Suffice to say some spoilers will follow - you have been warned.
There comes a time in a select few gaming franchise's where a stand alone title is created with a horror twist. Red Dead Redemption gave us 'Undead Nightmare' which filled the open world wild west with zombies. Cole MacGrath turned into a vampire for a spell in 'Festival of Blood'. And so it was that the Yakuza franchise decided to go the same way with Yakuza: Dead Souls.
To offer a little background of my experience with Yakuza franchise, I missed the first and second games way back when. I started the franchise from the PS3 debut's third entry which thankfully had a detailed 'previously on Yakuza' style fill in the blanks which gave me the necessary knowledge to join the series later on. Yakuza games can be seen as an either 'you love it' or 'you hate it' franchise. There are extremely long cutscenes which might turn some people off, add to that a combat system which isn't exactly a fluid masterpiece like Batman Arkham City and you'll start seeing that there are a few bumps in the road to navigate in order to enjoy the game.
That's not to say that the games combat engine isn't without its merits, at times it can be very good and its oh so satisfying to save up a heat gauge meter and then use it to slam a bike, sofa or other huge inanimate object into a goon's face. Yakuza: Dead Souls does however try to change the program a fair amount with the introduction of a lot more gunplay (something which was all but non-existant in previous entries). Gun's offer the more obvious way of dispatching zombies with a classic bullet to the head approach, but I can't help but feel so far that we're missing out on more over the top pure carnage at the hands of some martial arts against the undead.
I've played the first two sections of the opening of the game (about an hour if that of in game time). After the scene has been set and The Dragon of Dojima has nearly killed a phone with his bear hands, we find ourselves in control of Shun Akiyama.
Akiyama was a playable character in Yakuza 4 and the king of cool. Strolling through a zombie infested world with his hands slung in his pockets and a cheeky smile, its hard not to smile with him. That said - in less then an hour of gameplay I seem to have mowed down 200+ zombies which is a pretty high body count even in commando standards. Beyond an opening cutscene of 'Don't make me do it tension' as Akiyama has a showdown with his first zombie, he sure becomes accustom to taking them out rather quickly.
The story is still in the process of setting the scene, but Akiyama's assistant - 'Hana-chan' is running a fever during the outbreak and so he's off to find a doctor to help her out. Along the way he runs into a member of the yakuza who is in need of a piece and is willing to trade with a way out of the quarantine zone. Que more shooting, more zombies dead and I get the feeling that this is going to be a large portion of how Dead Souls pans out.
The gunplay comes off rather hit and miss - literally - as it seems the best approach thus far is to just hold aim, strafe around a bit and continually hit the trigger with the semi auto aim doing the rest. The zombies aren't much in the way of a challenge, except for perhaps on occasion the left 4 dead style mini bosses. So far i've encounted a large hulking zombie who required continual shots to the cranium to down and a screaming female zombie, who upon screaming attracts more enemies to your location.
At this point - I'm here for the story - which I'm hoping holds my interest. As a stand alone title I'm left wondering if a few chances will be taken and the more main characters around you might 'turn' during the course of the action - it could be interesting to see.
Having made my way to the checkpoint of a dvd store which also happens to have a ton of guns, a few survivors have loaded up, and we're ready to 'Kick some zombie ass'.
...lets hope the ride is enjoyable.