We loved Judgment on PlayStation 4, but over time, our appreciation of this Yakuza spinoff has only grown. Upon reflection, we actually think that our Judgment PS4 review was a bit off the mark, and having now played the game's remaster on PS5, we're fully convinced that this is, hands down, one of the best Yakuza-style games that money can buy.
For the uninitiated, Judgment slides you into the leather jacket of private detective Takayuki Yagami. A former defence attorney whose career fell apart three years ago, Yagami spends his days working out of a tiny office in Kamurocho — the main setting of most Yakuza titles. However, outside of the backdrop and its action RPG gameplay, Judgment has nothing to do with SEGA's main series. There are no returning characters or storylines, making Judgment a near perfect starting point if you're new to Yakuza in general.
Judgment is structured around cases. Main cases deal with the game's core story, introducing a rich cast of brilliant characters and an absolute boatload of great twists. Meanwhile, side cases are essentially side quests, giving you a good excuse to explore the city and meet its quirky inhabitants. In classic Yakuza fashion, the central plot deals with a lot of mature themes, and is gripping from start to finish. In contrast, the side stories are usually quite comical, or completely ridiculous. It's a delicate balancing act, but Judgment pulls it off extremely well.
The case-by-case structure of Judgment gives it an almost episodic feel, and that's partly why the plot is so engaging. It's slow to really get started, and it does meander from time to time — again, in classic Yakuza fashion — but by the end, you'll have been pulled through an emotional mangle. In terms of narrative cohesion and storytelling, Judgment deserves to be praised alongside games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3. It can be a slow burn, but boy is the payoff worth it.
And if the plot gets a little too heavy, you can always relax with some fantastic minigames. Kamurocho is fit to burst with optional activities, and Judgment has a great selection of in-depth distractions. Most notably, drone racing is a fiendishly addictive pastime, and series mainstays, like darts and the batting cage, ensure that there's always something fun to try your hand at.
But as has always been the case in Kamurocho, the city streets are peppered with plucky thugs, just itching for a fight. Fortunately, Yagami is more than capable of defending himself. Combat is entirely action-based, and Yagami's natural agility allows for all kinds of crazy moves. He can run up walls, pull off dazzling combos, and generally just make his opponents look like idiots.
Yakuza's trademark heat moves punctuate fights, allowing you to deal huge damage with cinematic attacks at the cost of a bar that builds as you battle. Combat's got a very enjoyable flow to it once you're used to Yagami's graceful martial arts, and by the time you've unlocked a healthy amount of additional abilities, it's easily one of the best combat systems in Yakuza.
So Judgment is still an amazing game, but what does this PS5 version actually bring to the table? Well, for starters, it looks pretty damn good. The title's lighting engine appears to have been overhauled, allowing for more realistic illumination. At night especially, Kamurocho looks glorious, as each neon sign gives off an appropriately coloured glow, which is reflected in the surrounding environment. The PS5 version also runs at a rock solid 60 frames-per-second, which makes all of the action that much more enjoyable.
And, well, that's about it. Truth be told, it's not a massive improvement on the PS4 release, but then that's only a couple of years old. For our money, Judgment on PS5 is now the most visually impressive Yakuza game out there.
Oh, and it's worth mentioning that this remaster comes with all of the original game's DLC. It's nothing too significant — just bits and pieces like additional outfits for your potential girlfriends — but keep an eye out for several battle items that can trivialise combat on any difficulty setting. These DLC trinkets can be activated in a fight, granting Yagami a range of temporary powers — and all of them spit in the face of game balance. They're certainly fun to use if you're just playing around, but we'd advise against using them seriously, unless you really just want to blast through the entire campaign.
Judgment is a truly gripping detective thriller, and it plays better than ever on PS5. As a standalone adventure, it's an excellent action RPG, boasting some outstanding storytelling and a brilliant cast of characters. And as a Yakuza spinoff, it's arguably the perfect gateway into SEGA's stellar series.