Yakuza 3 - import hands-on

Yakuza 3’s big change is ‘heat’ moves: built up during a fight, these let you stamp on a man’s face - or, later, pin him to the ground with your sword - with a dramatic shift in camera angle that’s slightly undercut by the fact that this move rarely actually finishes anyone off. And for the first three hours slashing and talking is all you do, with a total of one corpse for every 20 minutes of meandering dialogue. There’s a bit of random battling, although the local thugs seem to get the message after you’ve stabbed about 30 of them through the lungs. Oh, and there are quick time events - you’ll be strolling along when somebody suddenly swings at you, and you need to press a button or lose half your health bar. We’ve no idea if this happened in feudal Japan.

But things pick up when you hit the town. As in previous games, there’s a lot going on, with chatter in the streets and loads of non-plot-essential men who’ll have a gruff word if you bang into them. There’s also a ton to do, lots of it revolving around the game’s geisha girls. The plot hinges on one of these ladies, and as a result, Musashi needs to get to know as many as he can - sometimes by chatting to them, sometimes (yes, they got here before GTAIV) by taking them bowling. There’s even one character who runs a ‘special magazine’ about the geishas, and dishes out cash for info about their likes and dislikes, like an even creepier Hugh Hefner.

And that’s always been Yakuza in a nutshell. Tons of talking, interspersed with just enough ultraviolence and minigames to stop it from being a really long film. It’s beautiful - the pockmarked old men are actually much more of a testament to PS3’s graphical clout than the porcelain-smooth ladies. The question is whether it will play as good as it looks come release time.

Apr 9, 2008

Joel Snape
Joel Snape enjoys Street Fighter V, any sandbox game that contains a satisfyingly clacky shotgun and worrying about the rise of accidentally-malevolent super-AI. He's also the founder-editor of livehard.co.uk, where he talks a lot about working out.