Yakuza Dead Souls review
The theory is that zombies make everything better, bringing a terrifying element to whatever they are added to. While it does breathe some new life into this old franchise, it hasn’t quite come back from the dead. Up until this point the Yakuza games have been a serious take on the modern Japanese underworld. Dead Souls is basically this premise, but with a zombie apocalypse happening on the streets of Kamurocho. This really takes the seriousness out of the game as it ends up in a weird middle ground between a survival horror and a Japanese crime drama. If you are expecting Resident Evil in the Yakuza universe then you might be a little disappointed. However, while you are cutting down zombies there are still turf wars going on around you, which creates an odd hybrid of a game to say the least.
It all feels so familiar…
Gamers will notice that mostly everything has been kept intact from previous Yakuza games, but there are some more noticeable gameplay changes. Mostly the open-world environments, along with the interesting mini-games and sub-stories have remained intact, but the combat itself however has changed. Instead of the player resolving everything thing with fisticuffs, everything is now resolved from the end of a gun. Varying between pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and even more hardcore weaponry, it’s clear that weapon based combat is the focus for finishing off the undead once and for all. Punching a zombie to death seems like a fun idea until you get half your arm chewed off. Best stick with the guns then!
Levelling up your character is also a returnee in Yakuza Dead Souls, but this time skills are shared between all four characters in your posse, who can be recruited later on in the game to help destroy the zombie threat. There are a variety of skills and upgrades to improve your characters chances against the zombies, such as extra room for weapons slots or learning to auto-lock on headshots.
The games graphics leave a lot to be desired, and at times it felt like I was playing an old PS2 game as it was distorted and sometimes headache inducing. The copious amount of cut scenes however made up for it slightly with good facial and motion animation on display. Dead Souls main problem includes a big drop in the frame rate when the action gets out of hand. It’s able to handle a good amount of zombies on screen, but causing a combo of heavy explosions will cause serious problems. But the fundamentals aren’t all lost. The voice acting is still top-notch with Takaya Kuroda as Kazuma Kiryu, while the soundtrack is great with a good mix of techno and rock, along with a variety, yet familiar, J-Pop Karaoke tunes.
Mowing down zombie after zombie can get repetitive, but the boss fights with various hideous monsters will keep you on your toes. Yakuza: Dead Souls borrows a few enemy designs from other zombie games, so expect to see a licker from Resident Evil and a boomer from Left4Dead.
The boss battles are a bit tricky and of course increase in difficulty as you progress through the game, but the real struggle was the battle I had with the controls and the camera. I found out way too late into the game that auto setting the camera makes fighting a hell of a lot easier. There is nothing to improve the awkwardness of aiming and shooting in the game though. You aim with the left stick which also serves as the control for your characters movement. In a world with two analogue sticks, it is another thing that makes Yakuza seem a little dated. In open environments it’s easier to manage aiming and shooting, but in close quarters it becomes incredibly difficult. Awkward aiming and a camera that tends to point in the opposite direction to the zombie threat makes for frustrating, albeit interesting gameplay.
If zombie killing becomes a bit of a bore for you then don’t fret, as there are plenty of other things to do in the world of Dead Souls such as mini-games and side missions. The fishing mini-game has you catching a different kind of sea creature; not a zombie fish, but an actual zombie with a weight and everything! There’s also the infamous “Happy Ending” massage parlour trips, Blackjack, Roulette, Bowling, Darts, Ping Pong, dancing and even a batting cage to whack a few baseballs in! However many of the roads and paths will be closed due to destruction, and you’ll have limited opportunities to get off the beaten path unlike past Yakuza games. Despite that restriction, you can still get hours of gameplay from it.
Yakuza: Dead Souls stumbles with the frustrating controls and poor framerate which really let the game down, making it feel like it should have been released a few years ago. It is such a quirky take on the franchise with references and cameos from previous games, while it plants its tongue firmly in cheek. If you can handle the quirks then you will enjoy your time in Kamurocho. (Minus the zombie apocalypse of course!)