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The makers of the Yakuza series have left organised crime behind, and the results are nothing short of gripping.

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Judgment, a spinoff from Sega's Yakuza series, unfolds at a pivotal moment in protagonist Takayuki Yagami's career. Shinpei Okubo, the man who he has just helped walk free on murder charges has just struck again, butchering his girlfriend to death and torching their shared apartment to the ground. Yagami is then burdened by insurmountable guilt and due to mounting pressure has no choice but to step away from his dream job of being a lawyer. Things are then moved forward three years and we see that Yagumi has set up his own detective agency and has taken on the case of a serial killer who disturbingly gouges out the eyes of his victims before taking them out with the trash. Catching this mysterious killer is at the centre of Judgment's grizzly plot and could be the only shot Yagami has at redemption.

Western fans will be pleased to learn that Judgment is fully voice acted in English and the voice work here is top notch despite it being a secondary cast. With the story being so dependent on cutscenes and character interaction we are pleased that this has been added as it can be difficult to follow subtitles for longer periods of time. We should note, however, that side missions and friend encounters don't have this same layer of polish (probably due to their frequency) and are void of voice work with the character's just awkwardly mumbling at one another, almost like we had moved from watching a Hollywood movie to playing Banjo-Koozie on the N64.

The crime-solving elements are where Judgment deviates itself the most from the Yakuza series. When building your case you will have to complete detective work such as examining crime scenes, trailing suspects, and conducting interviews. We liked that during select conversations we were rewarded (with XP) for asking the most useful questions and presenting the right evidence to those who we interviewed. This helped us to feel more invested in the cases as things were much more interactive and it made sure that we were paying full attention. What we didn't enjoy though were the chasing and trailing segments. During these sequences, you are just propelled forward on a linear path with QTE button presses as your only input, and when trailing other characters you just had to slowly stalk a suspect by switching cover as the paranoid target glanced over their shoulder.

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Yagami may be a trained lawyer but that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to put up a fight. One thing that we should point out for newcomers to the series is that combat is completely melee-focused. Yagami has two different fighting styles that can be alternated between by pushing down on the D-pad. The crane style is better suited to larger groups and the tiger style is advised for 1v1 encounters. You will need to switch between these frequently as bosses will typically bring their entire entourage to the fight. Yagami can also bounce off walls, throw together combos, and complete special EX actions such as tossing a bicycle in the air and slamming it into foes on the ground.

By collecting SP you can also learn new abilities and improve attributes such as your health and attack speed via the skills mobile phone app. The skills also present new combat finishers and additional evasive and defensive abilities such as being able to hop over enemies and break out of grabs. What we didn't like is how the difficulty can be easily compromised if you stack up on plenty of consumables such as snacks and beer. These can be accessed from the pause menu and it made things far too easy - it was laughable to think of a crowd of thugs standing around waiting for Yamagi to finish his sandwich before jumping into battle again.

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If you're looking for a break from your casework you won't have to look too far within the neon-soaked city of Kamurocho to find a fun distraction or two. There are arcades packed with classics such as Virtua Fighter 5 and Puyo Puyo, drone races across the city, and other distractions such as darts, blackjack, and pinball. We should note though that arcade classics Fantasy Zone and Space Harrier crashed our PS4 every time that we tried to play them, however. On top of this, there are also cafes and restaurants you can dine in and you can also take on side-cases from the notice board in Yagami's office for some extra yen and SP.

You can also befriend residents in the city by completing specific tasks for them to increase their friendship meter. One of these tasks saw us track down strays for the head of a city cat blog and another saw us help a sick homeless man by getting help from a doctor. A simple one we liked saw us visiting a cashier of a sushi restaurant and each time we stopped for food it advanced the conversation from before as if we were catching up with an old friend. By raising our friendship meter we could unlock exclusive items and could even have our friend swoop in and save us when getting into a fight nearby. We found these distractions to have a lot of variety and it was great that many of the NPCs here were given their own backstories and individual personalities.

Ultimately, we found Yagami's path to redemption to be a gripping ride filled with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and we felt the detective style gameplay really complemented what we have come to expect from the main Yakuza series. We loved that the trademark silliness remained intact here despite the narrative's darker tone and the fact that the story this time featured full voice work in English, making it more accessible for western players. It's great to see that Sega has put this much heart into what is a side step in the series and we hope that the company continues to expand on the Yakuza universe and take it in exciting new directions.

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09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
Full English voice acting, gripping 12-chapter story, and plenty of fun distractions within the city.
Some mini-games caused crashes, trailing and chase segments felt weak
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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REVIEW. Written by Kieran Harris

"We felt the detective style gameplay really complemented what we have come to expect from the main Yakuza series."

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