NOTE: This review specifically goes over what the PC version offers rather than a review of the game itself. If you want a review of the game itself based on its content, check out fellow editor Harm0nica for his full review.
Another year, another
Yakuza Like A Dragon game. Ever since Yakuza 6, we’ve experienced the Yakuza titles in the Dragon Engine, an in-house developed engine created to take full advantage of the Playstation 4. It’s 2023 now though, and now that every mainline Yakuza title is on Xbox and PC as well, the cracks are beginning to show. I’ll admit, I’ve personally have never been too fond of the Dragon Engine, the visuals on display never felt like it truly took advantage of the current gen hardware, and the versions of those games that were released using it on last generation consoles were poor in regards to loading, resolution and frame rate.
But this article is about the PC! The PC can handle it all, no more framerate woes, no more blurry visuals, no more long loading times! And I wish I could say that with a straight face, but we are living in an era of PC gaming that is harsh on our systems. It’s genuinely hard to play new games on PC now without asking “Is it using Unreal?”. If you wanted to know if this game has stutter, yes it does. The problems it does have can be fixed as it can be considered much more minor compared to say, The Callisto Protocol which was genuinely unplayable when it came out and still has performance slowdown after its latest patch.
It’s Unreal, Because It Is.
The Dragon Engine is not being used for this “remake” of Ishin, but rather it has been done using Unreal Engine 4. Now the game has new graphical effects like physically based rendering, screen-space reflections, new post-processing effects that are heavily used in cutscenes, and new lighting. The upgrades that are there visually are what the Unreal Engine does best, and it looks good! On my Ryzen 5800x and RTX 3080 at 1440p Ultra settings, I can average well over 160FPS when outside in the main town, but when indoors or in combat, it can get up to 300FPS. I do believe that the frame rate can go higher when paired with a newer CPU, as no matter how much lower the settings in the town, the frame rate never goes much higher.
Speaking of settings, there’s a great amount of accessibility options for combat and quick time events. I’ve always found the QTE’s in Yakuza fairly annoying as on the harder difficulties you have to have the response time of a cheetah in order to get past them. The actual graphics options are disappointing, we have options for XeSS and FSR2.1, though I was unable to test FSR in the review build as it was not working. There’s your typical texture, shadow, and geometry detail options, along with toggles for screen space reflections and ambient occlusion. You can also adjust your FoV and render scaling, though unlike previous Yakuza games, there is no built in support for downsampling. Also, you can’t rebind your pause menu to the escape key for some strange reason, you have to press M to pause the game. A nitpick, I know, but it’s just been a long time since I’ve played a game on PC that doesn’t let you pause with the escape key.
Unfortunately, cutscenes are capped at 30FPS, and the game doesn’t properly cap them either as they exhibit massive frame-pacing issues that lead to cutscenes looking incredibly jittery. This also includes all the pre-rendered cutscenes in the game. If you’re ok with playing the game at 30FPS, just use an external program like RTSS to force the game to push out a perfect 33.3ms. Hopefully this gets fixed in a future update as the cutscenes in previous games were able to be uncapped and run at an arbitrary frame rate.
And yes, there is shader compilation stutter. There is no shader precompilation, so every time a new effect comes on screen, the game will do a stutter. The better your CPU is, the shorter the length of the stutter, but due to how the game reuses effects and assets frequently, you’re not going to be running into stuttering literally every minute or so unlike other Unreal Engine 4 titles such as The Callisto Protocol. I had also exhibited some stutter when running around, but I can’t attribute it to anything in particular, I would guess it has to do with loading NPC’s as combat did not exhibit these types of stutters (outside of shader compilation).
Not Great, Not Terrible.
Like A Dragon: Ishin is a good game with a PC port that’s not really bad, but not great either. I put over 30 hours into the game, pouring into every little technical detail that it had to give. We still don’t know if RGG Studio is going to be using Unreal for their future projects, but I do believe it was the correct decision as it’s already been proven that the stutter can be avoided if precompiled correctly. The combat feels faithful to the original (outside of using the cards that is) and just reminded me how much more I preferred this style of combat compared to the ragdoll wackiness that was introduced with the Dragon Engine.
I would recommend waiting for a patch to come out and see if it fixes the stuttering in particular, but otherwise it’s playable, just not great. Can it be better? Of course! If your only option is PC, go for it but proceed with caution, otherwise I would recommend the current gen version of the game on console. The game runs at a smooth 60FPS at what looked to be between 900p-1080p on my Series S, so I would expect it to run at a higher resolution on Series X while retaining the silky smooth frame rate without that nasty stutter.