Common thoughts when watching a Godzilla movie: "If you told girls you were the guy in the rubber suit, would they believe you?", and "If Godzilla spit at King Kong, wouldn't all his hair catch on fire? How is that even a contest?" A very uncommon thought, on the other scaly claw, is: "Man, Godzilla is pretty cool, but someone should let that guy off his leash!" Don't tell this to Atari, though, because the company seems to be under the impression that it has finally liberated everyone's favorite fire-spitting lizard in its recent city-crushing romp, Godzilla: Unleashed.
Ironically, Godzilla and company have never been as leashed as they are in this monster-fighting game, what with their normally devastating attacks pared down for the sake of game balance and longer battles. Indeed, a blast of nuclear flame to the face is only slightly more damaging than a kick to the shins. Several better titles might include Godzilla: Hits Like A Wuss, Godzilla: Doesn't Want You To See Him Like This, or maybe just Godzilla: Leashed.
Even though it's a lame video game with a two-hour campaign, a bad combat engine, terrible production values, a radically incoherent plot, beastly graphics, and a couple of annoying glitches, you can still be Godzilla, and you can still knock down Mothra with flame breath and then hit her with a small building while she's down. That counts for something, as does the fact that the game is mostly playable. In fact, at some points it even plays itself.
But first, the god-awful plot. In a room full of scientists and computers, presumably in a very secret monster-monitoring center, someone notices several large objects heading toward earth. They speak up, saying "There are several unidentified objects heading toward Earth!" To which a senior military-type says "How long until impact?" But before the subordinate can reply, a series of crashes answers his question, to which the subordinate says "Does that answer your question?" That's Godzilla: Unleashed at its wittiest.
It quickly becomes apparent that the UFOs are in fact giant, powerful crystals that drive most of earth's monsters insane. As Godzilla or one of a handful of good monsters, you have to travel to various locations, subdue rampaging titans, destroy crystals, and stop a crazy army guy from killing you. The whole story campaign takes about two hours to beat, at which point you gain a certain number of store points you can use to unlock more monsters, even though they all play roughly the same. The idea is that you'll actually grind through story mode over and over to unlock the likes of Space Godzilla (which would take at least 10 hours). But really, after about two plays (four hours), you will have wrung every ounce of blood from this inert space rock.
Your average level goes something like this: Several monsters duke it out in a bad approximation of a major city, and from the perspective of a camera that is completely out of your control. One of the monsters is you, and another might be juiced up as a result of scattered crystals. You can proceed by destroying the crystals (which takes 30 seconds), by defeating the bad monsters, or by dying. However, only one of these options requires you to actually play. If you do nothing, there is a chance the bad monster will be defeated by the other CPU-controlled monsters, or that they'll come burn you down. Either way, the level is considered complete, and you move on--even if you die. Because, as you know, Godzilla never dies.
If you decide to fight the other monsters (there are usually several), you can take one of three approaches to guaranteed victory. You can run circles around your foes until they inevitably turn on each other, and then pelt them with breath attacks until only one badly wounded monster remains. Or, instead of pelting them with breath attacks, you can run around the map and collect power-ups, three of which will make you berserk. In this state, your attacks actually do damage! So you can wade in, kick the rubber out of all your opponents at once for several seconds, and then retreat to find more crystals. Alternately, you can just wade in like an idiot and die. If you're fighting an enemy one-on-one, the power-crystal strategy works perfectly.
There are other nuances and issues. For instance, your monster automatically locks onto the first target it sees, even if it's an ally. Consequently, the only way to stop spitting fire at Jet Jaguar is to hit the run button, which breaks target lock, and then try to see an enemy first. This is nearly impossible if your friend and foe are standing next to each other. Then again, who cares? Kill your friend. Or just sit there. In Godzilla: Unleashed, the choice is yours.
Furthermore, the graphics are terrible. The entire visual range of the game is uglier than a hungover Megalon, and even the beasts themselves look less than terrifying. Godzilla fares the best; he looks like Godzilla. But creatures that are supposed to instill a level of dread and fear, such as Orga and Space Godzilla, don't look any more menacing than Anguirus---the punching bag of monsters. The sound bites aren't great, either. Most (though not all) of the monster noises are here, but the music is bad, and the effects are generic. This game has less atmosphere than outer space.
We aren't sure why you'd try to inflict this disaster on multiple players, though that's an option. Rather than provide you with the feeling that you're a giant monster wrecking civilization and destroying monster adversaries, you feel as if you're a guy in a rubber suit, fighting against other dudes in suits, on a set full of cardboard cutouts and toy tanks. In other words, this game captures everything that was janky and lame about Godzilla, but nothing that was cool or exciting. You should definitely let this sleeping dragon lie.