Yakuza: Dead Souls PS3 Review

Publisher – SEGA – Developer – SEGA – Genre – Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Yakuza has never been a wholly realistic game, but Yakuza: Dead Souls takes the series further away from reality than ever before, replacing polished criminals with zombies and in turn bringing a fresh and welcome new direction to the series.

Fans that feel that zombies are a step too far into the realms of fantasy for the Yakuza universe will be glad to know that Yakuza: Dead Souls’ narrative, whilst played straight, isn’t treat as canon. It sees the streets of Kamurocho infested with zombies under mysterious circumstances. The story is engaging enough, with all the melodrama, memorable characters and absurdity that fans have come to expect. This isn’t to say that in storyline terms it’s up to the usual Yakuza standards, because it isn’t. and a lot of fans will find its horror direction difficult to stomach and, as a result, will find it hard to care about events that are too far removed from the rest of the series.

Whilst after 4 previous games many are likely to be sick of the sight of Kamurocho by now, the undead attack has granted a new look to much of the city, leaving it as an almighty mess, with burning cars, rubble and all round devastation resulting in it feeling like a fresh location.

Whilst there are melee weapons, they’re ineffective in most cases, which means that for the first time fists and feet are largely replaced by guns as your primary method of attack, in turn transforming it from a brawler into a fast paced shooter.

It hasn’t been an easy transition, though – there’s a roughness to it, with a struggling framerate when the screen gets busy and an auto aim that is mostly serviceable but can on occasion be slightly unhelpful. Manual aiming is a possibility, though the enemies are so quick and often numerous that it’s barely worth the risk to do so.

The heat actions, of which granted some much needed variety to the simplistic brawling of past games, have been replaced by heat sniping actions, of which once activated will trigger a QTE, which once successful will see you, amongst other things, blowing up cars or bringing down signs on top of any nearby enemies, all followed with dramatically cinematic camera work. Unfortunately though, whilst they do their part in granting the gunplay a smidgen of variety, in comparison to the heat actions there simply aren’t enough of them, resulting in otherwise pleasing moments becoming repetitive too quickly.

In terms of enemies, there’s not a great deal of variety on display either: there’s the common garden zombie, as well as more powerful mutants such as the Monkey boy, who is as agile as his name suggests, whilst the Hermit is encased in rock. Some of them have seemingly escaped from the boundaries of other games, one example being Fatties which are somewhat like Boomers from Left 4 Dead and there’s even one that looks like a Licker from the Resident Evil series. Whilst each enemy type’s behaviour varies, they however can largely be dealt with in much the same way.

Whilst this somewhat limits the scope for dynamic combat situations, the fact that enemies occasionally leave behind loot, of which you can sell or use as materials to upgrade your equipment, as well as the addition of a basic upgrade system that sees you receiving exp with every kill, means that in spite of this, combat still manages to remain reasonably engaging throughout.

Much like Yakuza 4, there are 4 playable characters: Shun Akiyama the likable loan shark, the unhinged Goro Majima, Yakuza 2’s antagonist Ryugi Goda, and Kazuma Kiryu the dangerous but likable series lead. It’s also structured much like that game, with each character having their own section, featuring 15 side quests each. Sadly unlike Yakuza 4 however, aside from their proficiency with a particular weapon, the characters overall level and abilities are shared, so they have little to set them apart from one another which is disappointing to say the very least.

There are also partner characters, which you are able to take with you on side missions. These level up and are granted new skills as they do so, just as you are, although, even though you’re able to give them some limited commandsm they’re sadly not very helpful in combat situations, and it’s barely worth the bother of taking them along with you.

Despite of the undead invasion, there are still plenty of amusements even in the quarantined areas of the city. All the usual distractions are present such as the batting cage, golf and table tennis. To gain access to those in the quarantined area, you must first liberate them from the zombie menace and then you are able to ignore the undead horde stumbling around the nearby streets to have some fun just as all the NPC’s inside seem to be, it could very well be the end of the world after all.

Yakuza: Dead Souls is slightly awkward to play, is steeped in Japanese culture, has a likable sense of humour and is stuffed with content, so in spite of the zombies, disappointing lack of variation and bold new direction, it’s still very much a Yakuza game, and even with its problems that’s very much a thing that is worth celebrating.