The New Godzilla Video Game Feels A Little Soulless
Destroyer of brands?
The recent Godzilla reboot directed by Gareth Edwards went beyond the idea of giant monsters smashing buildings, venturing into themes of family, humanity's effect on nature, and the ever-present danger of the unknown. If you were hoping for a game building off the Godzilla film in some way, Bandai Namco's upcoming action title, which draws from kaiju lore and isn't based on the film, is not that game.
At an event last week held by Bandai Namco, I got a quick look at Godzilla: The Game. It's already out in Japan, but is slated to hit PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in North America sometime this year. I didn't get a chance to play the game myself, but a PR rep for the company briefly walked me through a small segment of the game.
I'm somewhat disappointed, because Edwards film was kind of brilliant. In many small ways, the somewhat-corny monster that's been around since the mid-1950s has been made into something more than the sum of his parts. It's not just about a giant monster wreaking havoc, it's about his place in the evolutional foodchain and his relationship with the other kaiju. It's not just about buildings falling, it's the people they fall on and the lives affected by this walking natural disaster. It's about man and nature fighting against each other but also working together to take down greater threats. The film left a lot of potential for a game that wasn't just tail-thrashing and burping lasers at enemies.
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There on the screen was the Godzilla we know--huge, destructive, the same white scales lining his spine and tail. He and his opponent, the mud monster Hedorah, were duking it out in the cramped downtown of a generic-looking city. Godzilla could punch, swing his tail and fire his white laser from his mouth to attack. Meanwhile Hedorah flopped lazily around him, occasionally reaching out to attack. The buildings around them crumbled as appendages crashed through some. Sometimes they would crumble of their own accord even when the monsters were some distance away.
I watched the Hedorah fight play out on a PS4 in a still-early build of the game. There doesn't seem to be any real finesse to fighting, and the visual feedback of decimating buildings isn't rewarding. Large buildings get hit and then break into three of four clean pieces, with a brown dirt cloud briefly welling up above them. Godzilla's moves were painfully slow, while his opponent flailed around. Right before the two monster would collide, the gameplay would slow down, and I couldn't tell if this was for dramatic effect or the build chugging along. Either way, it didn't look good.
The premise of the game is cringe-worthy. Humans have been harvesting Godzilla's energy, called "G-Energy." After 60 years, all of this soul-sucking finally awakens the monster, who returns to shore to stomp humanity into the ground. The game's campaign includes 20 stages in which Godzilla can fight against other kaiju from his canon, like Mothra and King Ghidorah. With each defeat, Godzilla can re-collect his G-Energy, which will in turn make him grow from a building-size baby Godzilla to a giant 100-meters-tall monster.
The campaign plot is cheesy, a bit like early Godzilla media. But the best part about Godzilla shows were the fights, and in Godzilla: The Game the fights don't seem to make the cut.
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