Review: Yakuza: Dead Souls
A gangster game trying its hand at a zombie outbreak? It's the definition of a mash-up but is this a beautiful harmony or a mismatched screw-up?
- Worth The Time?Not even if you're a member of the living dead
- Things LovedQuirky bits of humour, good variety of zombies and mutants, side missions, decent upgrade system and not much else.
- Things HatedFrequent and unnecessary load times, hideous gunplay, lack of originality, most of the dialogue is presented in text form, all playable characters handle the same, frame-rate chugs at the slightest provocation, schizophrenic camera, environments can feel claustrophobic with plenty of back-tracking, plot is tiresome and resolves nothing.
- RecommendationIf you're looking for a zombie shooter fix, there are better ways to go. If you're looking for an action/adventure title there are plenty of titles that are far more worthwhile.
- Name: Yakuza: Dead Souls
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Sega
- Publisher: Sega
- Price: R505.00
- Reviewed On: PS3
Typically, when one mentions Yakuza your mind thinks of an under-appreciated Japanese take on GTA or possibly that shady group of Asians who will just never be quite as badass or influential as the Triads. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Yakuza (either definition) doesn’t really mix well with Dead Rising/Resident Evil type zombie action and you’d be right. But that didn’t stop Sega from trying. Come to think of it, there’s very little that could get in Sega’s way when they put their minds to it. The developer is a bit like that kid in primary school who always won the perseverance award, mostly because they couldn’t win any of the others. Anyway, we’ve ended up with Yakuza: Dead Souls and let me tell you right now it is a confused and oft bipolar mess of shoddy design, obscurity and downright stupidity.
Okay, my job here is done, time to collect my paycheck from Dean (haha) and we can all be on our way. Oh, you’re still here? Well, I guess I could give you something to read while you wait for your porn to buffer/download.
Yakuza: Dead Souls takes the familiar city of Kamurocho and throws it into the deep end of a zombie outbreak. However, this being Japan, it is contained so quickly that the zombies are restricted to a small quarter of the city while the rest is free to continue life normally. In fact, the containment seems to have happened so quickly that most of inhabitants of the safe part of Kamurocho either don’t know about the vicious and brain-thirsty zombies on the other side of the walls or simply don’t care but you never really get the feeling that part of the city is under lock-down because the living dead have taken over it. Maybe it’s an Asian thing?
There are four playable characters in YDS (I wanted to call it Dead Souls but that doesn’t exactly work now does it) namely Shun Akiyama the loan-shark, “Mad Dog” Goro Majima the psychotic yakuza and construction company owner, Ryuji Goda aka The Dragon of Kansai who has woken from a long slumber and finally Yakuza series mainstay Kazuma Kiryu who is stoic as ever. You’ll be familiar with all of them if you’ve played previous Yakuza titles since they all appeared in at least one at some point during the series.
Each has their own little personal story as well as a contribution to be made to the overarching plot. Or at least that was the idea. In reality, none of the character’s stories really get wrapped up properly nor do they tie in to the main plot all that well and while we’re at it, the main story itself is so empty and void of any meaningful moments that it ultimately resolves nothing and ends with little more than an anticlimactic *poof*. None of the characters are really tied to each other either so you just hop from one to the next without any real meaning or purpose behind the transition. The story feels like it was designed to be that meaningless since it’s non-canon but at least wrap it up nicely if you’re never going to revisit it.
Also, with the exception of Goro Majima, the characters are rather flat and dull. Part of this is down to the fact that some dialogue has been recorded, mostly for cutscenes but a lot of the scripted dialogue is simply delivered to you via text boxes at the bottom of the screen which is funny because I didn’t know this was a Gameboy Colour port. As a result, you either read through all of it like a moron or skip it and forget about the plot which really is the favourable option given the distinct lack of any plot worth following in this game.
You can explore both the infected and safe zones of Kamurocho with players being able to enter/exit the infected zone at will unless they’re in a mission of course. There are several ways to get in or out but one of the intelligent ways in which this game was designed is that you can go through any of them to explore the infected zone but once in there, you can’t access a story mission if you entered through the ‘wrong’ way in. You then have to finish exploring, go out and then back in through the entrance they want you to. A slow clap for the genius who came up with that.
You’ll also notice the jarring juxtaposition between the two areas gives the game a very bipolar outlook. On one hand it’s trying to be a Dead Rising style zombie shooter while on the other it is trying very hard to be a normal Yakuza game with lots of side missions and things to do in the living part of Kamurocho. It’s a bit like shooting your mother in the face while petting your Siamese cat.
The infected zone also requires lots of back-tracking which becomes tiresome in the relatively claustrophobic environments that you are often presented with. The side missions and extra content are what you’d expect from a Yakuza title with casinos, bars, hostess clubs, Club Sega, bowling alleys, golf courses and more. Of course it all feels more out of place than a prostitute in a mosque where all the men know her name but none will acknowledge that fact. Especially when you were juts gunning down a hoard of zombies 2 minutes ago.
There’s a good variety of side missions too but they really shine in their humour, or at least Majima’s side-missions do. There’s one where you help a group of pervs rescue a woman who is apparently helpless and nude. There’s another where you convince a clan leader to dress up as a girl in order to attract zombies due to the rumour that they target couples and it is even complete with some authentic karaoke.
The game even takes pots shots at the hackneyed zombie genre with one side-quest where you have to predict the order in which a bunch of clichéd zombie movie characters will die. There’s even a zombie rights activist group that appears in-game. Yes, this game actually has some good moments and humorous ones at that but they are not enough to save this pathetic game.
Maybe talking about the gameplay will calm me down. The first thing you’ll notice is the camera which has at least several minds of its own and rarely points where you want it to, especially when you’re in the middle of eliminating a group of zombies. The frame-rate chugs every time you tap the analogue too hard even though the game looks well below par. Controls are clunky and awkward, even if they do work on a Rainman sort of level. This isn’t fucking calming me down at all, I guess deeper into the ground you go, Yakuza: Dead Souls.
YDS favours gunplay over previous Yakuza titles’ bare-knuckle brawling combat style which had a melee focus. There’s still melee in this game but it’s so ineffective you may as well hurl insults at the zombies for more of an impact. Yo momma’s so fat, her combined IQ’s pushing 3000. No? Okay.
There’s a variety of zombies and mutants for you to shoot at but they’re all enemies that you’ve likely seen in other zombie games. For example, there’s a carbon copy of Left 4 Dead’s witch and really there’s just a complete lack of originality with the zombies. It could also be the fact that every time you’re introduced to a new one, there’s a 99.76% probability that they will be spammed so hard all over the place that it becomes more than routine to gun them down. The boss monsters are a decent enough challenge but the rest of the game is piss easy which is actually a God send. Why? Because aiming in this game is so temperamental and useless that blind faith would serve you better and that’s precisely what Sega seems to have realised so the idea is that you point in the vague general direction of the group of zombies you want to shoot and your character will take them all out. Zombies also have a tendency to wait for you to kill their dinner buddy before trying to attack you which is thoughtful.
The upgrade system isn’t bad and allows you to level up a character’s melee combat, health, armour, skills etc and the nice thing is that upgrades carry across characters so it doesn’t feel like you’re starting from scratch each time you move onto another character. However, this generosity of game design seems to have made its own problems since every character plays and handles exactly the same as a result. They didn’t have to but that’s just the way Sega did it. Thumbs up to those guys, seven thumbs up in actual fact.
Before I forget, let’s talk guns. There’s a great variety of them in this game and all the kinds you’d expect but you can really get through the game with only a pistol and some small amount of effort given that every character’s pistol has unlimited ammo.
What I really love about this game is how Sega tried to avoid criticism from people like me and fans alike by billing the game as a light-hearted title and non-canon. New flash: it didn’t work, bitches.