Judgment on PlayStation 5
I’ll admit, I never actually played through the entirety of Judgment when it first released on PS4. I’ve never actually completed a Yakuza title, either. This isn’t to say there was something wrong with Judgement though. The 2019 title, courtesy of SEGA’s Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, received deserved critical acclaim for its slow-burning plot, balance between the eccentric and the serious, and the smoothest combat the Dragon Engine managed to-date.
Skip forward two years, and the team at Ryu Ga Gotoku has remastered the game for PlayStation 5, as well as Xbox’s two new hardware SKUs — Xbox Series X|S. Having spent a considerable amount of time tucking into everything Kamurocho has to offer here, I can confirm this is the definitive way to experience Judgment.
Given that this is largely a remaster, I’m going to be focusing my review on the improvements I noticed while playing through the game. If you’re looking for an in-depth review on the gameplay, story and everything in between, I’d recommend checking out our former Senior Editor Hayes Madsen’s fantastic and thorough review from the initial release.
To give you a brief overview of the plot here, Judgment follows the story of Takayuki Yagami, a former lawyer who has put his days in the courtroom behind him following a client he defended and acquitted being convicted of murder. In an attempt to do the right thing moving forward, Yagami sets up his own detective agency in the hope of finding the truth, rather than simply trying to find a means of conjuring ‘reasonable doubt’ in the jurors minds.
We pick up the action as a series of gruesome murders begins to take place across the city. Yagami and his friend Kaito begin investigating these, adamant that everything’s not quite as it seems.
The story can take a little while to get going, with the first chapter taking a few hours to work your way through as the game teaches you the ins and outs of life in Kamurocho and the investigative gameplay. However, after a few chapters, things do really start to pick up. Even from the early stages, it hooks you in with a gradual drip-feed of clues and increasingly climactic events.
While the story is engaging enough to keep you playing, Kamurocho’s inhabitants are the real stars of the show here. As Hayes mentioned in his review from 2019, Yagami and Kaito are absolutely paramount to keeping you engaged. Their back and forth is humorous, with fantastic writing and voice acting to boot. I found myself genuinely laughing out loud and cackling away at some of the witty remarks and sarcastic comments the cast comes out with.
There really is so much charm in Judgment. Yagami has a genuine personality with a dark past, and he’s clearly doing his best to right past wrongs with his present and future actions. It’s easy to relate to Yagami and root for him throughout the story, with the antagonist being equally well-written to the point you’ll be cursing them every time they pop-up on-screen.
Outside of the main story is where Judgment’s more eccentric side steals the show. Side quests range from helping a franchise restaurant owner uncover why their sales are plummeting, to tracking down the ‘Panty Professor.’ Yes, you read that right.
In another instance, I was chasing a knife-wielding mascot down the street, and in yet another, I was capturing evidence of a husband’s infidelity for his wife. There’s so much variety in these side quests that I frequently found myself going out of my way just to find more, leaving the main story missions until I’d exhausted any available to me.
What really struck me with Judgment’s PS5 version, however, was just how silky smooth the gameplay felt. The framerate has been bumped up to 60FPS in these remastered versions, doubling the original release’s locked 30FPS, accompanying a resolution bump to 4K (2160p).
The 4K resolution allows for so much more detail both in character models and the city of Kamurocho itself in comparison to the PS4 version. Shadows are more detailed and generally more present throughout, while the stitching of clothes and the grain of Yagami’s leather jacket can be clearly seen.
In cutscenes, there’s an impressive amount of detail present, too. Red-hot embers sear away the end of a cigarette, and the smoke twirls and wisps its way into the air. Blemishes and skin imperfections on someone’s face are far more prevalent than they were in the original PS4 version too. All of these visual improvements come together to really add to the immersion of the experience.
The improved framerate in tandem with the Dragon Engine makes for satisfying combat and makes the cutscene-style EX Actions all the more enjoyable to watch. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of watching Yagami smash someone over the head with a plant pot, or team up with Kaito to deliver a killer blow to the head after a powerbomb to the floor.
That being said, it did take me a little while to really master the combat to the point I was executing fast-paced combos before fluidly transitioning into finishing moves. Bouncing off walls, EX Actions, fighting styles, leapfrogging enemies, and so many other special moves all combine to make for a combat system that is easy to pick up, but has enough depth to avoid button mashing being a viable tactic, particularly in boss fights and skirmishes in later chapters.
While the game didn’t run poorly on PS4, these new versions cut load times down to a matter of seconds. Using Yagami’s phone to access various menus or hopping in a taxi to fast travel about the city is near-instantaneous, and I haven’t spotted any noticeable drop in the framerate while roaming the streets of Kamurocho.
It was while exploring Kamurocho at night that the Judgment PS5 version’s visual fidelity really impressed. Neon lights and strobing lights realistically reflect in puddles littering the streets and sidewalks. Car chassis and shop windows have a similar effect, though strangely I did notice car windows seemed to lack any kind of light-based reflections.
I did find that Kamurocho, while far from ugly when exploring in the daytime, didn’t look quite as visually impressive. As a result, I found myself hoping to return to the neon-bathed streets in the nighttime often.
There’s just an atmosphere that comes with navigating the city’s congested streets, packed with NPCs going about their daily lives, that I felt the daytime sections didn’t quite encapsulate in the same way. The gritty tone of the story feels more at home under the cover of darkness. Regardless, this was never enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the game.
All lighting effects aren’t a carbon copy of one another, though. Lights dimly reflect off Yagami’s leather jacket, while the reflections in a character’s glasses are so clear and intricately detailed they border on photorealism.
If you’ve not yet experienced the game — or just thoroughly enjoyed the original release — then the Judgement PS5 version – and I imagine the Series X|S versions – are the absolute best way to experience Kamurocho through the eyes of a detective. The visuals are better than ever, the 60fps framerate really amplifies the fluidity of Dragon Engine and combat, and load times are near non-existent. It may take a little while to get going, but once it has got its claws in you, it’ll be difficult to put down.
Kamurocho doesn’t look quite as impressive in the daytime