Yakuza 2 is a game with an identity crisis. It features a complex plot that bears favourable comparison with some hard-boiled Japanese cinema. But it gets so carried away that it nearly forgets it’s a game at all. Pantomime villain aside, the characters are largely likable with distinctive personalities, and the plot’s various twists and revelations keep things barreling along nicely. But, therein lies the game’s biggest fault: all the really exciting stuff happens in the cutscenes.
Gameplay is split between exploration and combat, neither of which is wholly satisfying. The urban environments are incredibly detailed, but you’re denied any GTA-like freedom; instead you have to settle for the occasional (rather pointless) visit to a hostess bar, golf range or cabaret joint. Most disappointing are the woeful arcade games you wouldn’t spend 10 cents on in real life.
Combat is better, enabling the player to string together satisfyingly brutal combos and execute some enjoyably unpleasant finishing moves. Unfortunately the rapid-fire frequency of the fights – most of which are unavoidable – quickly exposes a major shortcoming: the severe lack of attacks. Worse still, later levels are hampered by enclosed environments that a fiddly camera struggles to keep up with, as a mob of gangsters line up to break your jaw. Yakuza 2 should be praised for its uncompromising approach to storytelling, but because the gameplay is so much less involving, PS2 owners would better fulfill their gangster fantasies by replaying any of the GTA series.
Sep 29, 2008