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Yakuza 4 PS3 Review - -

Gameplay 7.0
Graphics 9.0
Sound 8.0
Value 8.0
Distributor: SEGA
Review Date:
April 2011
James Wright


Yakuza 4

Based in the fictional city of Kamurocho, Yakuza 4 returns gamers to the intricate criminal underworld of Japan as gamers take control of four playable characters in this action adventure that is reminiscent of the previous Yakuza game and that of Shenmue! The story of Yakuza 4 takes place almost one year after the events of Yakuza 3 where the leader of the Tojo Clan is found dead. With an important gap to be filled in the criminal underworld, Yakuza 4 tells the tale of these four men who more often than not, end up on the wrong side of the law. This complicated mystery of wealth, power and honour will eventually lead to a new legend of Kamurocho.

Just like Heavy Rain, I enjoyed the fact that Yakuza 4 requires the player to control four different people which does make the story more enjoyable at times, especially seeing the city of Kamurocho from another perspective. The characters of Yakuza 4 includes Taiga Saejima, ex Yukuza member and escaped prisoner on death row who is seeking vengeance again those who framed him. The others are Masayoshia Tanimura, a corrupt policeman that although is trying to do good, generally spends most of his time on the wrong side of the law and my favourite, Shun Akiyama, a local loan shark who has the gift of the gab and a passion for the ladies. Of course, what Yakuza game would this be without the protagonist from previous titles, Kazuma Kiryu.

Even though Yakuza 4 has elements of the Grand Theft Auto series, at times, the gameplay feels like one long cinema which sometimes becomes a little frustrating because you just want to play as opposed to watch these cinematics. However just like the Metal Gear Solid series, this forces the player to read a considerable amount of text but if you enjoy Japanese culture, the story is very fun and features a plethora of Japanese pop culture reference, not to mention those of the four characters. However at times, I was scratching my head at the story that is sometimes a little convoluted as stories intertwine, history is gathered and new plotlines established. Kudos for SEGA in keeping the original Japanese language in the game as this makes the game quite original. With that said, I could not recommend this game to those spontaneous gamers who want to jump straight into the action because there’s quite a bit of waiting to be found in this title.

At its criminal gaming core, Yakuza 4 is like the classic SEGA game Shenmue but more adult which requires the player to explore a variety of strange and sometimes normal places like hostess bars, shops and apartments with certain objectives that must be completed. Exploring this fictional city is quite fun, especially when you go off the beaten path as there are plenty of side quests and mini-games to be found. The mini-games in Yakuza are quite cool that leads to more distraction like gaming claw machines, pachinko, ping pong, karaoke and even golf to name a few of the disruptions. All those Japanese clichés have returned from Yakuza 3 like managing a hostess club and ensuring that your girls are well dressed as you groom them for your customers. Unfortunately there is no nudity which is a little strange, given the violence, language and vulgarity of some of the characters. The gaming environment is diverse but the developers employ a tactic of smoke and mirrors to make it look bigger than it actually is as you explore roof tops, sewers and all the back streets of the red light district. I just hate getting interrupted on the street all the dame time though!

Although there are some RPG elements such as levelling, the title is more adventure with a healthy amount of fights thrown into the mix. The combat system of Yakuza 4 makes it a capable fighter, especially the melee battles as you beat the absolute living daylights out of your enemies. Combat has been designed from this Hollywood type perspective that looks visually impressive as you perform kicks and punches plus a string of combos. You do have access to weapons but melee is the way to go and can be quite brutal at times, especially the finishing manoeuvre that is highlighted in slow motion. If you do get injured which you will, there's plenty of ways to heal by popping into a mini-mart and buying some whacky Japanese drink or snack. Also, each of the different characters you play has their own fighting styles that do help in the replay value. The problem for me is that you actually start to build affection with the character you are playing and before you know it, you’re back to a newbie starting from scratch again with another character.

Graphically, the game looks a little stiff as do the sometimes squarish characters but overall, exploring the city Kamurocho is quite a treat and some of the characters in the game look amazing, from realistic skin tones, hair and some great attention to detail... like our sexy hostesses. The animation is decent in the game, especially the fight scenes but for some of the characters, their walking is quite rigid. However thanks to the Cyberware 3D scanning technology incorporated into the game plus the Magical V-Engine, the characters in this game have one of the most realistic facial features to date. There's some wonderful use of lighting included in the game and it really looks like what a Japanese city should. The cutscenes are especially nice as is the professional voice acting. I'm hoping that it is because I don't understand a word of Japanese. The soundtrack has a variety of themes to it that go hand in hand with the various characters you play and the sound effects make good use of your surround sound system.

If you let yourself get absorbed by Yakuza 4, you could be playing this game for a very and I mean very long time. The annoying factors of the game are some of the unskippable cutscenes and text dialogues that seem to go on for ever. However if you push this aside, Yakuza 4 is a very sturdy game and is definitely Japan's answer to the Grand Theft Auto series. As you explore the darker side of Kamurocho with these four characters, you'll be surprised at how well written the game is, not to mention the great combat, interesting missions, bizarre side quests and even weirder mini-games. Needless to say, if you want a game that is not your stereotypical Western game, than you really need to check out Yakuza, especially if you enjoyed Shenmue and the previous Yakuza titles.


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