Yakuza: Dead Souls is a spin off of the beat 'em up series of the same name. It takes a few of the core seriesâ€™ cast out of their gang wars comfort zone, and dumps them in the middle of a zombie outbreak - unfortunate for said zombies, I'm sure.
Yakuza: Dead Souls' story is divided into several parts, following core series characters such as Shun Akiyama, Goro Majima, former yakuza Ryuji Goda, and Kazuma Kiryu, as they deal with the zombie outbreak in their own way. Which, as it happens, is pretty much identical: kill anything un-dead (is there any other way?)
The mystery behind the zombie outbreak that has Kamurocho city authorities quarantining a large chunk of the city is gradually revealed as you play through each character's chapter, through subtitled cut-scenes. Unfortunately, a lazy localization has skipped on an English dub. As such, the game demands your full attention. Moreover, the cut-scenes can drag on so long you may end up skipping through them or get distracted taking your eyes off the screen - either way you may miss something important - or worse still - a filthy joke.
Gameplay is broken down between the inside and the outside of the quarantine zone. You travel between the two by undertaking various quests - most of which involve being paired up with a partner. Unfortunately, said partners have a habit of shouting random words and unless you speak Japanese, you won't know what they are saying as they haven't been subtitled. In addition, the AI isn't that smart and they occasionally walk into fires. Despite its size, the quarantine zone often feels linear due to various barriers and debris blocking your route.
Unfortunately dead-ends are the least of your zombie slaying woes, as the camera is often working against you. The aiming system is either too slow or twitchy - it's especially bad for boss battles when you're trying to target a boss's weak point. In the worst case scenario, you may try to target a zombie for a headshot, but targeting system will point you in the opposite direction. More often than not, the best way to take out the hordes is to look in their general direction, or strafe and shoot; while dodging and gunning is effective against bosses, although it takes much longer than aiming.
There are also numerous objects to use as weapons, from steel pipes to the unwieldy looking bicycles. Although they eventually break - or explode - they are effective against faster mutants, such as the monkey boy. There are also numerous short range weapons, such as the flamethrower or fire extinguishers. For more firepower - or if you're out to conserve ammo - there are various set pieces which you can use to your advantage, such as broken down tanks. In some cases, they are vital to winning a battle - stationary tanks can help take out heavily armoured bosses.
Mutants occasionally drop items such as materials for weapon upgrades or valuable dolls for trading. Unfortunately you can't always collect these items as your inventory has a very limited storage, and that's typically used for ammo, health packs, and other collectibles - so unless you're going through your ammo enough you'll often miss out. You can, however, send unneeded items to your hideout, which helps alleviate this somewhat.
Outside the quarantine zone, the city is lively and there are a number of businesses, illegal (selling guns and upgrades) or otherwise (some of which have mini-games). There's also a lot of signage for Japanese websites such as the art site, Pixiv.
Unfortunately, negotiating the city can be a chore due to the huge chunk of it that's blocked off, and the lack of free transportation options. Although taxis are available, it would have been good to take one of the many bikes scattered around the quarantine zone - although that's probably getting too close to GTA territory for SEGA.
Visually, there's a striking contrast between the bright outer Kamurocho and the drab quarantine zone. The boss monsters look fairly unique, there's a good variety of zombies and mutants, and the city looks good - given the large area. Unfortunately Yakuza: Dead Souls suffers a little, with a fair bit of pop up - which is particularly notable in the quarantine zone, where barriers don't appear until you're standing in front of them.
Although Yakuza: Dead Souls gives a negative first impression with chunky controls and lack of an English dub, as you progress you adapt your play style compensate for the awkward controls. In addition, there's a lot to do in Kamurocho - in and outside of the quarantine zone - if youâ€™ve got the time for it.