty easy to pick up and learn. When in combat Yagami can use two different fighting styles with one being better suited for one on one battles and the other being better suited for fights with multiple foes. Objects in the environment can be interacted with and used as weapons as well so always keep your eyes open for those. An EX meter can be used once it has been filled up and allows you to use special moves similar to the heat moves found in the Yakuza titles. While the combat system is very much like Yakuza it blends in some new moves to help differentiate itself which I appreciated.
Not everything about Judgment is great though as some of the new things this game brings to the table still need some work. For instance I found a lot of the actual detective mechanics to be a bit frustrating and/or boring such as times I would have to tail someone. These missions just aren’t fun and I found there to be too many of them. Investigating crime scenes are also frustrating at times as quite frequently I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be looking for and instead just stumbled upon things by chance. Then there are the points where you have to put evidence together but there isn’t much for the player to actually do here which leaves them feeling a little under baked. None of these things ruin the game or even hurt the appeal of the game too much in my opinion but I would like to see some of them either go away or be improved if we get another game like this.
When Judgment released two years ago, I thought the game looked pretty good but the PlayStation 5 helps make it look and perform even better. The resolution has seen a bump but doesn’t fun at 4K. Instead you’ll get a similar resolution to what Yakuza: Like a Dragon ran at. Another big change visually between the PS4 and PS5 versions is that the lighting engine has had a major overhaul done to it. This helps everything give off more realistic lighting with nighttime scenes being particular beautiful. The game also now runs at 60 frames per second while the original was locked to 30. This helps make the combat and other gameplay much smoother and more enjoyable. Load times have also been improved a lot thanks to the PS5’s SSD.
As far as improvements go though that’s about all Judgment on PS5 brings to the table. It doesn’t make use of the DualSense controller’s features at all and doesn’t have activity support either. It does include the DLC that was released for the original version though. It’s also worth pointing out that there is no free upgrade option for those who own this game already and because of that I have a hard time recommending this to those who already played it, at least at full price. If you haven’t played Judgment yet though this is easily the best version to get and worth every penny of the $40 price tag.
This brings me to the audio which has something new about it that I really appreciated. That is the fact that Judgment actually features a full English voice over cast that is surprisingly pretty good. This is how I played through the game and I found all of the voice actors did a really good job with their lines. Of course, you can still play the game in Japanese if that is what you prefer. I always wished the Yakuza games offered an English dialog option so to finally get it in Judgment was a treat to me. The rest of the audio package is good too with the sound effects of your punches and kicks sounding satisfying and the soundtrack being fun to listen to as well. The trophy list in the game is another challenging one much like the Yakuza games and will have you trying out all kinds of things in the game in order to unlock the Platinum.
Judgment was a great Yakuza spin-off title two years ago and that remains true in 2021 with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series release. While the detective gameplay isn’t as good as it could be it doesn’t detract too much from an otherwise great game. RGG Studio delivers another memorable story full of fun and interesting characters as well as a really detailed world full of fun activities to partake in. It also looks and runs much better than it did before making this the definitive version to play. Whether you’re a fan of the Yakuza franchise or jumping into this world for the very first time, Judgment shouldn’t be missed.
*Judgment is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, and Xbox One. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Has a great story that kept me invested in everything that was going on
- Yagami and the rest of the cast of characters are all really well developed
- Kamurocho is once again full of fun side activities and missions
- Improved picture quality, new lighting, faster load times, and 60FPS make this game shine on PS5
- Great audio and both the English and Japanese voice-overs are excellent
- Tailing missions aren't fun and need to go away
- Investigation gameplay felt boring and frustrating at times
- No free upgrade path for previous owners