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April 27, 2011
Yakuza 4 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
9/3/2010SegaSegaCS1 Team1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc5082MB720pNoNoMA15+

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Although from Sega, Yakuza 4 is a PS3 exclusive.
Sega's Yakuza franchise is one that is very much a Japanese release. Indeed the gaming giant initially had no plans to release Yakuza 3 outside Japan such was the amount of interest from gamers that the company relented and the game was released amassing sales of over 350,000 units to date (compared to 618,000 units in Japan). A year after the Japanese release and Sega have now launched the sequel Yakuza 4 in America and Europe in the hope of capturing the same success.

Yakuza 4 takes place one year after the previous game and starts when a man is shot to death in the ruling territory of the Tojo Clan, the organisation that has featured in all games in the series to date. A small gang which belongs to the Tojo Clan try to establish what happened and their leader is soon found stabbed to death. These events cause a heated battle between four men over money, power, status and honour. The truth becomes apparent as the lies, betrayals and entwined stories are revealed and when these four unflinching men get together, the new legend of Kamurocho is born.

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Inflicting some pain...
Yakuza 4 is a third person action adventure game in the same mould as Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series. Unlike the previous game which saw you playing as Kazuma Kiryu from start to finish Yakuza 4 sees you playing as four different characters including Shun Aliyama who owns loan company Sky Finance and hostess club Elise, Taiga Saejima who is accused of a hit on a Yakuza Clan, Masoyoshi Tanimura who is an outcast cop of sorts looking for who killed his father and finally Kazuma Kiryu gets dragged into the mix after some characters turn up at the orphanage - the how and why we won't disclose so as to not spoil the story. Essentially though you play four seperate storylines of 4-5 hours each before a fitting finale which brings them all together.

Not only based on the criminal underworld in Japan, Yakuza 4 contains many Japanese themes and items such as hostess clubs, pachinko, hanafuda, and karaoke all contained within this massive game. Besides these distractions the game includes pursuits which Westerners will enjoy such as Ten Pin Bowling, Table Tennis, Baseball practice, massage parlours, a golf range, restaurants, shops, Sega arcade (complete with UFO Catcher and the pretty cool shooter Boxcellios 2), a casino (with Baccarat, Blackjack, Poker and Roulette), and a fighting area among other distractions. Fortunately unlike Yakuza 3 these games, and the hostess clubs, have made it intact for the European and American release.

While the streets of Kamurocho are essentially the same as in the previous game the developers have built several new areas for you to explore. These include a large rooftop area, an Asian backstreet area, and an underground area which includes sewers, a shopping center and carparks. By far the most impressive of these is the underground area, although each serves its purpose during the story.

If you've never played a Yakuza game before then we strongly suggest that you enter "Reminisce" from the Main Menu which allows you to watch a summary of the events from the first three games in the series. Even for gamers that played the earlier titles, it's a good way to remember the many characters and events.

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There are plenty of brawls in the streets.
As you travel around you'll enter numerous street fights which have only a couple of moments loading before you enter combat with one, or several, opponents. The majority of this combat is hand-to-hand however at times you can also pick up objects such as signs or bikes to use as weapons. It's also possible to equip Kazuma with up to three selectable weapons which break after a short period of use as well as clothing to increase his strength or abilities. It's also possible for Kazuma to learn new moves through "Revelations". Given the right conditions you will be able to record people around the city streets performing special moves on the camera phone and thereby learn them to use in battle. It's a great way to learn new moves. Kazuma can also be upgraded through the menu system using points earned for successfully completing fights. It must be said that combat in this game, while somewhat simplistic, is very enjoyable.

On a positive note the developers have reduced much of the "slowness" which we felt bogged down the previous game significantly (primarily when Kiryu returned to the orphanage). Also improved is the chase mode which sees you now automatically sprinting instead of needing to hold down R2, while it's now possible to pick up objects such as bottles to throw at enemies causing them injury and slowing them down slightly.

As expected Yakuza 4 offers so much more then the main story mode. Indeed after the 20 or so hours to complete the main storyline several new modes will appear on the main menu including Premium New Game where you can replay the games storyline with the abilities, items and money carrying over from the end of the first runthrough. A Premium Adventure mode allows you to enter the city after the completion of the main story to complete side quests. An Ultimate Skill mode gives you a series or challenges to complete such as defeating a set number of enemies or a boss character within a time limit while Special Games adds in some extra modes, including a 2-player battle while Network allows you to search for Bonus Content or Game Updates manually.

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Yakuza 4's cut-scenes are impressive.
Despite our love for many aspects of Yakuza 4 we also have some disappointments. Primary of these is the amount of cut-scenes and text to be waded through. While the pre-rendered cut-scenes with voiceovers are among the best we've seen in games, the cut-scenes with text dialogue are frequent and lengthy. Sure it helps build the characters and storyline but you'll spend more time reading all this dialogue then playing the game so to speak.

The other main issue we have is that by having four main characters to play as in the game for 5 or so hours each you never really grow to know or love the characters as much as spending 20+ hours with a single character as we did with Kiryu in Yakuza 3. Also, the almost random street battles become annoying as you can't travel around without being attacked every minute or two. Thinking about this I can accept that before you become powerful in the city this would happen frequently but it would be good to see your reputation make those looking to pick a fight back off a bit as you become more powerful. I mean if I was a thug I wouldn't be taking on Mike Tyson in a stret fight - why would you take on a powerful Yakuza?

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Yet another street brawl in Kamurocho.
Finally the developers really need to work on an improved map system. The mini-map that appears on-screen during gameplay (it can be viewed in normal size, zoomed in or turned off if desired) is too small to be useful, while the map at the pause screen is too small to be useful and it would be nice to set waypoints. It's not gamebreaking, but should be improved in future.

Visually Yakuza 4 is pretty much on-par with the previous game in the series - that is - solid but rarely jaw dropping. The city of Kamurocho looks very impressive with a wide range of buildings, objects and people walking around the streets - I do find it strange that despite some cars parked around the city streets, there are never any driving around. Still, thats a wierd oddity that we'll let slide.

As with the previous games Sega have put plenty of emphasis on the character models and animation within the game. Some of the pre-rendered cut-scenes provide near photorealistic characters while in-game their details are reduced, but they still look fantastic. To achieve this the development team at CS1 has again used the Cyberware Face and Head (PS model) scanner to capture the performances from the notable actors in the main roles.

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Well he won't be in Yakuza 5 (if there is one).
Audio in Yakuza 4 follows the same pattern as that in the previous title. That is during the many cut scenes a majority of the dialogue appears as text, however there will be the odd grunt or noise from the characters. At times these cut scenes change to pre-rendered scenes which have full voiceovers (these are generally the scenes of most significance or emotion) and while we don't understand Japanese the tone of the voiceovers makes a big difference to how you read the subtitles. This certainly helps the game retain an authentic feel to it. The games music is a little sparse, but what is there is used to good effect while the city sounds busy with great ambient effects. Again, this is a solid game sonically.

Ultimately while we loved Yakuza 4 it doesn't quite live up to the previous game in storytelling elements, as well as the lack of "freshness" with many locations being recycled. If you liked Yakuza 3 then this is a worthy sequel, but newcomers may want to try the previous, slightly superior, game first.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSVery similar to Yakuza 3 although a bit busier and more detailed in places.
80%
SOUNDWhile we can't speak Japanese the voiceovers sound good while music is limited and effects are solid.
75%
GAMEPLAYAgain, this is the Japanese version of GTA and gameplay is good although too much reading text. Also having four main characters doesn't see you come to love them as much as Kiryu from the previous game.
83%
VALUEIt took us about 20 hours to complete the main story with few side missions complete, and even then the entire game was under 20% complete all up.
88%
OVERALLYakuza 4 isn't a game for everyone, but we continue to love this series from Sega. There's a bit too much text to read but there is so much to do here that you can't help but be impressed.
82%

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