Kazuma Kiryu has lived an extraordinary life navigating the Tokyo underworld throughout the Yakuza series, and in Yakuza 6 (the seventh main entry in the series), Kiryu and his world have never looked better. Yakuza 6 is the first game in the long standing open-world franchise to be built solely for the PlayStation 4, and with the help of the team's new Dragon Engine, it looks and plays brilliantly.
“Seamless” was the buzzword of our hands-on demo, and with good reason. With the aid of the new engine, everything in Yakuza 6 looks and feels smoother than ever. Combat no longer uses creative camera tricks to load encounters: if thugs notice you, the screen pulses and you can start wailing away in typical Yakuza brawler fashion. Beyond combat, the game as a whole features almost no load times outside of starting some minigames and transitioning between maps. But even then, they are minimal, meaning you can keep wandering the streets in search of fun.
The main addition to Yakuza 6 is the use of Kiryu’s cell phone. Mission requests are sent to your inbox, allowing you to accept them on the fly as you make your way around the neon landscape of Tokyo. Continuing with the “seamless” theme, the game’s UI has been streamlined as well. Instead of the clunky drop-down menus of Yakuza's past, players can now switch between menu tabs using R1/L1; this is another example of the developers' attempts to update and simplify the clutter and complexity that has bothered gamers in the past. The greatest example we witnessed was the ability to set waypoints on the map (a long-requested mechanic for the series), making pathfinding easier than ever. The most prominent new feature for Yakuza 6 is the clan creator, a strategy mechanic where Kiryu can recruit and build a clan to fight for territory against the other gangs of the Tokyo underworld.
However, Tokyo isn’t the only locale in the game: Kiryu’s journey will also take him to Hiroshima. A stark contrast to the chaos of city life, Hiroshima showcases more of Japan than the machinations of Tokyo. While traveling to this new location is key to the story, a constant goal of the Yakuza team is to make their game world feel as real as possible, and the dichotomy of city versus rural life functions as another means to portray the reality of modern Japan.
Yakuza 6 is a leap forward for the series. Graphically and mechanically, everything feels smoother than previous Yakuza titles, not to mention how beautiful the new engine looks on PlayStation 4. Fans of Kazuma Kiryu’s journey have a lot to look forward to in Yakuza 6, and for those that have yet to take the plunge into Sega’s crime-laced Tokyo, take note: this game has the feel of being something special.