Judgement isn’t a game that I reviewed when it first came out, which is a shame because I bloody adored it. After enjoying the Yakuza series but never fully investing myself in because of the amount of titles there were to get through, there was something about the stand-alone nature of this detective adventure that really appealed to me. A Yakuza-style game without feeling like I should know the ins-and-outs of every piece of lore across seven different titles? I had to try it. Forty hours of gameplay later, I had finished one of my favourite games of the year.
It originally launched on the PlayStation 4 back in 2019, but has now seen an upgraded release on the PlayStation 5. It brings with it fancier visuals, a 60fps frame rate, and speedy load times… basically, all of the bells-and-whistles that players have come to expect from next-gen upgrades. I’m not complaining though, with those refinements improving upon what was already a stellar experience.
Judgement puts players in the role of Takayuki Yagami, a private eye who previously worked as a defence attorney. Quite a nice little career change, huh? Well, he quit because he realised that he’d made a mistake with one of his clients and NOBODY likes seeing a bad man walk free. His redemption is found through his detective work, with some mysterious murders kickstarting the game’s narrative.
“It brings with it fancier visuals, a 60fps frame rate, and speedy load times… basically, all of the bells-and-whistles that players have come to expect from next-gen upgrades.”
As you can imagine, the tale sees plenty of twists-and-turns as players unravel more pieces of the mystery, with Yagami eventually wrapped up in a case that goes to some dark places. Undeterred by what’s ahead of him, he uses his clever brain (and a LOT of his brawn) to get to the bottom things.
The narrative of Judgement is great, with it taking a more serious tone than the Yakuza series but still offering some light-hearted moments. The characters you interact with are all intriguing and play their role in the story, the twists can be unexpected and come from nowhere, whilst everything pays off in a satisfying manner in the end. There’s a real cinematic vibe to the game that makes it feel like a movie in many ways – it’ll definitely hook you right in until the credits role.
Gameplay-wise, there’s PLENTY to do in Judgement. Combat feels ridiculously stylish thanks to Yagami’s spectacular repertoire of moves, with button-mashing antics effective at taking down enemies in brawls and the Heat Moves dishing out some extra damage when charged. Like a lot of aspects of Judgement, combat feels JUST like it does in the Yakuza series. That’s definitely a good thing though and ensures that the action-focused showdowns never grow boring. There’s a sense of progress thanks to the additional abilities you can unlock too, with Yagami becoming close to unstoppable with a bit of work… I love it.
“Combat feels ridiculously stylish thanks to Yagami’s spectacular repertoire of moves.”
It’s not all about brutal beatdowns though, with plenty of fun activities to dive into on the side. Again, (and I know I sound like a broken record at this point) those familiar with the Yakuza series will know what to expect, with the likes of Mahjong, Drone Racing, Poker, Pinball and Darts available to indulge in, just to name a few. Heck, you can even head to an arcade and play some classic SEGA games if you want. There’s so much to do that it’s easy to completely forget about the fact that you’re actually meant to be solving some murder mysteries at times, but hey, you won’t hear me complaining.
Whilst the main story acts as Judgement’s beating heart, there are also a ton of side quests to dive into that flesh out the tale. Some of these offer the game’s more… peculiar tasks. You might find yourself looking into sketchy politicians, investigating an apartment for ghosts, or even… uh… hunting a panty thief. Yeah, Judgement doesn’t take itself too seriously all of the time and is even willing to get a bit silly, but it adds to the charm of the experience. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you dive into the side quests; not only are they a lot of fun to complete, but they also show off some of Judgement’s most entertaining interactions.
So there’s no doubting that Judgement is a great game that offers a wealth of content for gamers to enjoy, with the narrative, combat, and side quests all offering some fantastic action. How does the next-gen port actually hold up, though?
“You might find yourself looking into sketchy politicians, investigating an apartment for ghosts, or even… uh… hunting a panty thief.”
Visually, it looks better than ever, with everything looking sharper than before and offering more eye-catching visual effects. This was especially evident in combat where each action seemed to pack a heck of a lot more punch, whilst the environments could look jaw-dropping at times. I wondered how much prettier the game could really look given that it started out as a last-gen title, but then I saw the city at night and was blown away. It really is lovely.
It helps that everything runs at a steady 60fps, which doesn’t only compliment the action-packed battling but the storytelling too. There’s more fluidity to everything you do and it really goes a long way in improving the experience… it’d certainly be hard to go back to playing the game on the PlayStation 4. Add to that the MUCH faster load times of the SSD and it’s easy to see that Judgement on the PlayStation 5 is VERY impressive as far as its performance and visuals are concerned.
The only real disappointing thing is that there isn’t a free upgrade for existing owners. Next-gen upgrade options have been great on the PlayStation 5 so far, with some unexpected titles seeing new releases that have been free for those who own the game – not having the option here is a real shame, with players expected to double-dip to get all of the improvements. It does come with the previously released DLC as a bonus, but with nothing MEANINGFUL offered there, it does feel a little mean on SEGA’s part.
Judgement was already a brilliant game on last-gen consoles, but the PlayStation 5 enhancements see it moving close to perfection. It is renowned for its excellent story, action-packed battling, and wealth of content, but the revamped visuals and slick performance really take it to the next level. It’s a real shame that it’s not available as a free next-gen upgrade, but it’s the only real sticking point in what is otherwise a stellar release.
If you missed out on Judgement the first time around, don’t make the same mistake again… play it now!
Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Click here to visit the official website.