Judgement is one of those games that went under the radar in 2019. I’m someone who had just one eye on it, but didn’t exactly buy it on release. It wasn’t until I played the demo and found I was more than impressed. I then finally decided to buy the full game and was very glad I did. While it seems there are similarities between Judgement and the Yakuza series, Judgement is a stand-alone game requiring no prior knowledge. If it seems too late for you to dive into the Yakuza series (because of the sheer amount of them), Judgement may be the game for you.
You play as Takayuki Yagami, a former lawyer, now a detective investigating a series of murders that have taken place in Kamurocho, Japan. Members of the Kyorei gang have turned up dead on the streets with their eyes gouged out. What seems like simple gang warfare turns into a much more complex mystery to be solved.
Being a more detective game, you’ll be solving this mystery in the form of a series of seemingly unrelated crimes, but are intricately interwoven with each other. But these crimes aren’t solved the way I expected them to be. The first chapter provides a more traditional form of crime solving. The story has you looking for clues, talking with people/suspects, all the while building up a case to solve the first crime. It’s done in a way that’s exciting and fun. Unfortunately every other chapter and case takes on a more narrative approach and doesn’t quite have that same intrigue as the first case. Every other case you have just periodically gets updated over the time until everything falls into place, rather than specifically focusing on one case at a time.
That doesn’t mean the story that follows is any less interesting. As the game goes on, each chapter usually ends with a cliffhanger that makes me want to dive right into the next chapter. I’ll admit though, once I discovered what the whole mystery is about, I was a little underwhelmed by it, but the story definitely ended strong and I felt satisfied by the eventual outcome.
The game features a host of great characters as your ‘team’ grows throughout the game, all with their own interesting backstories and motivations for joining you. Best of all, the main character Yagami has a redemption arc that I felt was done really well, and all the loose ends in regards to both characters and story are tied up well too. While the game would have benefited from being a chapter or two shorter, I still enjoyed my time with it and I’ll certainly miss the characters now that I’ve completed the main story.
Judgement’s gameplay is a lot more varied than you would expect. There’s a good combination of beat ’em up combat, tailing sequences, chase scenes, and plenty more.
First I’ll start with the combat as it’s a major part of the game. Combat is your usual 3D street-brawling, where you’ll fight multiple opponents and often defeat them in hilarious ways. My favourite part of the combat were the EX moves- powerful, situation-specific attacks in the form of a short cinematic beating down opponents. This can be done in a variety of ways, whether it be with an object, with a partner, or even while you’ve jumped onto a wall. There’s plenty of them and even more to unlock in the game’s exhaustive skill tree.
To add more variety and strategy, there’s two different stances giving two different styles of fighting, depending on the situation. Ending each fight always felt satisfying once you’ve landed the final blow on the last opponent, and I always ended up laughing at my enemies flopping down to the ground in slow-motion once I’ve won.
While the combat does contain those highs, there are certainly some lows to it all. Combat overall feels a little clunky, with both movement and controls. The camera is no help at all, even if you lock onto enemies, your character locks onto them but the camera doesn’t! This means I still have to try and control the camera during these intense fights, usually resulting in taking a few extra hits. Why the camera doesn’t lock onto the enemies too is beyond me as it almost defeats the purpose of locking on in the first place.
It’s not exactly polished either, as enemies and usable objects clip through each other, and it’s not even subtle. It doesn’t detract from the combat too much, as it is more arcade-y than anything, but it does lose immersion just a little bit.
Apart from combat, you’ll engage in other forms of gameplay like tailing enemies, which something that’s been done before plenty of times in other games. Here you’ll need to stay behind the enemy, not too far to lose them, but not too close to be spotted. It can be enjoyable when you find places to hide behind while keeping an eye on them, but when there are no visible hiding places and your target turns around, it can get frustrating and awkward as you turn around and run away. Sometimes these tailing sections can drag on and take too long, but you won’t be doing them too often anyway.
Another form of gameplay are the chase sequences and I enjoyed these a lot more than tailing. Here you’ll simply be chasing your target, but includes QTE events that prevent you from slowing down. These sections appeared a lot less than tailing and wish there were more of them.
So when you’re not following the main story, you’ll have plenty of other content to take part in. If fact, there’s so much content it can be overwhelming if you decide you take part in it all.
As expected, there are side missions, but they’re done really well here. No waste of time fetch quests in Judgement as each side mission contains its own unique story, and they even vary from serious to humorous. I don’t think there was a single side mission I didn’t enjoy and always looked forward to seeing what each one brought to the table. There’s a whopping 50 of them too, which is a decent amount considering they’re all clearly written individually.
To add to the side missions, there are an equal amount of ‘friend events’ which act as smaller side quest chains, so you’ll need to go back to these character throughout the game, and each contain their very own unique story. It’s that level of effort that I really appreciate from developers, as they really could have gone down the lazy route if they wanted.
It doesn’t end there either, as you’ll have the chance to play a range of Sega arcade games featuring the likes of Virtua Fighter 5, Puyo Puyo, and Fantasy Zone. I’m not sure if they’re actually full versions of those games, but their inclusion is pretty incredible. Throw in a bunch more mini-games, like darts, drone racing, pinball, and way more, and you’ve got a crazy amount of fun content that really puts many other sandbox games to shame. Even if you’re not enjoying the main game itself, you’ve certainly got plenty of other options here to choose from.
I didn’t expect the sheer variety that Judgement provides. In just one game you’ll experience an interesting mystery, intense combat, varied gameplay sequences, arcade games, mini-games…what doesn’t this game have?
While some of those elements are flawed in parts, the overall game was still a joy to play through. The story may have lost a bit of my interest in the latter half, but the very end brought me right back in and tied everything up nicely. The combat was always a good challenge, even if it was a bit clunky and with an annoying camera.
But it’s the huge amount of content that can keep you playing even long after the main story is over. Side missions, friend events and more can spread this out to a 100+ hour game if you want it to.
Judgement may have slipped under a lot of people’s noses during 2019, but I’m here to tell you it’s certainly worth a play, as it seems there’s something for everyone here.