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Sept. 21, 2006
Yakuza - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
13/9/2006THQSega /
Amusement Vision
1MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
135KBDolby DigitalYesYesNoneYes

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Going shopping for food.
Rule Number 1: When you join the Yakuza, or have any association with the criminal underworld, you have to swear more then Al Pacino's character in Scarface.
Rule Number 2: See rule number 1.

Without a doubt Yakuza (or Ryu go gotoku as it is called in Japan) is one of the most profanity laiden pieces of entertainment (movie, print or video games) in recent history - but you know what, I didn't really care. I got used to it, and in the end it suits the environment. This is one of the hardest hitting, most kick-ass criminal underworld games in years, and Sega are onto a good thing. Created by noted producer Toshihiro Nagoshi with novelist Seishu Hase Yakuza is an adventure game that has one of the deepest, and most well told stories found in a videogame in recent years.

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Brawling in the streets.
In a society where respect and honor holds great importance, there is an even higher regard for these traits within the one organization that is most feared by all: the Yakuza. Kiryu Kazuma - a former rising star in the Yakuza who is rebuilding his life after serving a 10-year prison term for murder - suddenly finds himself caught in a spiraling underworld plot involving a mysterious girl known as Haruka and a missing 100 billion (that's Japanese Yen). Kazuma must use his fists and his wits to stay alive as he unravels the complex web of truth and lies that surrounds the notorious Yakuza - with the assistance of the cop that put him away 10 years earlier!

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Yes, these are in-game graphics!
One of the best things about this game is that Sega have truly created a living, breathing city to explore. People go about their daily lives, you often hear other conversations in the streets (well, see text of them), can talk to dozens of people. Sure, there's a main quest to follow with a sequence of events and stories to unravel, but between the main action you're sure to spend some time in other locations such as fast food outlets, grocery shops, strip clubs or pachinko parlors.

While there is plenty of wandering around there's also plenty of fighting. Sega have a strong history in that area, and while no where near the depth of their Virtua Fighter series your character has a pretty hefty range of moves including punches, kicks, throws, using items as weapons, slamming people against walls, blocking, sidestepping and so on. If your fists or feet can't do the job it's also possible to pick up objects and use them as weapons. I'm not talking about weapons which enemies have dropped, but also parts of the scenery such as chairs, crates, rocks, pillars and so on. It's certainly one of the better street brawling games we've played. It's also possible to power and level up your character to get some new moves, and more abilities.

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Getting plenty of respect.
There are a couple of areas where the game disappoints. The biggest is the loading. There's not lengthy pauses, but they are rather numerous. When walking around the city there are slight 1-2 second pauses as you enter new streets, or locations, but when cut scenes or battles are loading you'll be sitting back for 4-10 seconds. I would have hoped that this late in the PS2's life a major company such as Sega would have streaming off DVD as standard - if Naughty Dog can do it with their Jak games and Rockstar North with Grand Theft Auto there's no reason Sega couldn't also step up to the plate. Another niggle I have is that while one of the better combat engines Sega could have pushed a bit further with more intelligent AI, and a slightly better aiming system which seems a bit haphazard at times.

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Quick, hit the square button.
Graphically Sega have to be applauded as Yakuza is a near masterpiece. While many of the characters are a bit generic looking I don't think there's a game that has captured the hustle and bustle of city life better then Yakuza. While the game is based in Tokyo the city has not been accurately modelled on a real location, but rather captures the look and feel of one of the worlds greatest cities. There's plenty of neon lights, Chinese signage, pedestrians, tall buildings and dark allyways to explore. The frame rate is pretty good, although, and as previously mentioned when you move around the city there is a slight pause when the camera changes - probably to load the graphics. The cut-scenes are gorgeous to look at with some brilliant cinematography used at times.

One interesting thing we noted, and this may be due to a slighly early build of the game as opposed to the retail one is that even with subtitles off the game has a funny manner of putting subtitles under text built into the CG movies, or battle introductions. It's like seeing double on the screen. I would hope that this was fixed for the retail release, if not it's not a major issue, just an annoyance.

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I love the neon signs.
Not to be outdone the audio in Yakuza is also quite stunning - as long as you don't mind a lot of swearing. THe voicework is generally of a very high quality, with well known actors such as Mark Hamill, Alan Dale, Michael Madsen, Rachael Leigh Cook, Eliza Dushku, Michael Rosenbaum and Darryl Kurylo as Kazuma. There are occasions however when lines seem out of place, or the character tone totally wrong, but they are rare. The lip-synching is also sporadic, in some places it's spot on, in others quite a way off.

Yakuza is a kick-ass game. It's not perfect, it certainly could have been polished off in a couple of areas, but it shows more potential for an ongoing series then 99% of the other games being released today (indeed a sequel is coming out in Japan by the end of this year!). Sega must be applauded for a deep and engaging storyline and gameplay which will keep you hooked from start to finish. Definitely worth checking out, if not purchasing right now!

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSRarely has a city been brought to life better then in this game.
88%
SOUNDFantastic speech, music and effects, albeit with plenty of swearing.
90%
GAMEPLAYThere's plenty of street fighting, but also some good exploration.
82%
VALUEA complete living city, so many locations to explore. Great value.
85%
OVERALLYakuza is a fantastic title. It's pretty violent, and has plenty of swearing (have we mentioned that already?) but with no new PS2 GTA title this year we'll take this. Sega have given us something to really enjoy, and THQ have released it for only $79.95 here in Australia. Go get it.
85%

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