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Yakuza Dead Souls review: A spin-off, but not a departure

When there's no more ideas in hell...

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Why not partake in a spot of Englishman-baffling pachinko? It's like pinball got knocked up by Peggle and gave birth to 200 ball bearings. Guide them into holes to win tokens and play again. The analogue darts game is better than most retail releases, and you can celebrate a bullseye with a sharp shot of branded brandy. There's a batting cage to practice your baseball swing, and a totally unfair crane game where you can win plushies. (It's rigged.) Crucially, QTE karaoke and hostess bars return, too.


It's a haphazard range of gameplay possibilities, some meaningful and others completely not, and it's the same throughout. Outside safe zones there's more than one way to approach combat. You can run-and-gun, or stand and pop off rounds with Resi-style tank controls, or use a slow and purposeful plod reminiscent of Dead Space. It's brain-splattered pick-and-mix.


And the mechanics keep on piling up. You can pick up bikes and posts to batter enemies. Or chain enough headshots and you'll earn a Heat Snipe, which targets the most explosive thing in the area - cars, inexplicably placed red barrels - and, well, blows it up, which clears crowds quickly. This can be powered up with a buddy. Occasionally an NPC joins you, who'll follow commands and provide extra firepower. The extra management is fiddly and, annoyingly, and you'll lose progress if they die. You can even build up skills - bettering hand-to-hand skills and unlocking lock-ons. These RPG trappings extend to shops, which can be invested in, and weapon crafting with looted material. It adds several layers to otherwise light combat.


Clearly there are disembodied tongues firmly in disembodied cheeks, but combat's been done better elsewhere. There are fewer zombies than Left 4 Dead, and fewer methods of dispatch than Dead Rising, but different enemies do bring variety (if a little shameless cribbing). The Witch - sorry, 'Cry Baby' - sobs in a corner and attacks if you wake her, while the mattress-armed Tank charges recklessly. Not brilliant, but satisfying enough.

Ultimately, the zombie sections are to be stomached while you wait for better bits to load.

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The verdict

It's the equivalent of a shrapnel grenade rather than single, well-placed sniper bullet. Bits will miss, others will lodge themselves deep.

  • That unmistakable Yakuza vibe, with some barmy additions
  • Loads of attractions, some quite deep
  • Spend hours collecting, levelling and exploring
  • The 'dead' part - combat isn't great
  • The cribbing from other games is a bit shameless
PlayStation 3
Action, Beat 'em Up, Survival Horror