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A deep and ultimately fun game, even with all its problems.

It feels like everyone has had a pop at the zombie genre and now it’s SEGA’s turn, with the Yakuza series going the way of the undead.

Waking straight into this long running crime story with no idea of its history was a little daunting initially. The wealth of characters, already set out with their own back stories that I had no idea about, would normally make a game a confusing mess for me; but I must give credit to the writers as very early on you do start to feel for the main players with a some great lines that keep you smiling throughout the game and get you settled rather quickly into this new zombie fare.

I don’t know who these guys are, but they are pretty bad-ass.

Yakuza: Dead Souls is split into four different perspectives of the zombie apocalypse as it takes hold of the city of Kamurocho. Starting off with Shun Akiyama as he begins his loan payment collections with his business partner Hana, all seems well until some Yakuza zombies come crashing from an office block from above and start biting into the gathering crowds, leaving Akiyama to deal with them (via a basic control tutorial). Tired from this ordeal Akiyama takes a nap in his office, only to awaken in the middle of a zombie holocaust; with the small area of the city he resides in sectioned off by a huge impenetrable steel fence. From here the game takes you through the characters own personal story, which on completion moves to the next Yakuza member, each with their own reasons on taking on the zombie holocaust and like I said, I don’t know who these guys are, but they are pretty bad-ass.

Yakuza: Deal Souls is zombie survival game that is split into two distinctive areas, the zombie filled Quarantine Zones and the remaining safe city streets that surround it. The Quarantine Zones allow for either a fixed linear mission to progress the story or a free mode where you can go on the rampage, taking out zombies, earn experience and hopefully save a few stranded shop owners along the way.

The safe zone is a lot less dangerous, since it’s a bustling city full of life, with locals crowding round the barriers asking what’s going on. There’s plenty of side quests here to pick up, plus shops to purchase food and batteries for your torch, a weapons crafting van plus if the zombie slaying gets too much, plenty of pubs to visit for some branded whiskey and some darts. You can even pop into Club SEGA for some shoot-em-up action on the Boxcelios 2 arcade machine and whittle your cash away on a crane game trying to win a cuddly toy.

The overall control of the characters is a bit of a struggle initially with an awkward blend of strafing and stationary attacks available. By just facing your opponents and blindly firing the game will auto aim, hitting most targets and with R1 pressed you can strafe and keep the camera behind you, making it a little easier to see where you are going and what you are shooting at. Holding R2 goes all Resident Evil on you, allowing you to directly control the aiming cursor but at a cost of no movement. With even lightly zombie populated areas causing headaches the controls are made easier with the levelling up system. As you carry out the numerous missions, Substories and Directives you earn experience and with every level you pass you earn an extended health gauge plus Soul Points which can be spent on new abilities like a snap aim for easier headshots, a larger inventory and a improved melee attacks.

There are plenty of zombies to shoot at within the Quarantine Zones with hordes consisting of the usual shufflers, runners, plus some that just hunch on the floor. Others literally hang from windowsills, waiting for you to get a little too close. The zombies are varied in looks and are really well animated, all going down with either a satisfying slump with a headshot or flaying as you riddle them with bullets. Away from the standard fare there is a great variety of mutated monsters out there, with more than a few nods to other zombie games – young girl zombies scream to get the attention of the horde, Popeye armed hulking Meatheads that will only go down with headshots, Monkey Boys that jump and slide all over the place and even a boss that is clearly a Licker from Resident Evil.

With so much shooting going on, the removal of a crosshair renders a lot of the game down to running and shooting aimlessly and with the game making sure you hit the majority of targets it feels a little hollow after a while. There is an attempt to break this up by including Heat Sniping, a special move that builds over time that allows you to pull off an explosive shot with parts of the scenery like explosive barrels, petrol tanks on motorbikes or electrical junction boxes, but even this does not keep away the grating feeling as the further the zombie virus spreads through the city, the more boredom that creeps in with the simplistic game play.

However the biggest gripe is the camera, as most of the time it does not seem to have a clue from what angle to show the action, making it hard to shoot enemies even with the auto aim; on a few occasions it got so confused in corridors the camera spun wildly around my character, marking the first time I have gained motion sickness from a game.

There is an element of multiplayer included in Yakuza: Dead Souls. Along with high score rankings on the many mini-games, you can also play Two Player Battle in pool, darts, golf, bowling. You can also have a pop at Karaoke, a very fast paced and insane button mashing rhythm game that even has the Japanese lyrics so you can join in to the likes of “machine gun kiss”, “pure love in Kamurocho” and “I wanna change myself”, pop classics.

A deep and ultimately fun game, even with all its problems.

There are two elements to this game, the great open world of the safe zone that offers many great moments and hours of just wandering around, but then you have the frustrating zombie killing areas that suck any fun from it with a laborious camera and flat feeling weaponry. Dead Souls could have been so much better and it’s a real shame, however, I understand the safe zone moments are more in keeping with the other Yakuza titles and will now seek out the older titles due to my experience here.

Yakuza: Dead Souls is a deep and ultimately fun game, even with all its problems, however as you play through you’ll find yourself wishing the zombie moments were over, so that you can get back to exploring the rich living world these moments surround, and that is the biggest crime of all.

Rating: AverageReview Policy(version tested: PS3)

You can order Yakuza: Dead Souls from ShopTo here.


Edited On 16 Mar, 2012

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