Yakuza: Dead Souls Review

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Yakuza: Dead Souls

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Yakuza: Dead Souls doesn't reinvent the zombie shooter with its simple combat scheme, but mowing down the walking dead in their hundreds and executing some neat special moves provides some frantically-paced arcade-styled thrills.

We like

  • Enjoyable storyline, impressive production, slick animation
  • Taking down zombies with style with the cinematic special moves
  • Clearing a room of zombies with a machine gun is definitely good fun

We dislike

  • Jerky camera angles can irritate
  • Basic combat system with auto lock-on means simple pointing and shooting wins the day
  • Repetitive zombie-slaying against hundreds of generic enemies

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

It doesn’t matter whether you’re caving in their rotten brains with a baseball bat, ripping apart their stomachs with a dozen bullets from a machine gun, or slicing off their limbs with a machete: killing zombies is fun. And with the continued belief that gamers just can’t get enough of it, it’s no real surprise to see another familiar franchise succumb to the ever-popular trend of cracking zombie skulls.

Consequently, Yakuza: Dead Souls is almost exclusively about whacking the walking dead. Though series veterans will probably feel quite at home with the re-jigged Yakuza game engine and the familiar neon-lit city of Kamurocho, Dead Souls is a totally new Yakuza experience that trades in tales of feudal gangs in favour of an all-out, action-packed survival romp against the zombie masses.

Told via highly produced cut-scenes, and fleshed out with text-based interactions between living NPCs dotted around the now-fallen Japanese city, the story of a zombie invasion could have been quite generic. As it turns out, it’s actually very cleverly been pieced together and is surprisingly in-depth, and relayed with the typical Yakuza humour we’ve come to expect from its colourful cast of characters.

Yakzua: Dead Souls does look really nice too, particularly the character models and slick animation, although, symbolically, some of SEGA’s typical shine has been sucked out of the city by its rotting inhabitants who now shuffle around in search of human flesh. Incredibly, not even the army and has been able to stop the zombie invasion from spreading, which means there are only four men left capable of saving the town: “Mad Dog” Goro Majima, Shun Akiyama, Ryuji Goda, and former yakuza, Kazuma Kiryu.


As players progress through the game, they get to step into the shoes of all four characters and each one has his own favourite weapon. While Majima favours the shotgun, Akiyama duel wields pistols, Goda has a gatling gun for an arm and Kiryu prefers a rifle. Indeed, the martial arts fighting of previous Yakuza games has been totally cut-out and replaced with a more potent weapon set, while the freedom given in past games to explore has been totally dumbed-down with a far more linear set-up. Consequently, SEGA’s latest Yakuza effort is more arcade-styled action shooter than the action-based, RPG-flavoured adventure of previous games in the crime drama series.


Shotguns, assault rifles and pistols make way for heavier weaponry as players progress, including flamethrowers and chainsaws. However, despite the apparent abundance of variety, gameplay largely involves just pointing your firearm in the right direction, keeping finger on the trigger and letting auto-aim do its work against the zombie hordes.

That doesn’t make it any less fun, but it does mean Dead Souls lacks that strategic challenge players might get from more refined shooters. Here, it’s more about keeping on the move and making sure zombies don’t get too close, as well as simply running and gunning to mow down zombies and chaining together kills. The fact that players are given unlimited bullets with their first firearm is an indication that the emphasis here is firmly on arcade-like thrills and racking up kills at an incredible rate.


Zombie A.I. is fairly clever though and rarely do players have a chance to rest. There are more than a fair few “heart in your mouth” moments as the walking dead amble slowly toward players and then suddenly start running like lunatics leaving them back-peddling and frantically unloading their clip. They drop from the ceilings, emerge out of vents and generally prove to be a nuisance around every corner; though there is the option to avoid some of them totally in the more open spaces.

Dead Souls bursts out of that generic run-and-gun pattern on a few occasions and provides some real highlights thanks to the heat metre and special moves. Through killing zombies the metre fills up and allows players to trigger a variety of cool executions. Tap on ‘triangle’ when the metre is full and players lock into a short QTE sequence that might see them target some scaffolding to send it crashing down on a hungry horde, blow up a car’s fuel tank with a well-placed sniper shot, or electrocute a dozen zombies as they walk past a ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
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