PS3 Review: Yakuza: Dead Souls

Raccoon City this ain’t…

The Yakuza games have been an acquired taste, mixing combat and RPG elements in a fictional Japanese city, while having engaging storylines and memorable characters. It seemed like the series could do no wrong, but then they decided to turn the city into a zombie playground. Has the gamble paid off or should the city be nuked?

Yakuza has always had a great cinematic feel to it and Dead Souls is no different, and the story is actually half-decent even though it’s hardly original. It has that classic Japanese edge to it that Western zombie games don’t quite have, but it definitely is far from the likes of Resident Evil and Dead Rising. The problem is that the game has turned from an all-out brawler, into a third-person shooter with some of the worst shooting mechanics I’ve come across in a videogame, it’s just broken.

You strafe and shoot by using the L1 button, but you can stop and aim by using the L2 button, which is just ridiculous. Why you can’t move and shoot isn’t something new when it comes to zombie games, look at Resident Evil…but using the L2 button to do it is incredibly cumbersome, it just doesn’t feel natural in any way. Also basic things like aiming and turning are problematic when they should be second nature to game developers.

You can still fight to a degree by picking up objects and smashing them over the heads of zombies, but they have limited use. You can target specific items to explode when your meter is high enough from killing enough of the undead and the game does still have RPG roots by letting you upgrade your abilities. There’s also an incredibly repetitive nature that sets into Dead Souls, essentially you just clear areas of zombies and push forward. It starts out easy for the first few hours, but then it gets tough and you can get backed against a wall and it can be a struggle to get away thanks to the camera and rolling mechanics.

Exploring the city has always been a big part of Yakuza with the activities you could do, and while you can do that in Dead Souls, it’s limited as parts of the city get locked down because of the outbreak. In terms of visuals, this Yakuza game looks the part in its cutscenes but looks dated and has some pretty ugly textures in areas, to be honest Yakuza 4 looked much better. Voice-acting is still in Japanese, but I prefer it to what a few bad voice actors would do.

The Verdict

Yakuza: Dead Souls is a real letdown, it eliminates what made the series so great and turns it into a broken third-person shooter with lazy design choices. It’s a shame as I had high hopes for this, but thankfully there’s always Yakuza 5 to look forward to…