Godzilla Review (PlayStation 4)
At first glance, the aesthetics of Godzilla pay proper tribute to the golden era of giant monster movies. After seeing the opening cutscene that featured the heavy horns of the series' longtime theme song as well as the giant lizard's iconic roar, I was left smiling. The same goes for the first couple minutes of gameplay when I first took control of the King of the Monsters for the first time and was tearing through buildings like they were sandcastles, but this nostalgia left me with beer goggles that were soon removed to find a game with atrocious presentation values. While Godzilla and the other monsters' designs were fairly solid, everything else in the game looks poorly done, and it's not just because the game adheres to a decades-old monster movie motif.
I get that the buildings in the movies crumble apart like they were made of paper mache, but they look even worse than that here. Godzilla and his towering cast are probably the most detailed models created in this game, and even then they look like they created using very outdated technology. The levels look like they were pulled straight from the Sega Dreamcast. There are only a handful of building designs, and their repeated uses become all to obvious after the first few minutes of stomping around. My main gripe is that there are no contents to any of these buildings — every similar-looking high-rise, apartment and factory I tore through fell apart like peanut brittle, and the same goes for those godawful generators you'll have to repeatedly destroy. While there are a few non-city locations, they too reuse the same assets to the point where everything felt mundane. For a major title released on PlayStation 4, Godzilla's graphics simply did not come close to meeting current standards.
On the bright side, it was obvious that Bandai Namco Games tried to appeal to longtime Godzilla fans. Most of the sound effects and songs were taken straight from the movie series. I felt like there were plenty of other songs the developers could have utilized from the franchise but didn't, because the same songs are repeated all too often during gameplay. In terms of voice acting, Godzilla's English actors are just as bad as the poor dubbing the series has become famous for. The Prime Minister and army leaders who have speaking roles all appear in the form of radio transmissions with the person's picture and dialogue appearing in the corner of the screen as they speak. The characters' faces don't even move while they're talking, which reiterates the Dreamcast comparison that I made earlier.
Every level has the same exact intro animation with vague voiceover commentary of Godzilla's appearance each time, which doesn't help when you have to clear 10-12 stages in a row. Godzilla's repetitive aesthetics left me grateful that I was able to stomp its levels into oblivion, and even that wasn't as fun as I was hoping. While there's a lot of building destroying you'll be doing throughout the game, the actual acts of destruction felt more like chores than any real fun, and this is due to Godzilla's atrocious controls and combat system. These detriments get even worse once you realize how repetitive the game's format is.
All the Kaiju control like a tank, where pushing up on the Left Stick/D-Pad moves your character forward, regardless of the camera. Pushing left or right starts the slowest strafing I have ever seen in the history of gaming, and hitting down backpedals. In order to turn, you have to hold L1 or R1. While this might throw some people off, I found it easy to get accustomed to by the end of the game's tutorial. The face buttons are your primary attacks, which are all extremely limited. Hitting Square in succession results in the same three-hit combo that you'll find yourself spamming dozens of times in every fight and stage. Likewise, hitting Triangle performs a slow moving heavy attack. For most monsters, this is a spinning tail whip that arcs in a wide distance. Hitting X has most monsters performing a charge where your character runs a short distance and tries to tackle anything in front of it.
Because of how slow the monsters normally moved, I was often spamming X in order to traverse the levels faster. Unfortunately, the tackle doesn't do that much damage and I would have to resort to the primary melee attacks to clear the buildings in my way, which really threw off the pacing of wrecking a city — you'd think that a skyscraper-sized monster would be able to run through a building without bouncing off of it like a bubble. As a result, the same three-hit combo and heavy attack will be used to clear the buildings in your path, the Kaiju you have to fight and all the generators you have to destroy in the game's story mode.
Godzilla's atomic breath, Mothra's string attack and all the other iconic signature moves the Kaiju have are all done by hitting Circle, which automatically targets nearby monsters. Unfortunately, airplanes and helicopters can only be hit by the heavy or ranged attacks, and both are horrible when it comes to aiming in the sky. While they don't really do that much damage, the jets and choppers' annoyances become even greater when you realize how hard it is to actually hit them with your tail or fire breath. If you're too far, your ranged attack will just aim down at the ground a few feet in front of your monster as the default area of effect when nothing is around. If you're too close, the airplane/helicopter will likely pass around you and your monster will miss. The heavy attack's aerial hit area is only for a small portion of the entire arc, making it very difficult to hit anything in midair, despite how many movie scenes I've seen in the past where Godzilla and the Kaiju destroyed jets and helicopters in mid-flight like they were nothing.
These limited controls pale in comparison to just about every third-person action game I have ever played in my life. I get that the monsters of the Godzilla franchise move slowly, but they move too slow for the game's context. It doesn't help that each Kaiju is extremely limited in what it can do, relying on the same 15-ish total seconds of attack animations over and over without any real incentive to keep going.
There are two main gameplay modes where you'll spend most of your time: the God of Destruction story mode and the King of Kaiju mode. God of Destruction mode contains a series of stages where you have to take out massive generators filled with G-Energy (which is derived from Godzilla's energy, go figure). For the first three hours of gameplay, I found myself clearing mission after mission where my objective was to just destroy generator towers. During each stage, Japan's military would try to stop me, but it's usually in the form of a few tanks and helicopters that never really pose any threat other than an annoyances (as it should be). Every once in a while, God of Destruction mode will let you make a choice between missions, which usually have a different Prime Minister in charge, and the only differences were the character commanding the army and the near-negligible levels of difficulty that they contributed. Destruction mode encourages multiple playthroughs so you can try all the different decisions and unlock the rest of the cast, forcing you to destroy generator after generator and replaying dozens of levels that all seem to blur into one another due to their repetitiveness and reused content.
Up until the very end, things were pretty easy, until I found out how unbalanced some of these monsters are. You would think that Mecha-King Ghidorah or SpaceGodzilla would be some of the harder Kaiju to fight, but they're actually some of the easiest. Instead, the faster ones, such as larva-form of Mothra, are the only ones that present a challenge, and it's only because of how much faster their weak attacks are compared to the other monsters (to the point where if the AI were to just spam its three-hit combo repeatedly, I probably would have died). Destruction mode also lets you invade the city and fight the army as other Kaiju as well as defend it as Jet Jaguar or one of the other heroic members of the roster, but it's all pretty much the same style of gameplay with some minor differences.
The only real challenges you face come from fighting the mundane, repetitive nature of Godzilla's gameplay. Even when the King of Kaiju mode had you fighting against monsters double your size, things were pretty easy. Plus there are ways to trick the enemy defense towers into attacking your enemies by positioning yourself far from the towers but keeping your enemy closer to them. Destruction mode would have been a lot better if it had more Kaiju fights where fighting other monsters actually mattered and weren't just a temporary distraction from destroying the same generator model over and over again.
There's an Evolution mode that lets you unlock more monsters and upgrade your roster using the points gained from Destruction mode, which includes some awesome fan service like unlocking the hilarious victory dance from Invasion of Astro-Monster and the ability to fly via atomic breath like Godzilla did when he fought Hedorah. Kaiju Guide mode is basically a monster codex, which you'll need since the roster taps into the more obscure monsters of the franchise and the game does absolutely zero to explain who any of these monsters are or why they're fighting other than the guide's contents. It would have been nice if the Kaiju Guide was unlocked from the start. My DVD boxset and lifelong fandom of Godzilla aside, there were still a few monsters I didn't recognize when they inexplicably joined the fight in story mode.
Godzilla provides an experience soaked in nostalgia that simply isn't fun to play after putting in time with it. Sure, hearing the roars, tearing through towns and beating up on Rodan were entertaining for the first few minutes, but it all goes downhill quite quickly. Even for a hardcore fan of the franchise and Kaiju flicks in general, I found myself just being frustrated and bored with such mundane gameplay. More importantly, Godzilla isn't sure if it wants to be a Kaiju fighting game or an action title where you destroy cities and fight the military, ultimately failing in both regards.
This review was based on a physical copy of Godzilla provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.