Zombies in a city, especially a crowded one like most of the modern Japanese metropolises, would probably be impossible to stop. Armies would fail to deal with the threat because they would need to restrain from firing on civilians, air strikes are not precise enough and police forces would be soon overwhelmed.
In the Yakuza series, created by developer and publisher SEGA, the easiest way to save the city is to simply bring four characters from the history of the franchise together and give them the weapons and ammunition they need to kill all the normal zombies and their various mutated versions, while giving them a chance to also engage in the various side activities that made Yakuza famous.Story
Kazuma Kiryu, Goro Majima, Ryuji Goda and Shun Akiyama are the four characters destined to save the city of Kamurocho after zombies mysteriously appear.
At first, their priority is simply to survive the onslaught, but soon they find out that they need to work together in order to take out the entire zombie threat as soon as possible.
There are some twists and turns and plenty of side missions, but the core of Yakuza: Dead Souls is more linear than the series has traditionally been.
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|Karaoke movies ||Zombie moves |
The convoluted revenges and plots between the various factions are less of a focus now and that makes Dead Souls lose some of the charm of the Yakuza experience.
The fact that there are four core characters also means that each of them receives less characterization and that gamers need to have played previous games or read up on the Internet in order to get their detailed histories.Gameplay
Yakuza has always focused on brawling as the core gameplay mechanic, but Yakuza: Dead Souls makes guns the focus and presents a few problems.
The introduction of firearms means that the game needed a revamped camera system to deal with it and, unfortunately, the one created by the developers is pretty broken.
It takes time and effort to set up a good angle for most engagements, and I often feel like even then the camera swings back at a weird and unusable angle without any intervention from the player. It should be easy to just snap up a weapon, get a simple down-the-barrel view and then just take out enemies.
Instead, Yakuza: Dead Souls forces me to babysit the camera rather than enjoy zombie slaying. There are big issues when it comes to confined spaces and the reset option included in the menus seems to have no clear effect.
The only help the game offers is the auto-aim feature that makes it easy to take out enemies that are close to the player character, but it eliminates the fine control needed for headshots.
The characters have an ability called Snipping, which allows them to unleash a more powerful attack that can blow up various elements of the environment and take out a bigger number of zombies.
However, it’s hard to use effectively when constantly moving away from large numbers of enemies and it rarely feels like something that a gamer needs to use in order to progress.
The only part Yakuza: Dead Souls manages to overcome its problems with the shooting mechanics is when playing Goda, who has a chaingun instead of an arm. It gave me an awesome feeling of power that the game otherwise withheld.
Bosses are hard, employing tactics that are close to cheating, like spawning hordes of smaller enemies and regenerating their health at the most inopportune moments, but they have pretty unique designs.
Taking them down feels like a real accomplishment, even if it takes a few deaths to learn their routines and find an opening to attack.
Outside of the zombie invasion, this is a Yakuza game that has kept all the hallmarks of the series, the side-quest activities that players often praised, more than the core stories.
Players can still play Mahjong or try their hand at various casino-style mini-games and there are always options to seek out hostess clubs in order to get away from the stress that battling zombies can generate.
There are also bowling alleys and stores to explore, but the incidence of random encounters has dropped to almost zero, which will be a disappointment to some.
Make sure to also try out the punishing but very exotic karaoke game.
The problem with side activities is that they feel somehow absurd given the fact that the entire city is under threat from zombies. I can suspend my disbelief when it comes to video games but Yakuza: Dead Souls is asking too much of me.
I suspect that most fans will feel a disconnect between the traditional structure of the game and the ongoing zombie invasion.
The most recent Yakuza is also plagued by an excess of loading screens especially given the fact the game requires a hard drive install.Graphics and audio
Yakuza: Dead Souls is a video game that takes after a Seinfeld episode when it comes to looks, managing to deliver an impressive visual experience from some angles and a mediocre one from others.
Players will be impressed with the cutscenes created by the development team at the Yakuza studio, with the movement and texture of the characters, and with the design of the unique zombie monsters that one will meet during the game.
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|Battle brothers ||Well armed |
Unfortunately, the lavish detail at short range means that everything in the distance tends to get blurry and low resolution in a hurry. Yakuza: Dead Souls mostly manages to hide the limitations by putting the characters in small arenas while suggesting that Tokyo exists somewhere outside the walls of the current space.
But there are moments when this is not possible and I found myself conflicted about whether to appreciate what was right in front of me or to criticize the background.
It’s a little harder to judge the overall sound quality for Yakuza: Dead Souls because the entire dialog is spoken in Japanese and subtitled in English. The main voice actors seem to do a good job and they managed to deliver emotion even if they speak a language I do not understand.
However, the supporting cast seems a little interchangeable and there are a lot of conversations that are not voiced and rely on small ineffectual exclamations to deliver the feelings of the characters.
The soundtrack is very guitar heavy and has a rather odd, old school retro vibe, but it somehow works well with the idea of zombies invading an urban setting and the amount of weapons the main characters use to clear them out.Multiplayer
Yakuza: Dead Souls, given the theme and the cast of characters, would have been well suited for a four-player cooperative experience. Still, the development team only included a limited number of challenges linked to the mini-games for two players, which feels like a disappointment.Conclusion
Zombies have been a big hit with video game developers in the last few years, but I doubt that the Yakuza series really needed them to spice things up.
I suspect that everyone treated the Dead Souls spin-off as a project to cash in on a trend while the core of the team worked on the soon-to-arrive fifth full game in the series.
Yakuza: Dead Souls is clearly a must-have for those who have played at least two of the previous titles in the series and who have an emotional investment in the characters that show up.
Nonetheless, the rest of the gaming world would probably do better to pick up the fourth game in the series, play at least 10 hours of it and then figure out whether that experience plus guns and zombies is worth their money.