Action Narrative Review

Judgment Remastered – Review | Taking Justice

Judgment, a spin-off of the well-known Yakuza series follows Takayuki Yagami in this crime-thriller. Originally released on PlayStation 4 in 2019, a remastered version has now come to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X.

Lawyer Turned Detective

While working as a lawyer, Yagami successfully defended a client on a murder charge. In a country where more than 99% of trials end in conviction, this is an amazing feat. He’s a hot commodity and now everyone wants him to take their cases. But soon after, the client is brought up on new charges. He’s accused of murdering his girlfriend and is soon sentenced to jail.

Facing the knowledge that he helped to put a murderer back onto the streets, Yagami soon resigned. The story starts three years later. Having set up a detective agency, he spends his days taking on small cases. 

While chasing down lost cats and finding proof of infidelity, he soon finds himself in a case that is much bigger than it seems at first. Yakuza from a Kansai group have been found murdered. With their eyes gouged out, it’s a mystery who is behind this. But when a captain from the Matsugane group of Yakuza is accused, it’s down to Yagami to find evidence that he couldn’t have done it.

As Judgment’s story progresses, we find that these are not just some random murders or fights between Yakuza clans. There are higher powers at play and varied interests. With dirty politicians moving in the background, business deals involving billions, and conflict between the police, prosecutor’s office, and more – this story just gets deeper and deeper as it continues.

Twists and Turns

Judgment took a few hours to get into, but I was certainly invested in the story from then until the end of the forty hours I spent playing. After the initial few hours, the pacing was great. It kept me hooked by slowly revealing more and more while teasing new revelations. They’ve really succeeded in pulling off the crime thriller genre in that way.

While I did predict some of the events, I was genuinely surprised by many of the twists this story had. It really kept me guessing at just how it was going to unfold.

Detectives, Deceptions, and Degenerates

Yagami really feels relatable and I attribute that to the character writing. You can understand his pain, his desire to move on, and his sense of justice. This has been added to by giving him a particularly interesting history and his own connection to the Yakuza.

Many of the main characters in Judgment are particularly interesting and well-written. There are quite a few characters in this game, ranging from Kaito, an ex-Yakuza who doesn’t mind knocking a few heads around, and the prosecutor Mafuyu to silly minor characters like ‘The Pervert King’, who is mostly known for his giant… equipment.

While Judgment is a fairly serious story overall, I enjoyed how it was kept light by adding in silly things. One minute you may be finding evidence for murder and the next you might be attacked by thugs for buying the last box of a sweet. Moving off the path of the main story, there are tons of side quests too like trying to find a ghost haunting an apartment and chasing after a flying lost wig that seems to have a mind of its own.

Too busy to keep playing the story for now? Judgment features an ‘adults with busy lives feature’ in case files. Not only are they occasionally referred to in the game, but it gives a brief summary of what happened recently and what you need to do next. I’m always a fan of these.

Streets of Kamurocho

Judgment has you explore the streets of Kamurocho – a lively city with a dark underbelly. Despite being a small setting that you can run across in a couple of minutes, it really doesn’t feel like it. There are tons of places to go and spend time. The city is full of restaurants and bars where you can go to eat or drink, but there is much more than that. You can visit arcades and play actual older games that have been included. There are tons of activities like drone racing, poker, shogi, darts, and baseball.

Not only was the story great, but Kamurocho was the perfect backdrop for it. The nightlife vibe was strong and it could easily be imagined as one of Tokyo’s more seedy entertainment districts.

On top of the nightlife, there are fifty friends you can meet in Kamurocho. These unlock as you complete the story or side cases, which ensures there’s always someone new. They all have their own quests and storylines, some being simple such as fighting up to save them, while others are more involved. One had me looking over the city to find lost cats, while another had me hunting down debts.

In less friendly relationships, hundreds of Yakuza from differing groups roam the street too. If they see you, they’ll attack. I did enjoy these random fights, but I felt they were happening far too often at times. If I was unlucky, I could even run into two fights within seconds of each other. Even normally it felt like I was running into one every other street I ran down. While running away from a fight is possible, it sometimes interfered with letting me into buildings and could be a pain when I wanted to progress.

Ready. Fight!

The combat system of Judgment is deeper than it may appear at first. When I started the game, I was mostly putting together some basic combos. Light attacks followed by a couple of heavy attacks, then repeat. By the end, I was blocking, sidestepping, switching combat styles, and doing all sorts of attacks. Many moves need to be unlocked, but chaining them together is a big component of the combat system. One favorite was running, leaping over someone, and then giving them a boot to the head as I did.

Objects are all around the city and inside the buildings too. Quite a lot of them can be used as weapons. When randomly attacked, I enjoyed picking up a bicycle and smacking crowds down with it. Grabbing someone so they dropped their baseball bat and beating them with it was always fun too.

I found that the combat really shined when fighting the tougher opponents. Mowing down random Yakuza I ran into was fun but never really a challenge. Going one on one with a skilled opponent had me utilizing those skills a lot more. In the case of bosses, it sometimes mixed in some over-the-top action scenes too and even occasional QTE prompts.

I certainly enjoyed the combat in Judgment. It’s definitely good that I did, considering there’s so much of it. This is really an action-packed game.

Not Quite Sherlock

As mentioned, Yagami is a detective. So we can’t just go around hitting all of our problems until they stop being a problem. Just most of them.

There are quite a few different types of detective gameplay in Judgment. These do vary in quality, but I was happy for their inclusion. It fits the theme well, even if it doesn’t always manage to pull off what it’s aiming to do.

The only one of these I really found problematic was tailing people. You need to follow people without being caught. This involves keeping a distance and hiding, while not losing sight of the target.

It felt unusual that someone who had no reason to suspect he was being followed and who didn’t know who I was to be suspicious when seeing me. Especially for the first time. Then they’d lose suspicion even if they saw me run away from them and duck behind a car. That seems a lot more suspicious than just being on the same street!

Other aspects were better. Sometimes you need to chase down a suspect, which involves moving left and right, along with QTEs to dodge obstacles. These sections were quite short and added some excitement. It could just be chasing someone down a street, or could even be jumping over rooftops and even skateboarding while attached to the back of a car.

Channel Your Inner Detective

On the more intellectual side, you can inspect scenes for clues or spy on people with a drone. Sometimes this was fairly simple like looking for traces of blood. Other cases were more involved. In one particularly interesting side case I had to check out four suspects and the scene, then decide who had stolen money based on the clues that were there and by figuring out what was missing.

Dialogues often had choices where you needed to remember the facts of the case and made a correct decision on what to say or what evidence to present to proceed. In one example, I needed to remember what was said and figure out why someone was lying. Practically this wasn’t a big deal. If you chose the wrong answer, you just missed out on some skill points and had to try again. Getting the right answer did feel satisfying though.

There were some small touches too, like having to remember that someone presented you with their business card earlier. Then checking the address on the item in the inventory and finding the street on the map. Things like that didn’t happen often with an icon on the minimap being more common, but it was enjoyable when it did.

But Wait! There’s More!

There is really too much to talk about in-depth. From being able to date four girlfriends (simultaneously) and go on dates to decorating your office, there are so many different things to do in this game. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about holding back on the main story to complete it. On completing the game, you can continue on and tidy up any of the side quests or anything you missed. You unlock a new difficulty mode too – Legend.

In the PlayStation 5 version of Judgment that I’m playing, it came with a lot of downloadable content too. This included not only cosmetics but special abilities that might seem overpowered. Moving onto a higher difficulty might be a good time to explore these if you didn’t want to throw explosions around from the start.

As I’m mentioning difficulties, I’ll note that you can choose from four initially. Easy, Normal, and Hard are just as you’d expect. Simple mode lets you use all these complicated moves just by pressing a button.

Technical and Systems

Judgment played without issues for the most part. Loading was incredibly quick. I don’t think I ever saw a loading screen last more than two seconds. I never had issues with the framerate either, which reportedly could occur on the PlayStation 4 version. It was perfectly stable, no matter the number of enemies on screen.

I did come across a few issues, but they were rare. The game crashed once and I came across a scene where the audio loaded but not the video. Those were the only major instances and with two issues over forty hours, I’m not complaining too much.

Companions were more of a pain. Sometimes Yagami was joined by friends who followed him. Pathfinding could be an issue. One of the strongest narrative portions of the game was somewhat undermined by a friend walking into a wall and trying to go through it, rather than around. I had to reset a quest due to it once too.

Physics were occasionally wonky too. With so many objects that could be picked up and thrown around, sometimes this was somewhat off. I came across an object or two with a mind of its own. Acting like it was thrown, but with no one to throw it.

Still, overall the technical side of things was quite good. There are just some minor issues to iron out. That said, as a remaster of a two-year-old game, I doubt the pathfinding issues will be.

Dame Da Ne

The graphics are certainly impressive. The realistic facial details stood out particularly. Seeing the amount of work put into things like hair, freckles and stubble was amazing. Not everything gets the same treatment though. Some characters ended up with lower-end textures on clothes and less detail elsewhere. Overall it’s really good, but I don’t feel like everything got the personal touch when it came to the work on the remaster.

While I imagine that graphics are more notable, the audio was even more impressive. Judgment comes with both Japanese and English voice acting and it’s incredibly well done. The actors did an amazing job with it and it really helped to immerse me in the story.

There are some songs that are upfront and center, but I appreciated the more subtle background features too. Hearing an instrumental ‘Baka Mitai’ from the Yakuza series was a nice touch while playing darts. I was more surprised to hear what sounded like an instrumental from ‘Single Bed’ while in a restaurant, a 1994 rock hit. Things like this really helped to build the atmosphere.

Verdict

Judgment is a great crime thriller and Kamurocho an amazing place for it to take place in. I enjoyed the story, but I had even more fun just going off and spending time with the wide variety of interesting characters and solving side cases. While there are parts that could be improved, overall I had a great time and feel that most people would.

JUDGMENT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Platforms: PS5 (Remastered), XBox Series S/X (Remastered) PS4, Stadia

If you enjoy Action games, perhaps you’d like to take a look at Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition?

Many thanks goes to SEGA for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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