Judgment review for PS5, Xbox Series X, Stadia

Platform: PS5
Also On: Xbox Series X/S, Stadia
Publisher: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Developer: Digital Download
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1, 2(mini-games only)
Online: Leaderboards

You would think after playing 5 titles from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio within a 6 month period, you would think I would pass on reviewing a 6th title from the studio. However it?s BECAUSE I played 5 titles from RGG Studios that I had no hesitation to sign up to take a look at the other Yakuza spin-off title to receive a western release. Judgment, originally released on the PS4 in 2018, came out during the timeframe when there was an increase of more mainstream acceptance of RGG Studio?s portfolio and because so, it featured a full English language audio track, a first since 2005?s Yakuza. This title also offered a sole protagonist who is actually not a member of any yakuza family…

Takayuki Yagami is a lawyer whose profile was on the rise after he scored a rare acquittal in the Japanese criminal law system, but that rise came to a halt when his client went on to murder their girlfriend a month after his acquittal. Wracked with guilt, he discarded his job as a lawyer and started making a living as a detective, doing odd jobs for the residents of the city as well as his old law firm. A rash of gruesome murders involving foreign yakuza will pull him an investigation which could draw him back to the legal system that he abandoned years ago.

Judgment plays more or less like the Yakuza games that it spun off from. Yagami distinguishes himself from other protagonists by having access to two fighting styles, the harder hitting Tiger style and a crowd controlling crane style. He also has the ability to bound over opponents and rebound off walls to deliver dizzying strikes. Unlike the seemingly invincible Dragon of Dojima, Yagami is more prone to getting stunned and can receive wounds which will actually require medical care to recover from. Another refreshing change is the actual in-game presence of the police, who will come and break up fights if you take too long to end them, although that mechanic is a little half baked.

Detective work is one of the pillars of gameplay which the studio built this title upon. While a lot of issues are resolved with fisticuffs, you will spend time investigating crime scenes, tailing people, confronting suspects with evidence and even chasing down a perp or two(and way too many ?hats?). You can even do recon work with a drone and utilize disguises to do some undercover work. All these activities help Judgment distinguish itself from it?s Yakuza cousins.

Thankfully the title retains a lot of key elements that make RGG Studio titles such a joy to play. A rich, engrossing story, a fantastic cast that you genuinely care about, the excellent balance between drama and humor, the abundant amount of optional content to keep you coming back to the title even after the main narrative has been completed. These elements and the title?s unique touches make Judgment a good entry point for those looking to dip their toes in the Yakuza games without having to commit to picking something from the main series.

The game however isn?t perfect and there?s definitely things that made me wish I was playing a mainline Yakuza game. While it is thematically relevant there?s a tad too many tailing and foot chase missions for my liking. The investigation portions can be marred with the constant meowing of a stray cat in each scene (the meowing stops if you find said stray cat, but sometimes you just don?t have the patience to comb through the entire scene…). This title is the second outing of RGG Studio?s proprietary Dragon Engine and while things look fantastic, the physics are still somewhat wonky. A standing kick can send a motorcycle flying, enemies will ?slip? away unharmed when struck by weapons you wield. While Yagami has 2 fighting styles, neither seem to stand out and I spent a majority of the game utilizing a 3rd style aka swinging bikes until enemies are down for the count.

Some features felt tacked on, specifically the key ring mechanic, yes I guess most people open doors with keys, but my preferred way to open a door in a RGG title usually involves punching a thug through a door and walking in. Fumbling around with a key ring every time I want to go to a casino is a weird mechanic? Perhaps the greatest offenses this game has made is the inability to don the myriad of disguises you?ve accrued in the post game and no, Takayuki Yagami cannot enjoy karaoke.

The remaster?s features were something I really didn?t notice, but in a way that?s a good thing. Visually the game looks amazing and like most Yakuza games makes you feel like a virtual tourist. Performance was generally smooth even when there are up to 10 enemies on screen The load times are practically non-existent. Most of the paid DLC that is included is cosmetic and the only thing which could be game breaking would be the contents of the Ultimate Battle Pack.

Judgment is a great title to play to get acquainted with the type of games Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio puts out. If you don?t want the baggage of over 8 plus titles over your head, this is currently a one and done title, however you want to see what else has happened in Kamurocho, you also have the option to explore the main line series (which included ?free? on Gamepass via Microsoft). Either way you?ll definitely see the studio in a different light if you play this title.

Note: SEGA provided us with a Judgment PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-