Godzilla Review

  • First Released Jul 14, 2015
  • PS4

Negative impact.

Giant monsters annihilating skyscrapers! Colossal lizards roaring at winged titans as they battle to the death! Humanity on the brink as its leaders play political mind games as they struggle to cage the threat! It is the stuff of our kaiju-laden dreams; what could possibly go wrong?

The answer: so very, very much. Godzilla commits so many game design sins that they become impossible to count, but the greatest horror of them all is that such giant monsters could be so boring. Smiles turn to snoozing almost from the get-go of the branching campaign, known as God of Destruction mode. As the titular King of the Monsters, you march out of the sea and begin your rampage, seeking to destroy up to three power generators in each level whose energy feeds your growth. All the while, a G-Force operator shouts out your arrival and commands choppers and tanks to stop you before you can wreak too much havoc, for all the good it does. (Hint: it does none--at least, not for the cities Godzilla demolishes.) She also announces opportunities for ground crews to collect data at particular points, which requires you to click a stick, at which point the camera zooms out to show you a cinematic view of the creature's flailing.

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Here is the bulk of the campaign: beating up power generators.
Here is the bulk of the campaign: beating up power generators.

The entire setup is dumb on the face of it. You're playing as a giant monster--but simultaneously as the defense forces, a bizarre narrative contradiction that culminates when the operator mourns her losses while triumphant music plays and you are granted a victory. The game isn't silly or joyous enough to turn this nonsense into camp. ("The tragically ludicrous, the ludicrously tragic," as one Simpsons episode describes it.) You shouldn't play Godzilla for the ironic entertainment; it is not a "so bad it's good" kind of experience, in no small part due to Godzilla himself. That he feels so huge as you lumber through the game's spaces isn't a problem. But those spaces are too small, the animations are too lengthy, and the invisible walls are too prevalent for you to ever feel like you are unleashing might on a vast city. Leading Godzilla into the fray is like steering a backhoe through an aquarium. He's heavy, sure, but he's in no way fun to maneuver.

And so you charge forward, swing your tail, and bash buildings to keep yourself occupied as you trudge towards the generators. Over and over again you do it, until you finish the campaign 20 minutes or so later, and realize you have to repeat it many, many times over to reach the true ending and gain the currencies needed to enhance Godzilla and the game's other playable monsters. The game is built around unlocks and upgrades, which come at a horrendously slow pace. The menus seem to offer a lot of options, but this is a transparent, manipulative ploy to make a game with a paltry amount of content look loaded with possibilities. That the game is sold at full price is ludicrous.

Press X over and over to win.
Press X over and over to win.
No Caption Provided

Oh yes--the other monsters. The game's best moments aren't related to gameplay, but to the stirring visuals of seeing Rodan or King Ghidorah appear and clash with Space Godzilla (or whichever kaiju you control at the time). This occurs during many campaign missions, and the King of Kaiju mode is a series of contextless confrontations of this sort. When the fracas begins, textureless structures collapse in an explosion of sparks and smoke, King Ghidorah spews forth a stream of electricity, and the attack knocks Space Godzilla onto his back. Such events may mirror Godzilla films, but actually taking part in them reveals a laughable array of awfulness.

Balance is one of the biggest problems. Some monster combinations are hysterically inept, such as when you take control of King Ghidorah and face almost any other kaiju. Ghidorah can take to the air and perform a descending attack that devastates the enemy, and in many cases, you can repeat this attack over and over again, beating your enemy without taking a lick of damage. If you want to be ultra-cautious, force Mechagodzilla against an invisible wall and watch him float into the air as his animations struggle to complete. Battra is powerful as well; like several monsters, he can surge through the air to safety, then return for a hit-and-run attack, exploiting your opponent's exhaustively slow turning speed. Facing a larva-stage Mothra as an airbound Battra, meanwhile, is one of the most tedious and broken things I have ever done in a video game, given how only my strongest attack, which is governed by a heat meter, was the only consistent way to do damage. It was another layer of monotony on top of an already-boring slog.

The best mode has no action at all.
The best mode has no action at all.

Here's an interesting detail: to turn, you hold a shoulder button, even though you move forward and back with the analog stick. It's a workable system but a bizarre design choice nonetheless--though it's not the control quirk that stands out the most. That honor belongs to the weird auto-targeting, which might send you charging towards your opponent even when you've turned 60 or 70 degrees away from it, and intended to rush away. Other elements aren't just weird: they're flat-out busted. You face Super X aircraft in the campaign, but some attacks have Godzilla clipping right through them without doing damage. And should you be tempted to fight one or two other players in VS mode, crippling lag and timeouts might have you reaching for the power button. That's a shame: the most enjoyment I've had with Godzilla was winning a three-kaiju free-for-all with only a smidgen of health remaining.

Winning a multiplayer match is inherently rewarding, however, so I hesitate to give too much credit to Godzilla for that smidgen of enjoyment: I was playing as Battra and exploited my way to victory, locking opponents into animation loops and then flying away before they could retaliate. And so it goes in this overpriced and unattractive game, whose finest mode is one in which you place unlockable action figures on a diorama. Indeed, looking at static monster figures in fighting poses is a lot more fun than actually participating in battle. The worst news of all is that if you want more figures, you have to play the game, and no virtual action doll is worth that many yawns.

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The Good

  • A few visual highs that capture the right spirit
  • Posing figures in dioramas is kind of fun

The Bad

  • Destroying generators is a boring objective
  • Lots of elements combine to make controlling monsters a chore
  • Way too little content for a full-priced game
  • Poor balancing make some confrontations hilariously bad
  • Storytelling is dumb, but not in the good way

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd loves big monsters, big robots, and big guns. He does not, however, like this Godzilla game, and after eight hours of drudgery, he cannot be convinced to return.