Publisher: Sega of America
Rating: M for Mature
Project Judge, Judgment Eyes, or Judgment was first announced at the Tokyo game show in 2018—it was just released here in the West in June 2019. I, for one, have been excited for this game for a while now. However, shortly after announcing its Western release, Judgment was called into question when voice actor Pierre Taki was arrested for drug charges. In fact, Sega halted all sales in Japan and even deleted tweets off the official twitter account, effectively erasing the game’s existence. Taki was digitally replaced, mocap and dialogue re-recorded and the game was eventually released. Something similar happened with Yakuza 4. Drug violations are a big deal in Japan, even for Yakuza crime lords. Remember, kids, just say “no” to drugs.
Yakuza games are considered niche, but once you get into these games, they are quite fun and have excellent stories, characters and gameplay. If you’ve been interested in Yakuza games, but intimidated by those facts, this is an excellent time to get on board. Sega is remaking and releasing updated versions of the previous Yakuza games. Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza Kiwami 2 are out currently, with releases of 3, 4, and 5 coming soon. This would mean the entire mainline Yakuza series would be on one console. Judgment is the first Yakuza universe spinoff game.
Judgment is a mature-rated game. As far as content goes, there is bad language throughout its entirety. Dialogue includes the big catalog of foul language.
Judgment is full of violence. You will often have street fights with various gang members, since you are investigating murder scenes. There is obviously death and blood, as well as violent and grizzly images of crime scenes.
Sexuality is also a part of Judgment. Prostitution, brothels, strip clubs, massage parlors, and extramarital affairs are part of this game.
Since this game features Yakuza gang members, there is other mature content such as drugs, alcohol, and gambling. This is not a kid-friendly game by any means. Therefore, if you are offended by gangs, drugs, violence, foul language or sexual content, then I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this game, or any Yakuza title. However, if you know what you are getting into, and are not bothered by such adult themes, then I can’t recommend this game enough.
In an effort to curb his guilt, we see Takayuki going the extra mile for investigations and helping people in need when they are unable to help or defend themselves. Therefore, I say the moral character of Takayuki is good. I suppose this could be a teaching moment for people who question their own motives when dealing with hard or difficult choices and problems in life. But, as a pastor, I must remind you that you cannot remove sin from yourself or redeem yourself. The only thing that destroys sin and crushes guilt is Jesus. If you struggle with sin or guilt, take it to the foot of the cross. Otherwise, you’ll be in a world of hurt and heartbreak.
As far as religious content, I can find none, especially in regards to Buddhism or other Japanese folk religions.
When I first saw Judgment, I believed the game was going to play like Heavy Rain with a combination of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and LA Noiré. I have not been disappointed. I do wish, however, there was more to do as far as investigating crime scenes like in Heavy Rain or Detroit: Become Human. This would take the game to the next level and make it much more immersive and true to its detective premise. Like other Yakuza games, there is a lot to do in Judgment. You have the opportunity to explore the vast city, which is Sega’s version of Tokyo. Scattered throughout the city, there are stores to shop in, restaurants and bars to eat and drink at, as well as Club Sega arcades that contain playable classic Sega titles, such as Virtual Fighter 5 and lesser known games. If these options are not enough for you, there are also mini games such as lock picking and drone racing.
The drone racing has an online component where you can set new time records. I found the drone races exciting and interesting, especially when upgrading the drone to make it faster and handle better in order to win races and smash set times.
The story focuses on a former defense lawyer Takayuki Yagami. In the beginning of the game, you find yourself in court; Takayuki has successfully defended his client. Shortly after the trial, the same client ends up murdering Takayuki’s presumed girlfriend. Through this event, he becomes a disgraced lawyer and shifts his career into investigation, becoming a private detective. Throughout the course of the game, we see Takayuki assisting Yakuza members and other clients with private investigations and side quests. For example, in one of the cases, you follow around a shop owner in the hopes of discovering marriage infidelity, and through your investigation, based off evidence and observation, it is conclusive that he is indeed having an affair with a younger woman. The game is full of cases like this and they are a ton of fun of fun to solve.
Side quests are also enjoyable. During missions, you will hunt and find items, but one of my favorite type of quests is taking photos of stray cats, which are always in weird, hard-to-spot locations. A second type of side quest is friend missions that involve completing certain tasks. Relationships are strengthened, and often times, the friend missions end up helping Takayuki later on, providing assistance for other investigations.
As I’ve mentioned, Judgment is set in the familiar Yakuza universe. However, even though this is a Yakuza spinoff, you will not see familiar faces from previous Yakuza games. You will be assisting Yakuza, fighting them, and helping gang members with investigations, courtroom settings, and random violent encounters. But, again, you’re not going to be seeing Kazuma Kiryu, Goro Majima or other key figures from previous titles. I will say, this is a good jumping on point if you’ve ever wanted to play a Yakuza game. Judgment isn’t bogged down by lore or previous knowledge of the series. Other than the facts that it’s an open world, action-adventure game and that you’re a private detective—that is all you really need to know.
Gameplay in Judgment is accessible and fun. It is mostly open world. The city is alive with bustling streets, crowded shops, clubs, and restaurants. At its heart, Judgment is an action-adventure, beat ‘em up game. As you explore the city, you encounter street thugs, whom you must quickly put in their place. Boss fights can occasionally seem unfair or overwhelming, as they tend to be damage sponges and Dark Souls-like tanks. In addition to the main story, there are lots of mini games, such as arcades and casinos. Additionally, you can level up Takayuki with skills and abilities by spending experience points.
Visually speaking, Judgment is gorgeous. I never encountered glitches or performance issues. Sound design is also great. The game can be experienced in Japanese or in a fully voice-acted English dub, as well as English and Japanese subtitles. My preference is Japanese spoken language with English subtitles, but to each his own.
Overall, Judgment is an amazing game, and it’s another great PS4 exclusive. If you love action games or crime games, do yourself a favor and get this game—you will not be disappointed. This is, by far, my favorite game of 2019, and a definite contender for Game of the Year.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoy Yakuza games, action games, or detective games like Heavy Rain or LA Noire, you have to pick this one up.