When in roam
Soul Points garnered, whenever you earn sufficient experience points to level-up, can be spent on a variety of attacks, throws, counters and heat generators (heat being the key to fights, raising your character’s strength and abilites), and again remind us that this is an RPG after all. Later fights will see you utilising every technique acquired too, with foes dealing out punishment with speed and accuracy. Quick-stepping and blocking quickly becoming as important as attacking, if you are to emerge victorious.
Visually, Yakuza 4 does a decent enough job of representing a living, breathing city. As with any game played-out on so large a stage, the amount of detail is occasionally lacking, with textures repeated, a lot of greys used, etc., but that’s forgivable at this scale. Characters move with a fluidity, each having their own presence and style, while sparks fly impressively during battles.
Kamurocho itself isn’t quite as exploitable as GTA IV’s Liberty City say; you can’t suddenly grab a motorbike and head out on an uzi-fuelled rampage for example. That’s not to say this city isn’t without its charms, there are enough mini-games here to keep you entertained for hours without even touching the game’s main plot. Take Club Sega for example, arcades complete with playable games such as the excellent shoot-em-up, Boxcelios 2, and even a toy-grabbing claw cabinet.
The odd chase sequences, in which you play both pursuer and pursued hurdling obstacles as you go is fun, if tricky to control. While other sides include pool, darts, photography, mah-jongg, table-tennis, each well implemented and ready to seize yet another hour or two of your life. Then there’s the combat training with the machine gun armed Saigo – no prizes for guessing who wins that run-in nine times out of ten…
Slap on the back
Yakuza has long been a divisive franchise due to its peculiarities and Yakuza 4 is no different. With its masses of dubiously motivated characters, strangely staged fights and hour upon hour of passive video, it won’t be to everyone’s taste. That said, if you’re looking for an antidote to the endless stream of commercialised shooters, this might just be the tonic you’re looking for. ®
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