Developed by the studio behind the Yakuza series, Judgment is a detective action-adventure game from Sega. It was originally released on the PS4 back in 2019 and is now available on current-gen platforms. Despite being a new IP, it’s similar in many ways to the Yakuza series. For starters, the game is set in the same Kamurocho city that the studio’s previous titles take place in. Takayuki Yagami, the protagonist, is a disgruntled ex-lawyer who’s been struggling to come to terms with the outcome of one of his cases.
Since quitting his job as a prosecutor, Yagami decided to pursue the career of a private detective. As he struggles to make a living, he is constantly on the lookout for new crimes to solve. One day, he comes across a case involving several mysterious killings that put him on the hunt for the killer. Things get more intriguing as the plot unfolds and Yagami finds himself dealing with a larger conspiracy than he had imagined.
In terms of mechanics, Judgment should be instantly familiar to fans of the Yakuza series. You’re still roaming about the streets of Kamurocho and tackling crimes committed by various Yakuza groups. Being a detective game, however, a large part of the game involves investigating and solving crimes by gathering and analyzing evidence to find the perpetrators. Besides the main story arc, many side cases are waiting to be solved. Companions can help you discover new cases as you continue to develop your social profile.
Additional cases aren’t the only side activity you can indulge yourself in, however. There are a bunch of arcade mini-games to play much like the ones found in the Yakuza games. Oddly enough, two of the arcade cabinets found in the PS4 version have been replaced. The latter had a pinball game in Yagami’s office that has been replaced with Outrun. Meanwhile, the second machine that has been pulled is Puyo-Puyo, and in its place is none other than Virtua Fighter 2.
Combat in Judgment is a flashier and more over-the-top spin on that of the Yakuza games that featured Kiryu Kazama. It’s also more responsive to the touch, but not because it’s running at 60 frames per second on PS5 as opposed to 30 on the PS4. It’s a more action-oriented brawler, and, therefore, there’s a greater emphasis on fast-paced and frantic fights. You’re able to choose between two fighting styles, one of which is ideal for crowd control while the other is best suited to one-on-one duels. These fighting styles can be further expanded by unlocking new moves using SP earned via different side activities. Accumulating SP isn’t particularly hard, and engaging every group of thug that comes your way will give you plenty to unlock new skills. The more moves you unlock, the more entertaining and varied the combat gets.
The first few chapters are slower-paced and can drag due to an emphasis on an investigation. You’re encouraged to explore areas in the first person, use a drone to take pictures from spots you can’t reach, pick locks, figure out door passcodes, and occasionally find disguises to get past hostile areas unnoticed. The investigation ultimately leads up to a confrontation with the suspects, and the evidence you’ve collected against them comes in handy while interrogating them. This sequence of mechanics is the same for each investigation, and it doesn’t take long for it to start feeling repetitive. It’s clearly no Danganronpa or Ace Attorney, but that’s not to say there are no high points. Tailing a suspect can sometimes lead to action-packed chase sequences, as you run through the streets to catch up to and apprehend your target. The pacing gets much better in later chapters, as the action takes precedence over the investigation.
It’s a little disappointing to see that the PS5 version hasn’t received any Quality of Life enhancements. Going about your business in Kamurocho occasionally got tedious in the original PS4 release, as the interaction and the sprint actions are both mapped to the same button, making it needlessly cumbersome to avoid interacting with NPCs and points of interest while running around. This issue remains unchanged in the current-gen release.
From a visual standpoint, the PS5 version is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s certainly a better-looking game from a technical perspective, sporting higher detail and draw distance. However, the more vibrant and exaggerated lighting seen in the original PS4 game has been axed in favor of a more realistic look. While a case can undoubtedly be made for the new style of lighting, it’s not really an improvement over the original.
It doesn’t help that there’s no upgrade path for owners of the PS4 version of Judgment. It’s a pricey endeavor, one that doesn’t really justify itself to returning fans outside of the doubled frame rate and faster load times. That said, this is the best version of the game, and has a lot to offer to Yakuza fans who have yet to experience Yagami’s story. While the investigation can get stale at times, the stylish and satisfying action more than makes up for it.