Platforms - PS3
Genre - 3rd person action RPG
Aust. Classification – MA15+
Publisher - SEGA
Playing two Yakuza games prior to this (which the game recognised and rewarded with gifts, thank you) I was now quite familiar with the game's main players and quite fond of them too. I like to think I know my way around town. Being set in the shady underworld of Tokyo it is fair to say it was not too far of a stretch to reach hell and feel its warmth. Now the dead are back to haunt Kazuma and Co.
I admit I did let out a chuckle when I found out about this concept, and I let out several others throughout the course of the game with the plot being as witty as ever, if not more so, in a more tongue in cheek way. Ducking in and out of the Quarantene zone via manholes or other secret locations, it is like two different worlds, one inside where everyone seems to go about their daily business as if oblivious about what is happening outside the confines of their heavily guarded massive metal wall and then the other where humans enter at their own risk.
Yakuza has never been a mainstream game in the west and it is for this reason that it is so good. I liken it to listening to a new band before they become commercial. One of the reasons it isn't mainstream is because it uses Japanese language with English subtitles and although I don't usually like reading my games or my movies, I took exception to Yakuza as it was just so damn addictive and well written. Mashing together so many genres and pulling it off really, really well. Especially Y4. The story here is still really well written and it still has that excellent, quirky off-the-wall sense of humour even when faced with a zombie apocalypse.
The same style of cutscenes and basic premise it is still the same as the other Yakuza games. The character interactions are still text based and in this sense along with the un-skippable cutscenes it still feels like a Yakuza game, mostly, except with added Zombies. The RPG element is stripped back however, to make more emphasis on the third person action. With Directives relating to the total number of enemies defeated and Spec-ops missions relating to an encounter with another character it again has the main story to complete along with additional side missions.
In the Quarantine Zones the action has been amped up 500 % and it is basically everyone in the quarantine zone of Kamurocho City to eliminate instead of random gangs that pick fights, Yakuza henchmen or the main players and their lackeys. It is basically COD/Modern Warfare zombies for Yakuza fans and it is tongue in cheek, funny, charming and for me a guilty pleasure. I just wish the combat engine was like the last Yakuza game and really I can’t understand why it isn't, why try to change what has already been improved?
The combat has been simplified/changed as if to appeal to the more mainstream zombie lovers but it has gone backwards. In the last Yakuza everything seemed to have improved in this all important area, but this game takes a back step - even straying into clumsy territory for some of the parts. The character you're playing doesn't even point to where he is shooting, so I didn't know who I was aiming at half the time. I just kept shooting until every Zombie was dead. Upgrading abilities to take on head tracking does help this a bit. Locking the character in position helps with the accuracy but it consistently feels awkward and to make it worse the camera tracking was terrible. I felt constantly uncoordinated and fighting against the camera instead of ridding Japan of zombies and being able to concentrate on the game.
Some excellent weapons and mods accompany the player as usual and a new Heat Snipe attack makes it a little more interesting. It is a good way to clear out masses of zombies with one well timed explosive shot. Charging it up it unleashes a precision sniper like shot at an object that will then explode. Because you can issue orders when a partner is by your side this can also be done together for spectacular results. The other new feature is the ability to now drive vehicles, but not all are in working order and don't expect to be able to just jump into any vehicle all Grand Theft Auto style. It is very limited to what can be driven, but broken down tanks can have their guns utilised even when they can't move.
Like the other Yakuza games the leveling up is very similar by gaining XP to choose from a selection of abilities from the various categories and accumulating Soul Points that can then be used to learn new abilities. It is played out from multiple character angles and it is really cool how all the items, level ups and experience get passed on to the next playable character.
There are some cool looking and powerful enemies lurking around Tokyo but this time the strippers have been replaced with a different hunger for flesh and powerful does not reflect their Underworld status, but rather their physical mutation and actual size. Additionally there are hidden minigames that can be played by entering certain premises or places of business – Naomi's Palace - and going online. Other two player games like Pool, Darts, Golf and Bowling can be unlocked by winning particular trophies.
I thought the checkpoint system replaced the old finding a phone booth to save because it mentioned checkpoints early on in the tutorial section. This was until I turned the game off and back on again only to realise I was all the way back to the start again. This and I couldn't skip the cutscenes, again aaah!! As you can imagine I was pretty peeved that I lost about 30 minutes of gameplay. I think I did this with the other Yakuza games too, you would think I would learn or they would have fixed it.
Visually it seems to have taken a back step as well, going for a blurred more animated look that feels dated, but the cutscenes and voice acting remain just as good as the previous installment. I loved the concept, loved the story, loved the characters, loved the cutscenes, loved the action. Hated the controls. I recommend this to Yakuza fans, fans of Japanese Anime and Zombie Anime especially. But with so many other good zombie games it has loads of competition. One thing I do have to ask, what is it with Zombies and glowing eyes? I mean the dead coming back to life I can understand, but glowy red eyes... What happened? Were they all turned into the undead by an evil Jack-o-lantern master zombie?
It is ironic that a game that centers itself more on the action side of things for this outing has such an awful control/combat engine. It still had enough reasons for me to keep playing, and enough good content to allow me to grit my teeth through the things I didn't like, and just enjoy the cool stuff, which there is still plenty of. I loved the series but if I was to judge it on its own merits, a zombie action game with Yakuza characters, it is not that bad a game and good for some mindless zombie bashing and bloody fun with enough depth to keep it interesting.For the final score and more, go to Maceman Reviews